So there was this one time when Ollie came home from a year at war to a wife of two and a half years, with whom he had only shared the same roof for six months. He also returned to an eight year old daughter, a six year old step-son, a two and a half year old daughter, and an almost one year old son who he met during R&R.
He was blessed with newlywed bliss (learning to live together), new baby bliss (getting to know this demanding little stranger), and reintegration bliss (remembering how to be civilized after a year of combat) all at the same time. It’s a miracle he didn’t run away from all that joy.
Because he didn’t have enough on his plate, his entire brigade was scheduled to move to a post across the country just 90 days after the soldiers came home, as dictated by BRAC. (Sidenotes: Army installations are called “posts.” Other military installations are called bases. Base Realignment and Closure was a plan from Congress and the DOD to shut down some installations and move units around in order to improve efficiency and decrease spending. More about that on a different day.) