By Katie Gilliam -
As we pulled out of the driveway last Wednesday morning, we told the kids, “The only thing we can guarantee is that this will be an adventure!” Weeeeelllllll…I guess it depends how you define adventure…
We decided several months before that what we really wanted for Christmas was to be with my sister’s family. They are also military, they also have a large family, they also eat 10 pounds of oatmeal a week—so many reasons to love them. Only issue—they’re stationed in Germany. No problem. Get mug shots taken at Walgreens of youngest three children (one is a wiggly baby mind you), sell your firstborn child to pay for passports for three said children, board dog in a doggie prison, hop on a Space-A flight a few days before Christmas and we’re golden!
Back to the driveway comments…
We were heading down to Charleston for what looked like a wide open flight that we were sure to get on. My sis had grocery shopped for us, put chocolates on the girls’ beds, bought bright red nail polish, etc., etc. However! By the time we got to the terminal, they had moved up the showtime several hours (yes we know that these flights are subject to change without notice blah blah blah) and two families had shown up with leave dates before our’s. As Josh stood at the counter haggling with the employees, a SGT came running in to say that a flight to Ramstein that hadn’t planned on taking passengers was now taking 9 and to get some folks on that flight. Ahhhhh! A miracle! We needed 8 seats, we’re standing here ready to go. Pick me, pick me! No, they told us, you can’t get on that flight either. You missed that show time as well. Forget about your Christmas miracle.
Here’s where Josh kicked his powers of persuasion into high gear, and by that I mean he utilized his favorite line—“Let me talk to your supervisor.” This jump started another lovely haggling session from which the girls and I excused ourselves to the family waiting room. The people pleaser in me simply cannot handle the psychological pressure exerted here.
To make a very long and tragic story a bit shorter, as they were processing our paperwork they found that three of our kids had passports expiring in less than three months. Now you might think that the expiration date on your passport is the date that your passport expires. That is, in my humble opinion, a very logical conclusion. But this is the military, and logic does not count for anything. So even though we would be returning a month before the passports expired, we were refused travel because of the “90-day rule”. I’ll skip the weeping of the disappointed children in the terminal as they watch other happy children boarding flights to Germany. “Get in the van kids.”
On the way home we discussed every feasible and un-feasible (infeasible? I don’t know) way of getting the passports renewed (although you actually can’t renew a minor’s passport, you need a new one…see all the useful travel info you’re gleaning here?!). We had plans to drive all over these great United States, hiring mobile notaries, bartering for same-day passports, flying out of any terminal on the East Coast, leaving the dog in prison forever. But in the end, we just couldn’t make it happen. Sad faces all around…
We sat the kids down when we got back from the airport and asked them to each pick one thing that would make Christmas special to them. One kid wanted to go ice skating (believe it or not you can ice skate outside in South Carolina. Who knew?). One kid wanted to watch a Christmas movie. Lil Tessie just thought a cup of eggnog was all that was needed to make her Christmas magical. We put everything on the calendar and set about making a Christmas to remember. We saw Handel’s Messiah. We walked up and down our street handing out cookies in costume as a Living Nativity (that picture was us). We smooshed ourselves all into one little booth around a piping hot pizza. And we laughed…a lot.
To me, the whole snafoo was a perfect example of how nothing ever seems to turn out like you think it will in military life. The “dream assignment” you were promised fails to materialize… Your husband gets tapped for a deployment when you thought you were getting a training assignment (and you just had a baby, ahem)…Everyone gets sick right before the perfect homecoming is supposed to happen.
But I have found that although the adventure we are handed may not be the one we signed up for, I sure wouldn’t want to trade it for anything different. When we missed out on the dream assignment, I made the best friends of my life. When Josh had to deploy right after baby #5 was born, I found out that I have the greatest support network on the planet. And when we didn’t get to go to Germany for Christmas, I got to snuggle on the couch with my whole family and watch my husband laugh and cry his way through Miracle on 34th Street. We might need to adjust our idea of adventure to the kinder, gentler version.
So it wasn’t quite the globe trotting Christmas we had in mind..but the beauty in the military adventure isn’t so much in the high-flying excitement –it’s that we are doing it together.