For fourteen years, we snatched and wrestled every holiday from the tight grasp of my husband’s career as an active duty Army soldier. Even when we planned carefully, months in advance, the unexpected would surprise us. All the while crossing our fingers we would not be the family chosen to stay for “on call” duty. Year after year we triumphed in that department, when he wasn’t deployed of course.
Those Army years were the toughest and yet the most treasured of our lives. I recall every single holiday celebrated in family housing with strangers who had become family.
The year we moved to Germany, we packed every warm sweater we could find and kissed our families goodbye in Florida. We spent 14 hours on a plane arriving three weeks before Thanksgiving to live in military provided lodging. It was an extended stay hotel of sorts filled with other young military families transitioning to the Bavarian area of Germany. A cozy suite with floor to ceiling windows and a self cleaning toilet seat cocooned us as we explored our new home city. We were wide eyed and marveled at everything European. With our new neighbor “family” we did our laundry together and watched each other’s kids while transporting loads up two flights of stairs. Our cars had not arrived yet. We walked with each other miles daily exploring, shopping, drinking coffee and eating loaves of fresh baked bread.
The Unexpected Adventures
The adventures during this season remain vivid. They are by far the best stories we share with friends and family today. Being mysteriously thrown together by the “Powers of the Army” and later becoming chosen family made these experiences rich.
Consequently, we were all in our early twenties and completely naive so it never dawned on us we should take more caution, guard ourselves, and not give our hearts and emotions so freely to strangers. Our connection sprung from a human place of recognizing the need for a family unit. It didn’t seem to matter that we knew nothing in great detail about each other. In our tiny suite, a full holiday meal had been prepared complete with a turkey, cornbread stuffing, baked mac and cheese and candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. We had brought our traditions to Germany with us and found a new family there.
As the weeks passed by into December, we again walked together in the first snowfall of the season. The snowflakes were as large and fluffy as I’d imagined they would be in Europe. Not surprisingly, I sat in front of those enormous vintage Bavarian windows for two hours and soaked in the wintery scene of snow layering the landscape to a cotton candy appearance. I’m a Caribbean island girl so to me this scene was celestial. From my cozy perch, I thought of all we had experienced in those first few weeks — the walks, the train rides, new sights and smells of the city, cobble stoned streets, warm apple cider, freshly cooked sausages, hot fries sprinkled with that zesty red powder but most of all our new friend family.
The Lesson of the Journey
Our life’s journey would add new family members as a military family. I realized I needed to make room for more in my life. Undeniably, I needed lower emotional walls. I was then a fresh faced 22 year old toddler mom and today, 22 years later, at 44, I’m grateful to have learned those life lessons so young. Those first German weeks taught me to embrace life in a way that leaves room to add more family friends, more hot cups of coffee and long walks, and even more loaves of fresh baked bread and hot zesty fries.
Leave room to add more.