I flew out to Carl’s training site for one last weekend together before deployment. We ate Thanksgiving dinner in a mess tent in the middle of nowhere. The Army (no surprise) does not cook like my mother. However, they served the crucial elements – a roast bird, gravy, and pecan pie. Certainly better than the McDonalds quarter pounder I expected to feast on.
The term “Mess tent” is a bit misleading. It’s not so much a WWII canvas structure as a gargantuan Barnum & Bailey three-ring circus tent, less the elephants and gaudy colors.
We spent the weekend in a sleepy old southern town, and enjoyed every minute of it. Long walks, hiking, Christmas lights, movies, reading, opening early Christmas presents together by a tiny wooden tree, church, and a great deal of good food. Originally we were disappointed that Carl wouldn’t be able to come home for Thanksgiving, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. With none of the responsibilities of home, we got to spend each day relaxing and spending quality time together. And eating. A lot.
The food…did I mention the food? Mouth-watering gumbo, southern beans cooked with bacon, savory meat pies, coastal bread pudding in caramel sauce, cheesecake… We ate well, extensively, and cheaply. After last month’s escargot, this month I tried my first frog legs. They taste just like chewy chicken.
One day after a chilly walk in the rain we ducked into a restaurant for lunch, ordered, and settled in to wait. At one point, Carl stood up from the table. Thirty seconds after he was gone, a tiny three or four-year-old girl slid off her chair at the next table, walked over to ours, climbed into Carl’s vacant chair, and sat peacefully kicking her heels and gazing into space. I said “hi”. She stared at me blankly for a moment and went back to her meditations.
After a minute or so her mother realized she’d appropriated the Man’s spot, retrieved her, and apologized profusely. Too bad. I was enjoying the free entertainment.
We took lots of pictures. A favorite:
Saying goodbye before many months apart is no fun, but I love the mental snapshot I took of Carl waving goodbye from the light of the barracks as I drove away into the darkness.
When we got married, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the kindness of others – people who volunteered to organize the wedding, arrange the flowers, cart supplies around, honor us by their presence and support, and help set up our home.
Deployment brings on a similar situation. Acquaintances in our area have called to invite me to Thanksgiving dinner, a tree-lighting ceremony, a Christmas party. Troops and friends rally to support Carl. Our church steps up with deployed spouses lunches and care packages to soldiers. I came home from the long weekend to find kind neighbors had cleared the leaves in our yard. The elderly tour guides at a plantation I visited while waiting for my flight home asked my husband’s name and volunteered to pray for him. We are lucky.