Life as a Turtle: We Spouses Carry Our Homes on Our Backs

A few days ago a giant turtle arrived on the scene in front of our home. It wasn’t the snapping kind but actually pretty gentle. As his long neck stretched to get a better view of his surroundings, it was as if he was asking himself, ‘Where am I?’

I’m pretty sure shade and water were first on his list. Gazing down at the turtle’s cracked shell, I became thoughtful of our military life. We had a lot in common, that turtle and I. It’s interesting how you can do something for so long that it just becomes natural. Like moving 17 times in 28 years, setting up a new home, tearing it down, and starting all over again.

Our home has become just like that turtle; everything we need is inside. The familiarity of our belongings makes every picture and piece of furniture feel comfortable. No matter what city we are in, the one constant we have is our shell. It’s a place of protection from the storms of life and something to cling to when things are unfamiliar. And just like my animal friend, we find peace when we duck inside.

Every three years we ask ourselves the same question the turtle pondered, “Where am I?” Then we settle into a new routine. We start new jobs, meet new friends, find a church, meet new neighbors, see a new doctor and dentist, register the kids in new schools, and discover new things to do in the city we are sent. It’s a lot like an exciting adventure waiting on the horizon, beckoning us to discover all that new duty station will offer.

Now almost three decades later, my husband is still faithfully serving as a United States Marine. We, as his family lovingly support him along this nomadic trail. The boxes that are unpacked, packed and tossed in a moving truck lead us to new memories. What will the next place offer us as a family? As a couple? As individuals? And every three years, we get to answer those questions with conversations like, “Remember when…?” or, “Wasn’t that a great place to…” It still amazes me how quickly time goes by before new orders arrive.

I reflect on the many seasons we have been through together like parenting young children, deployments and spending time apart as a couple. Yet, I am grateful that every challenge made us stronger as a family. Although our sons are older, I know the upcoming years will continue to bring change. My husband and I will experience personal milestones like marriage ceremonies and grandchildren while moving with our homes on our backs.

With a weathered shell and a lot of love inside, it tells us a story of who we are. I’m sure if the turtle could talk, he too would have many rich stories of his own travels. We all need a place to rest and a place to call home. Ours just happens to change frequently. In my heart I know that at the end of the day, we always have one another. No matter where life may place our feet, home is where we land.

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