Real Army Wives Series: New York City

Real Army Wives Series: Meeting Him in New York City

In the Empire State Building

 

While Alan was at OBC (military training) in Oklahoma, and I was finishing my degree at Alabama, Alan had this spontaneous idea to meet for the weekend in New York City!!

New York City!!

Y’all. To fully understand why this was such a big deal, I should explain that I was not accustomed to this sort of thing. We did not take annual vacations or move from state to state. I lived in Alabama my entire life.

But for as long as I can remember, I have always been a dreamer and a wanderer.

If you look hard enough, you can spot the Statue of Liberty to the left of my head.

I love excitement.

Alan brought a degree of excitement that I had always yearned for. I couldn’t help it. My Aunt Ann, who I adore, used to joke that as a baby my first word was “Go!”

Traveling and seeing new places, sleeping in hotel rooms, and just roaming in general is something I love.

I do not love trying to relax in a hotel room while my 10-year-old and 11 year-old laugh and joke in the bed beside me, interrupting my every thought……but this was years before I had to deal with that. (Those are today’s problems…)

Me in Times Square

My first flight alone

We used the free ticket we saved from when we missed the ball, so we only had to buy one plane ticket. Then we went online and found the very cheapest room in Manhattan that had a private bathroom. (Yes, you can get hotel rooms in NYC that are community bathroom situations….no thank you.)

I was a tiny, timid, clueless, but giddy 21-year-old newlywed college senior. I had only flown twice before, and both times had been since I married Alan.

You wouldn’t believe how nervous I was about flying, by myself, into the biggest city in America to meet my husband inside an airport, take a bus to the subway in Queen’s, and then ride the rails to Manhattan to find our hotel on foot.

Sure, we’d been to a foreign country together, but somehow this seemed scarier. New York City? Queens? Isn’t this a place where people get mugged and there are gangs and people on drugs?

So yeah, I was all full of anxiety, but it wasn’t all bad. It was a happy nervous.

The hardest part was finding Hotel Pennsylvania on foot. You see, this was before iPhones and GPS. Back then, it was just us and some maps and kind strangers giving us directions.

I’ll never forget my first subway ride.

We boarded the train. I’d seen my share of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies as a kid, so I approached the whole subway thing with great fear and trepidation, let me tell you.

Graffiti was everywhere. Just like in the movies. Thankfully, there were no foot soldiers working for Shredder out that day.

Alan was a little nervous too, though he may never admit it. I know he was because he said stuff like, “Turn your ring around. Keep your purse zipped up.”

I have a happy-go-lucky demeanor, and I think people worry about me sometimes.

Sure enough, the subway train was packed, and this man was walking down the aisles preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. At first I just thought that was interesting, but then I realized he was doing that to get money from people because after he preached he went down the aisles collecting cash.

Now there was a head scratcher. I’ve been on many trains since then. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone pull of a stunt like that one.

Ground Zero Oct. 2002, a year after 9/11.

 

Saving Money in New York City

You are probably picturing Alan and me as poor college students. How could we afford this? Well, we were not poor college students. I was in school, but I had scholarships, and Alan had already graduated, and had an excellent job.

Lieutenant pay may not be much, but for two young twenty-somethings with no kids, it was everything we needed and then some.

While we were well provided for, we were still smart and careful with our money, but Manhattan was shockingly expensive. Alan to this day tells the story of paying $25 for a small pizza from Pizza Hut, and when he tells it, it was more like $40.

Broadway plays that last-minute were $200/ticket, so that was out.

I think that’s my only regret from that trip. I still want to see a Broadway show.

We did a lot of going TO places without actually paying any money and going into anything.
Statue of Liberty?

It had a long line and a fare to ride the ferry, so we squinted at it from the shore.

Empire State Building?

We were afraid it cost money to go up to the top, so we just walked inside the lobby, looked around the gift shop, and left.

Bloomingdale’s?

We walked around in it for a minute and then moved on.

Tour Bus?

No, thanks. We took the subway the entire trip, and we did a TON of walking.

Refills? What!?

I still remember our surprise when we realized that the restaurant was charging Alan for each of his Dr. Pepper refills. Ha! I’m pretty sure he drank water the rest of the weekend.

……..Overzealous frugality aside, I love that we took that trip.

I still remember so much of that weekend vividly. We argued some, especially over the Empire State building thing. One of us thought we were being overly cheap. We were!!!

But how often do you get to spend a weekend in New York City just wandering around?? I loved seeing Times Square and the UN and Trump Tower, in person. Yes, it was famous even 15 years ago.

We did buy souvenirs.

At the UN, we bought a blue tea set from Romania, which still resides in my china cabinet.

And from street vendors, as in the kind who whip their goods out of a black garbage bag, I bought a fake Kate Spade purse and a drawing of the city.

The purse broke the first time I tried to use it, and I have never made another black market purchase.

I don’t remember saying good-bye to Alan and parting ways again, though somehow we did.

