Spouse Stories: A Year of ‘Being’

Jennifer McDonald

While talking with a young friend recently, she lamented how little she’d accomplished during the year her husband was deployed.

“I just feel like I didn’t meet any of the goals I set for myself while he was gone,” she said as we sipped our skinny mocha whatevs at Starbucks.

“I didn’t run that marathon. I didn’t finish losing the weight I wanted-“

“Wait a second,” I stopped her.

“You took several college classes. You homeschooled your girls!” I gestured at those sweet girls, dressed in matching outfits with neatly groomed hair, happily slurping hot chocolate.

“You didn’t just keep your girls alive-you thrived! Look how happy they are!”

I am not one to pretend things are great when they are not, so she knew I wasn’t blowing smoke. And this conversation reminded me of that one year. 

The Year I Watched the Gilmore Girls.

Now, lest you think this is an essay about how I sat on the couch an entire year, let me reassure you…it is. Haha, I jest! (Kind of..) In this era of Pinterest envy, it almost seems sacrilegious to encourage other military spouses to… (gasp!) do nothing. But I am. I hope that you will take some time once in a while to do nothing.

Hear me out. During my husband’s last deployment, a year in Afghanistan, our four children (three of them teenagers, fortheloveofallthatsholy) and I opted to stay put at our base in Europe. With a great base community, it didn’t make sense to uproot them for a year, only to uproot them again in another year with a new assignment.

And then winter hit. The dismal, grey winter that is months and months and months long. One blustery day, at the base’s little DVD rental store, I came across an orange DVD case that set my life on a fateful course.

Gilmore Girls…hmmm….I’d heard of it. Obviously some sort of chick-flick TV show that my hubby would never consent to watch. Why not give it a try? And with that, the next 153 episodes were sealed.

I immediately fell in love with Lorelai’s fast-talking, wise-cracking ways. The relationship between her and daughter Rory warmed my heart. I loved the town of Stars Hollow. I wanted to LIVE in Stars Hollow. Her icy relationship with Emily reminded me of some (cough, cough) challenging extended family relationships of my own.

I reached the end of disc 1 and knew I was hooked. Thankfully, the video store was on the way to my oldest son’s high school sports practices, so he kindly returned and filled my next installment. And the next and the next. (Sweet boy!)

During that year, I didn’t meet many of the goals I’d initially set-sewing a quilt, learning to love running, organizing my craft and linen closets. But I’d continued work on my freelance career, toted kids to dance and sports and church, homeschooled, and did volunteer work on base. We’d taken many sightseeing trips. But a long bout with bronchitis set back my workout efforts. The week in which all of our car batteries died seemed like a cruel trick of Murphy. (Don’t know Murphy? Stick around with military life long enough, and you’ll become acquainted). A series of encounters with weird next-door neighbors depressed me.

Mid-winter, the thought hit me that maybe I could finish every episode before deployment’s end. This was a doable goal! My daughters sometimes joined me, and together we yelled at Rory not to let Dean go (“Don’t let him go! Jess is bad news!”). I wondered what Lorelai could possibly see in irresponsible, drifty Christopher. I hoped that she and Luke would FINALLY get together. And who wouldn’t want a best friend like Sookie?

Over the holidays, the kids and I traveled to visit family and make my son’s initial college visits, so Gilmore Girls had to be set aside for a time. However, I resumed my regimen on return. An insomniac by nature, those late-night hours weren’t wasted staring at the ceiling or worrying over the latest internet news on my husband’s location–darned if I didn’t want to find out whether or not Paris Geller and Rory made it into Harvard.

By the time Rory left for college and took up with That Cad Logan (I never did trust his eyes), it was beginning to look a bit like springtime in Europe. It was also around this time that my son informed me that he would no longer be my courier, as the video employees had taken to calling him The Gilmore Guy.

Gilmore Girl-watching hit a bit of a bump as I organized paperwork and packed out the house for an overseas move alone. And, as I watched our household goods bounce away on a rickety truck (that was no 18-wheeler, I tell you), little did I know that within 48 hours our orders would completely change and I would find myself at the TMO office in tears, holding our new orders and power of attorney and uttering the desperate words: “Help, please.”

Still, duplicate paperwork notwithstanding, I had 20 episodes left. I’d made it this far. Could I see it through? I realized that I might actually finish. Every. Single. Episode. All seven seasons! HERE was something I could finish, by golly!

Several days before my husband came home, I finished the last episode. I’d done it! I hadn’t sewn that quilt, logged as many running miles as I’d hoped, nor found the bottom of my craft closet, but I had seen Gilmore Girls through to the end. Psychologist types would probably say the draw of this show was the reminder of home, and there’s probably some truth to that. No matter, my time with Lorelai and Rory was my time. And that’s ok.

Many of us super-spouse types have a hard time not quantifying any down time as “productive.” We feel we must be always doing something. We revel in being busy. Sitting around seems so, well, lazy! But the women I know are the most productive people I’ve ever met-they are small business owners, volunteers, moms, and friends. They’re the team moms and the first on your list of emergency contacts. Many are all these things and holding down the fort alone, too. I honestly don’t know many of them who should be doing MORE. (And if you do have extra time, please let me know. I have a few closets that need organizing.)

So, I hope you’ll take a moment to sit a spell and just be. As my grandmother wisely said, “You’re a human being, not a human doing.”

And I’m not going to tell you if Luke and Lorelai made it work. You’ll have to watch for yourself!


Leave a Comment