Everyone has weird quirks, some are weirder than others. One of my biggest quirks, which hurts in the pocketbook, is leaving our holiday lights on all night long. I’m talking 5 p.m to 5 a.m.; our house can probably be seen from space when it’s decked out for the holidays.
My husband sees those lights and he sees dollar signs. He thinks winter is a time when we can recoup from the languid, unbearable Florida summers of non-stop air conditioning.
I see those lights and see comfort during long deployment months — something that is vital at a time when, traditionally, families are coming together, not being split asunder. While our military operations abroad might be drawing to a close, I will continue to fight this battle at home.
I fight the good fight with Christmas lights. Because I was alone during our first Christmas as a married couple. It was hard to come home and destress about work or traffic to no one. As many spouses know, talking out loud can sometimes make the room seem so much more … empty.
Due to the nature of the mission I could talk to my husband only about once a month. I was holding my breath in dread, weeks on end with every news report that came out. I never knew how my husband would be described if his time was up. Would it be just a number of casualties, would they mention his country of origin, his branch of service, his rank, his age, his name?
I was most assuredly jealous of my fellow spouses who complained that they couldn’t deal with the multiple calls a day from over there: doesn’t he/she understand?
Oh, I understood the need to make those calls; I would be the one calling every other hour if I was over there. So much for being the strong, independent one.
To fill the void in the hours after my solitary dinner and before report-time for work the next day, I went out the door of what had become my narrow life and into the greater world to search for the light. Holiday lights.
Sometimes I bundled up and walked around the neighborhoods. Other times I drove around to the more affluent areas and basked in glory and appreciation for the lengths these people went to: single color, multicolored, flashing, strobe, ropes, net lights, minimalist, circus-worthy, wreaths, vehicles, characters, deer, polar bears, menorahs of all sizes, colors, and quantities, lighted fake palm trees, manger scenes of various sizes, cultures, and ethnicities, toy soldiers and purple hippopotami.
I was especially thankful, and made the point to silently thank, each and every time, those who left their lights on all night. Some were surely forgotten, others, it seemed, left them on just for me. Perhaps they actually did.
So last year I was dead-set on leaving my lights on all night long. One night, my husband and I had another round about why the lights needed to be on even after we had gone to bed and why we couldn’t take them down until the end of January. I stepped outside to enjoy my lights. I saw the two candles I had placed in the windows–part of that age old sign of welcome–were not lit.
I wondered if I could replace them without my husband noticing. Because I will leave the lights on for that one person who may be searching for solace and healing the wound of the missing other.
Christina is a proud war bride, military “dependent,” writer,and volunteer. She met her husband while working two jobs and he stuck with the despite the long and crazy hours away from each other. And so began her experience with the military. Scrapping the wedding for a long and dangerous deployment, she fully embraced being a military spouse. Christina reaches out to all available networks to learn and take advantage of what the military has to offer its family.