We are officially counting down Husband’s long-anticipated return to the home front. I recently posted the days, hours, minutes and seconds as my Facebook update and I had instantaneous and constant “likes,” a virtual thumbs up from friends all across the country. It felt so good to see people cheering for us. A countdown is something people can really get behind. It’s something I can really get behind.
But oddly, the closer we get, the harder it becomes to bear his absence and think about his return. The days are creeping by so painfully slow. Though we’ve been calling it his mid-term R&R, the reality is that it is coming very late in this mobilization.
Tragically, this was by design. Together, Husband and I weighed the pros and cons. “It will be just like eating lunch late, with only a couple of hours left in the work day.” This sounded great in concept. Afterall, we did this once before on one of his PAC RIM cruises, and I traveled to Australia to meet him with only two months of cruise left to go. There was the anticipation, then the planning, then the trip itself, and then by the time I got home we were in the home stretch. This was brilliant. We were geniuses. It would be perfect.
Just like the guinea pigs.
So what if we failed to calculate some eentsy-weentsy factors? They were small things. Minor issues. Like the duration, for example. Just because that cruise was only half the time of this mobilization, it shouldn’t be statistically significant. That’s only more than double the difference. Six months, thirteen, same thing. And what about the exotic trip to Perth where I would greet my husband and spend several glorious days with him in a luxurious hotel room? So what if instead we would be at our home, with kids and bills and a house and a lawn and cars? So what if instead of preparing for a trip abroad I would be madly cleaning and upgrading and decorating and painting and repairing our previously lovely home in an effort to pretend we had not experienced the wear and tear associated with a karate-chopping preschooler and a fingernail polish-loving Sweet Pea? It’s totally the same. Absolutely no miscalculation on that brilliant plan at all.
I blame Husband for these significant oversights because, well, mostly because he’s not here. But also because statistics was the only course I got a D in at UCSD. At least, that’s the grade I was theoretically eligible to receive had I not dropped it on the last possible day. (I may have a law degree, but I’ve told you people time and time again – I don’t do math.) All of this to say, by the time Husband gets here it will be just short of ten months since we’ve seen him up close and personal. And I’m here to tell you, ten months is a long stinkin’ time.
In fact, it has been long enough that as I walk around my house, I am constantly taking inventory of all of the things that absolutely must be remedied before he gets home. You know what I’m talking about: evidence that proves we have lived without Husband for just a little bit too long. Bad habits. Dust. Messy closets. Long grass. And maybe I’m hanging on to some things I shouldn’t. Things that have become security blankets. Things like bravado that masks insecurity; tears that mask what is rightly fear; and maybe even writing to fill the hole left behind by night-time loneliness.
But mostly, I am referring to my beloved deployment shower cap.
Now it’s true, I’m a woman who has been married to the same man for nearly 20 years, I’ve had two children with him, and it’s also true that I turned 40 this year. There isn’t much he hasn’t already seen and heard and tolerated without complaint that lets me know exactly how much he truly loves me. He has seen things like the pregnancy nursing bras, the spit up stains down my black suits, the post-baby granny panties, and other unmentionable sagging things that definitely didn’t look that way when we met.
Enter, the shower cap. My desire for constant squeaky-clean locks withered faster than my gumption to cook after Husband left. It first started when I simply wanted twenty extra minutes of precious sleep whenever the kids allowed it. But the addiction quickly developed into something more. Soon, without even noticing it, I was donning ponytails and french twists and, eventually – for a very brief period – the dreaded braids. I was eventually using dry shampoo to stretch the washings out to three days. And then, finally, came the shower cap. I now so vehemently abhor the process of washing, conditioning, spritzing, drying, diffusing, curling, and then straightening my hair that I get a mini panic attack setting my alarm clock an extra half-hour early the night before.
The real problem started shortly after Husband deployed and I purchased a small, very thin, very transparent and very demure little shower cap. Within one short month The Preschooler decided he would convert this relatively undetectable cap into a much more useful tool: a frog-catcher. This apparently requires that multiple holes be poked into it (with the sharpest knife in the house) so that water can, ironically, flow right through it.
"Can I keep it, Mom?"
In a panic at the grocery store over my ever-increasing dependence upon the cap that had unwittingly become a strategic amphibian kill-capture mechanism, I breathed a sigh of relief as I approached the beauty aisle to discover the very last lonely shower cap. And let me tell you, it was most definitely a thing of beauty. It must have been a historical replica of the cap Mrs. Jefferson wore when she was a movin’ on up. It was powder-puff pink with garish white and purple polka-dots and an extra-long elasticized rim that protruded somewhat like a bonnet, ala Holly Hobby. The woman on the package cover with matching pink lipstick (in the shower?) was likely the understudy to June Cleaver and was probably now dead. I remember standing in the grocery aisle staring at it, contemplating the gravity of what I was about to do. I spoke out loud. “It’s temporary,” I said, as I looked up and down the aisle. Nobody was looking. “It’s just until I can find another thin, clear one.” I turned to glare at The Preschooler who merely shrugged, and then I looked back to the package suspiciously, wondering what idiotic man at Goody Hair Supply decided that women wanted to take a shower looking like a cupcake with multicolored sprinkles. I put it into the cart, and my fate was sealed. The grocery clerk, smartly and possibly from experience, said nothing as he rung it up.
Sadly, to this day, it has yet to be replaced. It’s just too indestructible. It still has that fresh, durable vinyl smell. And the elastic has just now relaxed from brain-pinching taut to comfortably blood-constricting. I was going along just fine, blissfully enjoying the extraordinary value of my $1.69 shower cap right up until last week. It was morning, The Preschooler was wailing somewhere about the injustice of having to put his own clothes on, and Sweet Pea was getting dressed and using my brush and my mirror and possibly my lip gloss as I bathed. She poked her head into the shower to ask me a question and her mouth went gaping open. Then she put her hands on her hips. She squinted like she couldn’t see very well.
“Really, mom? Really?”
“Huh? What? I didn’t even say anything! What?”
“Seriously?” She pointed at my head.
“Oh. You, uh … you don’t like it?” I put one hand on my hip and one on my head like a fashion model. A naked one.
“Totally embarrassing, Mom. I can’t even talk to you right now. Nevermind.” And she was gone.
I stood there frozen in my shower cap pose for a moment with the water beating down on me and looked in confusion at the empty space that was previously my sweet daughter. I poked my head out of the shower, but she was already gone. I turned, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. “Aaaah!” I screamed. I thought I was an intruder. I looked just like someone I had seen on the website People of Wal-Mart. But slightly younger and paler and more drippy and with runnier mascara.
“FINE! I’ll throw it away,” I shouted to Sweet Pea, who was trying on her third pair of skinny jeans in my walk-in closet.
But after I got out of the shower, I looked around, and with nobody looking I surreptitiously hung my cap to dry between two towels. I hung it up right next to my bravado. And my secret tears. And my and writing. Because really, I’ve come to depend on it, all of it, this past ten months. Why should I give it up now? It’s always been there for me. No matter the time of day or night, no matter my mood or situation, it has always been there to enable and comfort me. And I’m not sure what to do without it.
What? Oh sure, I can do without it. I can do without it whenever I want. I can stop using it any time. In fact, I’ve definitely resolved to ditch the shower cap before Husband comes home. Which is later, by the way. It’ll be tossed into the trash any day now. I mean, probably not today because I still might need it this week. And well, it doesn’t have to be seen by anyone who cares. I can just continue to use it in private for a little while longer. Afterall, I paid good money for it. No use in wasting a perfectly good shower cap by throwing it away.
I’ll just hang on to it. You know. A little while longer.