This month we are highlighting a “day in the life” theme open to our writers’ interpretation. What does a day in the life of a military family on the move look like? I’m sure any of you who have made long-distance moves can relate:
It’s still dark outside on Saturday morning. The alarm on my phone buzzes signaling the beginning of the day. 3:30 AM. We are scheduled to arrive at the Space A (space available) military terminal at 4:30 for check-in with a 6:30 AM takeoff to Jacksonville, Fla.
By spring, our orders for the location and time of my husband’s next assignment had changed no fewer than four times. First, we were leaving in March to one state. Then another in April. Finally, we have written orders sending us to my hometown of Tampa, Fla. for three years. I am 20 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby; we are six weeks away from a Virginia to Florida move and we don’t have a home or an official move date yet. Frustrating? Sometimes. But the uncertainty that comes with our military lifestyle has cultivated resilience and flexibility in our family.
Three days ago we found out my husband, Mike, was able to travel to Florida for a week for house hunting leave. We are grateful for military travel options that helped us avoid spending $2,000+ on last-minute round trip tickets for the five of us.
We rouse our 5-, 3- and 1-year-olds from their beds. They slept in their travel clothes so are already dressed. My middle child is especially excited to go to “Por-ida to swim at the waterpark.” We have a small meltdown because the shorts he is wearing are not his “bay-bing suit.” I pull the individual servings of soaked oats I prepared from the fridge and we groggily load the little ones into the car. We are running just a few minutes behind schedule.
At the terminal, Mike goes inside to check in while I unload our luggage onto a cart. Three car seats, one large suitcase (a miracle), a small carry-on, our breakfast, loveys, kids’ activity backpacks…They fit on the cart, albeit in a heaping pile.
Check-in is smoother than when flying commercially and we board the plane. My daughter, the youngest, sobs and resists her carseat with every ounce of her strength. Other passengers look at the commotion, most with sympathetic smiles.I am grateful the flight is not full, and that my husband is actually travelling with us (for a change).
6:30. We have been awake for three hours and are headed to Florida. The kids eat breakfast. The baby wails a little more and settles eventually. I watch the sun rise from above the clouds. I soak in the serenity of the moment.
When we arrive, we pick up a minivan rental. The upside: We were first in line and avoided what could have been an hour-plus wait at the terminal. The downside: the car is filthy. I grab the open cup of coffee still in the cupholder just before my three-year-old takes a swig and spills it. Mike pulls a half-full bottle of gin from under the passenger seat. We are relieved we found it first and really can’t do anything but make a joke.
We have a three-hour drive ahead of us. The kids are cranky. Two start to cry. The novelty of the toys and videos and car entertainment fade. Eventually we stop for lunch. They stretch their legs and we begin again. We try to keep the mood light as the thunderstorm begins.
Once we arrive, we will be viewing homes that we have seen online and that some of my family members have graciously toured for us. Our goal is to determine the area we will live in, find a home to purchase, place a contract and begin the closing process within the next seven days. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am that we have family in the area that can help with childcare during this week.
Years ago I would have thought this entire scenario was completely absurd. Today, it is par for the course. The babies are finally sleeping. I put on my headphones and close my eyes. We are almost here.