No, it’s not because we just had a Hallmark movie worthy reunion scene in the airport after a weeks or months long separation, complete with three gleeful kids tackle-hugging my husband as he comes into view near baggage claim. This endorphin releasing moment will be enough to get us through a celebratory meal and the ride home. But odds are, before bedtime prayers are said and it’s “lights out” in our house, we’ll have transitioned from the “Yay! Daddy’s home!” phase into full-on adjustment to having him back under the same roof (no matter how glad we ALWAYS are). That’s when things start happening, and appearing, that haven’t happened or appeared in the weeks or months he’s been gone. And other than the fact that he’s in view, this is how I know my husband is REALLY home:
~ Dirty dishes are stacked in the sink and filled with water so that the food will “soak” away. “No dirty dishes on the table”, is my husband’s idea of a “clean” kitchen. Plunging my hands into soggy-food water, however, is not mine. The entire time he was gone, the major appliance right beside the sink cleaned the dishes for us. No pre-soaking required.
~ Damp Soffe shorts are hanging from the shower, bathtub faucet, and back porch banister. After my husband’s runs, they have to “air out” before they can be mixed in with the other dirty laundry in the hamper, which is now stuffed full. It takes me over a week to fill the hamper with dirty clothes by myself. My husband can have an empty hamper regurgitating pants and shirts in two days, tops. It’s an underappreciated talent.
~ There is an obstacle course in my bedroom. I trip over duffle bags that are in the process of being unpacked when I get up in the dark to see why the baby is crying. And then I trip over them again getting back into bed.
~ As my husband unpacks his bags, there is always a load of laundry he does himself. If I had clothes in the dryer, they get crumpled on top of some folded ones in a laundry basket so that he can dry his load of uniforms and Soffe shorts.
~ A can of Copenhagen is now on the mantle, chest of drawers, or kitchen bar. And a special blend of “dirt” scattered on the floor below whatever surface the can happens to be sitting on. Oddly, even with three little ones going in and out of every door in the house, we only see this “dirt” when my husband is home.
But, those are just a few of the annoying things. Eventually, we get our groove back. Clothes and suitcases get put away, and I learn to ignore the little bit of clutter that always comes with an extra person around. We might not always (ok, never) operate with the orderliness of a military post, but we slip back into a schedule that works for all five of us. And there are so many good things that start happening, and appearing, too. Like:
~ The grass is cut and the trash is out without my having to do it.
~ There is a person in the bed with me who doesn’t have bony knees and elbows and knows how to sleep in the correct vertical position.
~ Currency and souvenirs from all over the world. The last time I took a tally, we have treasures from Peurto Rico, Iraq, Guatemala, London, Wales, Botswana, South Africa, Chile, and from numerous cities throughout the United States. Each child has a special keepsake from every place. We have baskets woven from African grass, beautiful pieces made of copper, hand-carved wooden puzzles, stuffed bears in Beefeater hats. I tell them that these collections of theirs from around the world will mean a great deal to them when they are grown. I can tell by the way my oldest carefully puts each gift she receives on one of the shelves in her room, they already do.
~ Lots of hugging and laughter. Sometimes, we get so mired in the drudgery of survival, we forget to have fun without him here.
~ Artwork from my 7-year-old that says “For Daddy”, “Welcome Home, Daddy” and “I Love You, Daddy!”
~ Pleadings from my 4-year-old: “I want Daddy to put me to bed/take me to school this time. You always do it.”
~ My 1-year-old toddling over to my husband with arms above his head, begging to be picked up.
It’s not easy, this life. Just when the kids start to get really comfortable with our day-to-day routine, it’s time for my husband to go again, and the process starts all over. But it’s not all bad. We get to be reminded often of something that families who don’t have to spend much time apart might have forgotten: An unlimited amount of time together is not a given. Seeing a loved one’s face after not seeing it for a long time is a little sliver of heaven. No amount of aggravation can overshadow the basic joy of having a whole family under the same roof. Of course, this feeling always passes after a few days and after we get used to each other again. But for a little while, the simple surprise of seeing my husband shaving at the bathroom sink, eating a meal at the kitchen table, playing on the floor with our children, is nothing short of magical. And I just find myself staring at him and all the evidence of his presence, like he’s a celebrity and I’m completely star struck, like I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing: my husband is home, finally, really home.