Lonely Things Come in Small Packages

Late Saturday night I lay in bed under the only light in the house that was still on, staring at my thighs. On the night before Jesus’ resurrection from the dead I was thinking about my own burgeoning thighs.

“They were smaller once too,” I thought. I’d been previously staring at my sleeping boy. This night he managed to convince me to let him crawl into my bed, and successfully cajoled me into letting him stay a little longer, a little longer … a little longer … until he was now asleep, his lanky legs tenderly infringing on my personal space, threatening to keep growing until they could no longer fit in my lap.

And my thoughts drifted away from my thighs. Because staring at my long-legged children always makes me wonder what it must feel like to be Husband. To have missed things I cannot imagine missing, and to miss them without any way to reclaim them. I looked down at my phone, and my fingers typed out the first thing that came to my mind: “I can’t remember the last time you were home for Easter. That can’t be good.” Send.

It was dispatched across the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t take it back.

I flopped my head back on the pillow trying hard to recall our Easters past, rubbing the little ankles sprawled over my thighs without looking at them. I sometimes stare upwards for mental support in my moments of greatest need, like there’s an answer up there, in my ceiling fan.

There was that first kid Easter. He was home then. Sweet Pea was in her little red poppy dress and white gloves, trying to eat purple hard-boiled eggs with the shells on as she wobbled to sit upright in the cool wet grass. That was seven years ago. There were a few minutes of silence as I struggled to think of another Easter, when my phone buzz-interrupted. I slowly shifted my gaze from the hypnotizing ceiling fan to a solitary word on my phone’s screen: “Sorry.”

He couldn’t remember, either.

I put the phone down. There was no follow-up I could muster just then.

He’ll be on a training exercise while I sit through the Easter service, admonishing my kids not to snicker at the lady with the big purple hat. He’ll be in a windowless room for twelve hours while I smile at children scrambling mercilessly over each other in search of neon plastic eggs. He’ll come back at the end of a day to musty quarters eating a commissary snack plate out of a plastic dish while I prepare for a houseful of friends, smelling the rosemary as the sun floods my kitchen with yellow light. He’s the one missing all this. I’m here. Staring at my thighs.

It’s just. I’m just. You know. I’m alone. Again. Still. Or not alone, but. Lonely. A lot. Still.

It’s my ridiculous first world “complaint.” I feel lonely. WAH WAH WAH. But it’s still real. And I still feel it. I still look around Starbucks and hate the couple that sits on the same side of the table. I still drive with the radio on too loud  after I’ve dropped the kids off at school, hurtling down the freeway screaming lyrics of unrequited Adele love, tears streaming down my face, until I realize I have a meeting in ten minutes with an unrepresented man who wants to discuss the Magna Carta. “Do you even read French?” I like to say to distract him from my running mascara. I wish I could actually say that in French. That would be cool.

But then, there’s this moment. There’s always this instant where the momentum from the lonely is too much and it all turns. I rarely see it coming, but it comes …

On this night Sweet Pea came in to scope out whether her brother had managed to secure a spot in the coveted Bed of Mom. Because there must be complete and absolute fairness at all times between siblings when a father is away and there is a potentially empty portion of mom’s bed to be occupied.  She’s  learning to be subtle, though. She smiled and slipped under the covers next to me, wiggling in under my free arm. “Mom, guess what? We’re doing reports at school. And I got Louisa May Alcott!”

A hushed frenetic conversation about Little Women ensued between us in quiet whispers so as not to wake Captain Exacto Ninja Star Master of the Transformers’ Deathstar of Doom. I was enthralled to have a connection. And it was a book! It was like there was this panoramic camera hovering over our heads, rising straight up into the atmosphere. We were there, huddled together in our frenzy of favorite characters. In one moment, I could see every blemish and flaw with amazing high-definition clarity. In the next I was looking into the concave lens with myopic dysfunction. And in the next, I couldn’t focus at all. The camera kept rising: there was the street, and then the other houses, and then our sleepy little town. And the higher it went, the more generic things got. Blurrier. Prettier.

I always look prettier in low resolution.

And then, as the camera was rising up high into the sky, she spoke. “And I was thinking” she said, “that for my presentation,” she said, “I could use the guinea pigs as the Little Women and reenact a scene from the book and we could buy them little mini outfits on eBay and Buddy could be Beth!”

Guineas. In clothes. And she was deadly serious.

This was going to be what saved me. This was going to be that moment where I toggled over from thinking I wanted to die of loneliness to wanting to die of embarrassment from the snot slinging right out of my left nostril. Wait. This was going to be what saved me? The guinea pigs? The guinea pigs that tortured me the day Husband left? The brilliant (stupid) idea that Husband had to provide an endless array of distraction for our children upon his departure was now the thing distracting me?

Husband was brilliant. Latent, but brilliant. Again.

The camera hovered very high up there in the sky that night as we relished those last few moments before bed, laughing and snuggling and discussing the merits and design flaws of miniature turn-of-the-century guinea pig bonnets. I reiterated that any “sewing” on my part would be accomplished solely via glue gun. And then, as always, I said something out loud that made me stop.

“It’s all going to be very, very small, isn’t it?”

And in that moment I realized the gravity of my statement. Because someday it will all seem so very small. Very small indeed. Ahem. Just like my thighs. Were.

