Beginning to Meet the Real Army Wives of 2003
***This post is a chapter in the series The Real Army Wives of 2003, appearing each Monday morning on Storiesofourboys.com.***
Moving into a new house always makes me euphorically happy.
What could thrill a feminine soul more than a fresh new house full of possibilities?
I vividly remember each “not it” home we looked at when we arrived in Texas in January, 2003. But then we found “it.” We found THE ONE.
It was a duplex, only 1-year-old, out-of-the-way from town but close enough to one of the Fort Hood gates. The entire neighborhood was all new and brick and beautiful. We had the classic scraggly baby tree in the front yard and tiny backyard with a privacy fence.
Our front yard was smaller than most folks’ living room, but it didn’t matter. It was ours, together at last, and we loved it.
A three-bedroom duplex at 22-years-old might as well have been a mansion, we were so delighted with every bit of it.
When you choose a home, you are picking much more than a floor plan and a fence type.
You are selecting, usually completely blindly, the main characters for the next chapter of your life. If you live in a duplex, chances are your neighbors will be mighty close at hand, so you’d better hope there’s a good one or two in there.
I guess that’s what made life on John David Drive so incredibly happy. Living there was one of those experiences I look back on in a haze of rose-colored glasses. Those people were my battle buddies, and most of them could do no wrong.
Yes, we even named our fourth son after that street because even in the midst of the hardship of sending Alan overseas to the War on Terrorism, at the very beginning of the thing, there were fun times.
We were so young. In many ways, we grew up in that house.
I moved in as a newlywed girl, fresh out of college. I remember standing at my sink and marveling that I was truly a married woman with my very own house, in my very own kitchen, and I giggled in wonder that it was all real.
Meeting the Neighbors
Right off the bat, our new main characters began to materialize.
It didn’t take more than a night in our new home to realize that our duplex-mates had some serious problems.
Some duplexes may be built better than others, but this one had a terribly thin shared wall, and the main rooms that sound came through were the master bedroom, master bath, and the kitchen.
I think the kitchen and the master bedroom were the two primary places that our neighbors did their yelling matches. It was quickly apparent that their marriage was not going to survive the upcoming deployment.
The disruptive neighbors were Dylan and Shelby and their 3 children. The oldest child was around 13, and he was actually Shelby’s son from a previous relationship. The other children were Hannah, age 8, and Houston, age 5. Hannah and Houston were two of the most beautiful, sweetest, and quietest children I ever met.
Dylan was a staff sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division, so he would be leaving when Alan left too.
We never got to know Shelby well. Shelby was a terribly sad case. She was the angriest, most foul-mouthed woman I’ve ever heard. It was disturbing to listen to their fights because you knew that the children were having to listen to them too, and it just always seemed like Shelby was tearing her own life apart with her own two hands.
But across the street from me, I noticed something much different and unbelievably coincidental.
I noticed that the across-the-street neighbor’s car had Alabama plates. Remember, we were in Texas. Most everyone had Texas plates. But not only did she have Alabama tags, she had Dale County plates!!! You see, in Alabama, the first 2 numbers of the license plates tell which county the car is registered in.
This wasn’t just an Alabama girl, this was a South Alabama girl!! Like me!! I’d lived there my whole life. How could this be? I was clearly going to HAVE to meet this person.
When I am thrown into a new place, with new people, I become very reserved and quiet and shy. The very idea of knocking on her door was scary, but I had to do it. We had too much in common to not meet.
I’d already noticed, through my neighborly front window observations, that her husband was also in the 4th Infantry Division. So he would be going too. I also observed that he was of similar rank to my husband.
There was no way around my curiosity and need to meet people before my husband left. I MUST march across the street and knock on her door. This was not the time to play it cool.
What I met there was a bubbly, adorable young blonde named Elsie, a nursing student who loved cats. I’m saying that in the past tense, but I can assure you that Elsie still loves cats.
I think we were instant friends. The day I met Elsie, Alan hadn’t even officially signed in to his unit yet. When you move, it’s wise to put your house in order before you go reporting for work, if at all possible.
So it was Elsie who gave me my first expected timeline for when our husbands would be shipping out. She said they were expecting to go in three weeks.
3 weeks!? 3 weeks. Three. Only three.
You might think that I was reeling, or depressed, or that maybe I was a mess. But I wasn’t a mess.
I was sad that I was losing the husband that I had waited through almost 5 months of marriage to finally be with. Naturally, I was concerned about his well-being and unsure of what I would do next.
The thing is I’m a naturally happy person, so I never wallowed in any self-pity at this point. I liked that no one knew exactly when 4th ID would be leaving because that meant there was wiggle room, so I prayed. I prayed for more days constantly.
“Let me have as much time as possible with him. Lord, I’m afraid we’ll forget each other if we don’t have a little time together first. I’m going to focus on enjoying each day we are given.”
That was truly my attitude. It had to be. When you are in a bad situation that is completely out of your control, what is the point of worrying and being depressed? It would not have helped. By staying upbeat, we could go on enjoying date nights to El Chico together and planning our future in this new place.
At that point, Alan was still with me, so I couldn’t truly be sad yet. Plus, we had our very first house to set up, so while the future looked gloomy, there was enough happiness in the present that the gloominess couldn’t touch us….yet.
Join us next Monday for the next part in this series!!
For last week’s chapter, when we learned about deployment orders, click here
For Chapter 1 click here.