A Day in the Life: Connected During Holidays
I’ve done it again! Here I am, thinking I have all the time in the world to prepare a Christmas care package for my deployed husband until I find out I’ve missed the U.S. Postal Service’s cutoff date for overseas delivery by Christmas. Not even a week ago I was bah-humbugging about the Christmas inventory that has taken over every store in town, and now I see that perhaps the world was trying to give me a big fat clue. How could I possibly overlook such a huge deadline?
I’m still in the mode of thinking that any holiday shopping and shipping I can scratch off of my list is way ahead of the curve. Early-December is not ahead of schedule by any means when preparing a care package for a deployed spouse. To draw a comparison, I would now equate myself to the cliche guy scouring the mall for a gift on Christmas Eve. Shame on me!
But, don’t count me out just yet; I’ve spent the last 24 hours preparing the ultimate holiday care package. I began by wrapping the inside of a flat rate box, which, I’ll say, is harder than it sounds. There are a couple things in this world I feel I was born to do, and wrapping the inside of a box is clearly not one of them; it’s the thought that counts, right? I’m also experimenting with “cake in a jar” which sounds just crazy enough to work. The cake is baked in a Mason jar and sealed afterward to preserve freshness; sounds genius to me! We’ll see if my husband approves. In addition to the cakes, I’m including a Santa hat, stuffed stocking, a miniature tree, some of my husband’s favorite, non-chocolate sweets, and some small toys and puzzles that I found on a trip to the store this morning that rivaled Olympic speed records. All in all, the package came together nicely. I’ll add a note which will involve infinitely more time and thought than the shopping trip and some “art” from my 10-month old son and the package will be a wrap (pun definitely intended)! I am determined to be the first in line tomorrow when the post office opens so that little box of holiday cheer can hit the road!
Although I missed the official deadline, I’m fairly confident that the care package will arrive by Christmas day. I’m only one business day behind schedule, and, to be completely honest, I seriously doubt that I’m the only spouse in this situation. I may even see some familiar faces at the post office tomorrow.
With all that pressure on just one little box, what happens if it is delivered late? What happens if, heaven forbid, it gets lost and doesn’t show up until Valentine’s Day? Our deployed spouses would be empty handed on Christmas. I’m sorry, but there is nothing sadder to me than a husband that is deployed and disappointed. To give myself some holiday cheer insurance and to give my husband a truly well rounded holiday experience, I’m thinking outside the care package box.
Let’s talk Christmas cards. No, don’t worry, those don’t need to be addressed yet, but this is the time to pass along your spouse’s overseas address to your extended family and friends. Suggest that they include your husband in their mailing list this year. I tried this during my husband’s first deployment and the response was unbelievable! He brought home–yes, he toted them all the way home from Iraq–a huge stack of Christmas cards and most of them contained a little message of thanks instead of the generic, “Love, The Smith Family.” The increase in mail during December is sure to spark a little bit of holiday spirit even if the atmosphere overseas is less than festive. As a bonus, this requires minimal work for us, but the end result is a constant stream of holiday mail for our deployed loved ones. Say it with me, “Delegation is our friend!”
If your husband will be deployed this Christmas, like mine, you might feel a little lonely from time to time, but no one should really be alone on Christmas. So try to surround yourself with family or friends, whether you can gather with your parents, your husband’s parents, your great aunt Helen, or the military family across the street, just find a place to be included. This year, both sides of our family, my parents and my husband’s parents, are coming to our house for my son’s first Christmas; the only thing we’ll be missing is my brother and a partridge in a pear tree!
Every spouse has his or her own holiday agenda, and I’m not by any means saying you must gather the entire family tree into one room, but staying in touch with in-laws in any way, shape, or form is a great way to feel a little closer to our deployed spouses. If getting together with in-laws isn’t a realistic possibility, aim to spend the holidays with friends that know your spouse, especially friends associated with the military that understand your separation and won’t hound you with “Are you OK?” and “Do you miss him?” every half hour. I’ve found that one of the quickest ways to feel connected to my husband while he’s away is to surround myself with people who know him. And, though he may never admit it, I know he loves that I’m including his family in our celebration.
If scheduling permits, of course a video chat or phone call with your deployed spouse on Christmas day would be ideal. With your spouse, try to agree on a general time frame that works with both your schedules and hope for the best. However hard it may be, we have to remember that the time difference fogs communication convenience and, although some deployed service members may get some down time for Christmas day, there really are no holidays in war. The biggest challenge with a phone call is trying not to count on it happening. Remember that our deployed loved ones want to talk to us over anything else they might be doing, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. As disappointing as this can be, don’t hold a grudge and don’t let it ruin your holiday. I suspect that the last thing our deployed husbands or wives want is for us to be down in the dumps on Christmas morning or even New Year’s Eve.
Above all, I would suggest trying to stick as close to your typical holiday traditions as possible. You’ll notice I didn’t say “normal” holiday traditions; I don’t even know what normal is anymore! Make the little adjustments here and there to account for the absence of your loved one, but all in all, business as usual is best. Don’t feel guilty about having a great Christmas without your husband, but don’t feel like you have to plaster on a happy face for the entire holiday season either. The holidays are an emotional time for anyone. Throw a deployment into the mix and stand back; who knows what will happen! Most importantly, don’t let out of sight mean out of mind. If you’re thinking about your deployed spouse one December afternoon, tell him! Write him an email or a letter. Take lots of pictures of the holiday festivities to share with him. Then, when you think you have enough pictures, take a few more and possibly a couple videos! Our deployed loved ones want to feel like they were home for the holidays, and we can definitely make that happen!