May 04, 2011
By Jacey Eckhart
This week our Ombudsman sent out the standard list of Homecoming DOs and DON’Ts. This was a tactful list meant to remind us that Dinky, your 140 lb. Rottweiler, really doesn’t really belong at Homecoming no matter how much your service member loves him. That the gate guard really isn’t going to let you on base without ID no matter how hard you cry. That somehow weapons are not appropriate homecoming gear.
This is my seventh homecoming (yay!) and I have my own private list of DOs and DON’Ts that the ombudsman forgot to provide that I must strive to remember.
DO remember this takes for-freakin-ever. Even though you wake up at Oh-dark-thirty and arrive five hours before the plane/bus/ship is gonna arrive you cannot make them get there any faster. This is an all day thing. Plan for the long haul. Bring a breath mint.
DO remember undergarments. The gods of the land and sea laugh when they see your raincoat/nothing-under-it-but-heels getup. Remember how the last time they sent that wind to blow up your coat at the least attractive moment imaginable? And how that photographer was taking a group shot? And how the video ended up on Tosh.0?
DO remind kids what Daddy looks like. What if kids run to the wrong daddy just cuz the guy is wearing a uniform? What if Daddy doesn’t recognize baby he has never seen outside the womb? What if mom no longer recognizes child with newly dyed black hair and fang-shaped dental implants?
DO bid goodbye to your own parents, in-laws, siblings and friends at the pier or the airport. Even if those people insisted on coming with you for the actual moment of homecoming, this is your time not their time. Let them know I said so.
DON’T let service member drive anywhere. Even though our men and women in uniform have lived in the United States of America before, they have not driven in months. Let them get used to the scenery, the new traffic pattern, the speed limit before they drive.
DON’T look up from his kisses and start noticing that the ceiling really needs to be painted. That the screen door must be replaced. That someone has to teach Stanley how to pee standing up. Even though it is natural to immediately start creating a Honey-Do list the moment you realize you have a Honey, it is bad ju-ju to hand it over right away—even if you to-dos are delivered between kisses.
DO watch with delight as your service member wanders through the house checking all the rooms like they did at mom’s house the first time they came home from basic training or college. Watch them touch furniture as if they are surprised to see it still standing. Laugh when they wonder what happened to the Christmas tree. This is the sensation of everything old made new, made wonderous. Pat the walls yourself, grateful for all the shelter that has been provided to your family.
DO make wild passionate love to each other when you are finally alone. Wild passionate love doesn’t happen every day. Ask your civilian neighbors. And be sure to wake up suddenly in the wee small hours of the morning, aware of an unfamiliar weight in your bed (could be your toddler). Look over at your sleeping service member and run your fingers through their hair. Run your hand over their shoulders, past the rough skin on their elbows, over the fine hairs upon their arms. Close your eyes and cry tears of blessed relief. They are here. They are safe. They are HOME.
Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC. She is the author of "The Homefront Club" and the voice behind the award-winning CD "These Boots." Facebook Jacey or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.