I only remember the sights and sounds of this huge city, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Alan carried me on his back when my feet got too tired from the walking. I can tell you how the icy wind blasts between the skyscrapers.

We remember how friendly New Yorkers were to us. One couple on the train even told us to follow them when we got off to show me Bloomingdale’s.

I was also surprised that there were “newsstands” everywhere. They’re like mini-gas stations, only with no gas and tons of periodicals.

We saw Ground Zero, which was literally a giant hole in the fall of 2002.

Just thinking about that trip brings a smile to my face a mile wide because even with all the stress and anxiety and nervousness, it was an adventure, and we loved it.

Or at least I loved it. I hope Alan did too.

With Alan I felt safe there, and the future looked fun and close. Before long, we really would be together like a normal married couple, and we would experience things like this together.

Being a military wife was awesome, everything I’d ever wanted. How I couldn’t wait to get on with it already!

 

*****Come back each Monday for  the next story!*****

 

 

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Home Sweet Tutwiler. My freshman year I lived on the 13th floor, aka the 14th floor. My junior and senior years I lived on the 6th floor.




For previous posts on our young military marriage, click here. This is part of the series I’m writing called The Real Army Wives.

As I mentioned before, Alan was away at training the first 4 months of our marriage, while I finished up my degree at the University of Alabama.

I lived in Tutwiler Hall. The funny thing about Tutwiler Hall, which is the freshman girls’ dormitory, is that there were actually 2 different buildings in the state of Alabama named Tutwiler.  The other Tutwiler is the women’s prison.

As you can imagine, everyone had jokes about that, especially Alan. He prided himself, once we got married, on coming to town to stay with me for my “conjugal visit.” Ha!

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Tutwiler Hall still stands today, right across the street from the University of Alabama’s famous football stadium.

Even though we lived apart, we took turns visiting one another.

I loved it when Alan would visit and handle all of my Excel homework. 15 years later, I wish I had taken the time to learn how to use Excel. It’s probably the only computer system that is still mostly the same, and I’m still clueless as to how to use it.

When Alan came to town, we slept on an air bed in the floor of my living room at Tutwiler. As the 6th floor Resident Assistant, I had my own living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

It wasn’t much better when I’d go to visit Alan in Oklahoma. I only visited for one extended weekend. It was Thanksgiving. Alan was training to be a field artillery officer. In layman’s terms, that’s the Army’s big guns (cannons), which Alan insists I call “howitzers.”

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Golden Corral that year because Alan called every place in town to see where we could get the most affordable steak.

I will never forget that Thanksgiving because of the crazy person who stole from me. I was staying at the Batchelor Officers’ Quarters with Alan, sharing a bed that could only be described as a 3/4 bed. It wasn’t even quite as big as a full size bed.

Down the hall from our room was the community laundry room. No big deal. I was used to that. We had community laundry at Tutwiler. I wasn’t the kind to sit with my clothes either. I left my clothes in the dryer and returned to my room. On the way out of the laundry room, Alan introduced me to a guy who seemed a little strange in a creepy way, but whatever. I didn’t think too much of it.

You can imagine my dismay when I took my clothes out of the dryer and discovered that all 5 pairs of my panties were missing from the load!!! The rest of my clothes were all there.

Only my underwear was missing!

I’d been stolen from before, but this was weird weird weird. Icky.

I looked at every man in the building with a healthy dose of skepticism after that.

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Beautiful bluffs near where Alan lived in Lawton, Oklahoma. Geronimo is buried near there. We visited his grave once.

Strange incidents aside, it was a semester of sacrifices. So much separation is hard on a marriage.

We worked hard. Alan was steadily training to lead soldiers to war, and I was squeezing my senior year of college into one semester.

That’s why we decided to do something way exciting and outside the box for fun that October. Remember how we had that free plane ticket left over from the mishap where we missed the military ball? We decided to cash in that ticket and have a 2nd honeymoon in a place neither of us had ever been before but where we’d always wanted to go.

We are both frugal people, but when it comes to relationships, we always fork over the money.

That’s why we fly in to visit our families every summer and Christmas, no matter how many tickets that costs us.

And that’s why we spared no expense going to see each other when we were living separately for a while.

People regret many things, but people never regret spending time with loved ones. No one on their death-bed ever said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my family.” Nope. Doesn’t happen.

Relationships are always worth the money.

We decided to meet somewhere new and exciting. Alan would fly out from Oklahoma, and I’d fly up from Alabama.

So do you want to know where we went?  I’ll tell ya all about it on the next post.

 

 

 

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Army Wives Series: The First Good-bye and Watching the News

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Real Army Wives series post, so where were we?

Oh, yes, Alan and I were engaged. The Army was starting to encroach on my plans and change my life. Hahahahahaha Oh boy, did I have no idea what was ahead or what!

Behind? You can catch up here with part 1, part 2,and the others weren’t exactly part of the story, per se, so we are really only on part 3 here.

