“Is this your Forever House?” our mayor asked while canvasing for reelection in our small town.
She and I are both old house owners and old house lovers — the kind of people who lust after heart pine floors and claw foot tubs and wood burning fireplaces.
So is this our Forever House?
Don’t jinx me, Lady.
Because in the military, we don’t go flitting around choosing a Forever House. The Forever House has to sneak up on you. And it is skittish. Paint a wall dark blue and you can expect PCS orders in the morning.
So we don’t throw around the term “Forever House” lightly. We aren’t your civilians thinking that your Forever House is some work of architectural genius that says you made it.
We aren’t your decorating magazine editors thinking that a Forever House means something substantial with beach access. A mountain lake. A heliport.
Those people mean the Forever House they furnish on Pintrest.
We may have our Pinterest houses, too. But at a certain point in a military career (right after moving the first teenager and just before the scars heal), everyone starts talking about a Forever House.
By Forever House, we mean that we will stop moving at last and live in that house forever.
But we can’t plan that or it will never happen. Instead you gotta look for signs that you are in your forever house.
You might be in your Forever House when you move the refrigerator to clean behind it not because of the moving inspector, but because the lint is moving the fridge away from the wall. Who knew?
You might be in your Forever House if more than one of your children graduate from the same high school. Shoot, if they attend the same high school you might be on your way!
You might be in your Forever House if you have more boxes of childhood memories than curtains that don’t fit on your current set of windows.
You might be in your Forever House if a tree you planted actually provides shade.
You might be in your Forever House if you don’t have a closet devoted to uniforms.
You might be in your Forever House if you can give directions with street names instead of hoping everyone has really good GPS.
You might be in your Forever House if your grandchildren run in the front door. If you host more than a dozen Thanksgivings at home. If you break a hip sliding across your heart pine floors and you look up into the paramedic’s face and realize that you are, in fact, 106.
The thing about a Forever House is that you don’t know you are in it until it is almost over. While you are busy doing the real work of a military family — struggling to keep the family together under one roof — the Forever House grows up around you.
You don’t seek it. It finds you.
So is this our Forever House? I don’t know. I still have an ear cocked listening for the next set of orders, the next moving truck in the driveway, the next Realtor at the door. Because I’m still waiting for the onset of forever — whenever it is ready to start.