24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie Kahan
    May 02, 2012 @ 14:02:58

    This is so very true and both nice and sad to know others go through the same occasionally. Speaking of small animals in costumes – you should check out thebloggess.com. I’m reading her book right now and as a child she had pet raccoons whiched her mother dressed in pajamas. :)

    Reply

  2. Jillie Willie Minillie
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 13:42:24

    I love seeing a picture of that boy sleeping :-) Mostly because I wasn’t entirely sure I believed that it ever happened! Love you all and miss you :-)

    Reply

  3. John Erickson
    Apr 17, 2012 @ 15:54:27

    And this is why I continually tell people that military spouses ROCK. And though my tanker Lt. Col would disagree, I’d rather ride a red-hot Abrams straight at the enemy under fire, in my underwear, than try to be a military spouse.
    And I humbly apologise for even bringing up an image of me in my underwear. NOBODY should have to face such horror! ;)

    Reply

  4. Courtney Manske Emken
    Apr 16, 2012 @ 10:17:17

    I just remembered that I can’t remember the last time I had my son on my lap. He’s 14 and 6′ tall now. My 11 year old (5’2″) sat there and cried last night. She’s getting heavy, but I need to remember to cherish all those moments, because they go by so damn fast. Love you, Lorrier.

    Reply

  5. Kathy
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 20:45:52

    Avez-vous meme lire le français? (With a little hat over the first e in meme.) It’s been years, but that’s pretty close.

    And I could not do what you do. I could not. You are wonder woman.

    Reply

  6. jennrambles
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 17:50:41

    Oh Lori, I loved this. My Mr. is often gone for weeks at a time, only home to do his laundry and then off again (sometimes he feels like my college roommate instead of my babydaddy). Stupid needs of the Air Force. What about my needs! He WAS home for Easter though, and all day I kept saying “Oh, it’s so nice you’re home, I’m so glad you’re home” and eventually he told me to stop because I was ruining it for him. And he was right. I was so busy thinking about how he was here I wasn’t enjoying the fact that he was here. Hate it when he’s right. Love your blog.

    Reply

  7. hillbillyzen13
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 17:34:32

    If it’s any consolation, there was a slight mucus malfunction on this side of the screen, too. Your loneliness was a palpable entity in each word, and I ached right along with you. Then….guinea pig bonnets. Guinea pig bonnets and the sweetness and warmth of the little girl who suggested them, and you graciously allowed us into your psyche as you realized that you were going to be all right after all. Thanks for keeping us in the loop, chick. Keep on truckin’, k?

    Reply

  8. Sharon McCameron Whyte, MFA
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 08:35:42

    I know how it feels. Especially now. Hang in there.

    Reply

  9. gracefortoday
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 07:59:56

    Said very well. My husband just came home from deployment a month ago and started talking to me last night about drill weekend in May. And June. And I thought, “Come one, you know how to do this. You know how this works. No whining–this is our life.” He always misses my birthday; often gone for last day of school; he misses bigger things too, but it’s the smaller ones that I sigh over. But, it is perspective. He is a great father and husband. I love our family–and love that we get to see it with fresh eyes like a “reset button” every now and then. How many families get to do that?

    Reply

  10. The New Normal
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 07:04:12

    So beautifully written. Reading this brought out so many emotions – at first I was near tears right along with you, remembering those lonely moments in my life just months ago and the ones I may be facing again soon. And then I was practically on the floor laughing at the thought of guinea pigs in bonnets. It’s amazing how such simple moments can bring things into focus. *hugs* to you in these lonely moments :)
    And I would really love to see those guinea pigs…

    Reply

  11. GraceParfait Creations
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 04:00:39

    Lori, somehow you manage to say everything that I am feeling so eloquently. My youngest child will be 6 in July and this is the first year that Daddy gets to be there for her birthday, including the actual day of her birth. Those are the things that make me sad, and when I tell my husband, he responds with the same thing “I’m sorry.” I love our Army family, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Thank you for giving me a little perspective this morning.

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Apr 13, 2012 @ 07:16:36

      I know, I always kick myself when I say something … like he can do anything about it! Perspective is key. Glad I have my little monkeys around to keep reminding me. Speaking of which, did you know today is Military Child Appreciation Day? I didn’t until I read it on someone’s blog. I love this universe! Keep putting one foot in front of the other my sister!

      Reply

  12. Bethanne
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 03:45:03

    Oh, very well written. That’s the kind of story that should be in a book about military life. You hooked me and I had a tear well up. It probably says somewhere on your blog…how long have you been in the military? Your story made me smile and think of how my husband would respond to a text like that after so many years. He has a memory like an elephant. He’d probably text back: 8APR2012. Went to church. Had corned beef hash and eggs. Luv you, babe.

    Love that man. He doesn’t forget a thing!

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Apr 13, 2012 @ 07:14:32

      Ha ha, Bethanne. If my husband had remembered, that’s exactly how he would have responded.

      Book, book you say? Brilliant idea. I’m shopping for an agent so feel free to pass along your good reviews! My posts are long, but you’re right. They’re written more like book chapters than blogposts. As for my background, I’m a milbrat raised by my Navy Dad (when he was home) and a strong mama. I married my own Naval Aviator when I was 21, and at some point he went to the commercial airlines and stayed in the reserves. And at some point he got mobilized to the Sandbox on a IA. And at some point he came home.

      That about sums it up. Luv you, babe.

      Reply

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