Probably 99% of military couples plan their wedding date around a deployment, a move, a temporary duty assignment, or training.

For us, it was Officer Basic Course and my own college graduation. We could plan it for December or January, which was unstable because we were brand new to the military and didn’t know if that would work out…

Or we could plan the big day for August, exactly when Alan had about 10 days of leave between assignments.

So we went with the August plan.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Picture of a picture….Yes, we got married before digital photography was big…Funny story….A guest that we didn’t know caught the bouquet. She said, “Wow! I don’t even know her!” So Alyson, Alan’s cousin, snatched it up. That makes me smile.

The first good-bye

I said good-bye to Alan around May 30 that year. He was off to Ft. Lewis, Washington, and I was headed down to my parents’ house to spend the summer working, planning the wedding, and taking Genetics via distance learning.

This was our first ever attempt at a long distance relationship. Two whole months–which sounds laughable NOW.

But, oh! The drama!

You would have thought it was World War II, rather than…..Tacoma. We hugged and kissed, and made speeches, and it actually makes me roll my eyes and shake my head now to even think about it. Gracious.

Two months of separation between Alan’s commissioning and the wedding.

But that was nothing.

Once we got married, in August, we celebrated with a honeymoon to Jamaica, and then we drove from Alabama to Oklahoma to settle him into his BOQ. (Batchelor Officer’s Quarters)

I rode out there with him, spent a day there, and then I flew back to Alabama to finish my own degree, at the University of Alabama.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Yep. That was another 4 months of separation.

I don’t even think it’s that uncommon for military couples to spend the first months of their marriage apart. This has been a common theme throughout millenia of military couples.

As a newlywed 21-year-old young woman, it was agonizing.

How many times did I contemplate throwing it all out the window and moving to Oklahoma with my lieutenant? So many times! I could finish my degree anywhere, any time, why bother with all this? Ugh.

But my husband truly loved me, and was always looking out not only for his best interest, but for mine as well. Alan would not hear of me throwing away my degree only 4 months from completion.

Transferring to another college would have put all those credits at risk. I’d worked hard on this degree, and we both decided it would be best for me to stick it out and finish that last semester at UA.

…Even if I felt like I was the only married lady on campus. Actually, I wasn’t the only one, but I WAS the only married gal still working as a Resident Assistant, living alone, in the freshman girls’ residence hall, Tutwiler.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

My 3 closest friends junior and senior year: That’s me, Jennings, Leigh, and Chrisynda

But I was with my friends, and that made it doable. How many times have my friends kept me sane over all these years? Two things, y’all, there were two things that always got me through these obstacles.

  1. My faith in my heavenly Father. He’s seen me through too much for me to ever doubt Him.
  2. The support of my friends and family.

Around that time, speculation began to circulate about the possibility of war with Iraq.

It was the fall of 2002. We had troops in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, but the news kept building. I remember the day Chrisynda came to my room to tell me to turn on my t.v.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Chrisynda and me, 2002

Chrisynda was one of my best friends, a tallish, slender brunette with straight shoulder-length hair, and a positive attitude. She was the Alan of my friends: super responsible, practical, level-headed, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun, but always well-balanced.

She’s just one of those people who seems to know things. She was the friend who would keep my favorite snack in her room. She’d come to my room with a Walmart bag containing batteries because she knew that if she wanted to watch t.v. in my room, someone would need to put batteries in my remote control. April did not have money to spare for batteries. For Guthrie’s fried chicken tenders? Yes, I had money for that. For batteries? Never.

I remember Chrisynda came into my room, and she probably brought food with her too, and she turned on the news. It is permanently lodged in my brain how she asked me about the Iraq news.

“Did you see this Iraq stuff?”

I muttered something about avoiding all that news and hoping it wouldn’t happen. I like to live happily in denial.

“Ehh…I’m pretty sure we’re going, April. It’s happening. Do you think Alan will go?” She was so polite, but she leveled the facts with me that I don’t think anyone else wanted to talk about.

Time stood still. Wait. What? I gotta start watching the news? The news….the news…

The news was suddenly intruding into my life. It was more than a channel to flip past. What we were seeing on t.v. was affecting me directly. It had always affected me, whether I realized it or not, but now I was in the front of the line of dominoes!!

Ever since, I’ve never been able to form a non-partial opinion on anything politically related. I always think, “Wait. How will this affect me? Or this friend, or my parents, or my children?”

Some people remain objective much better than I do, but I cannot do it.

So there we were…..young newlyweds…we’d been apart for 6 months, with short breaks in between, and now there was talk of war with Iraq.

The questions swirled around me, but what could I do? How could I know anything?

All a person can do in any situation at all is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. What needs to be done today? Do that. How do I stay spiritually and physically fit to handle all this? Do that too.

Pray. Hope. Love. Cling to the good. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and life went on.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Come back next Monday for the next installment!

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com

 

 


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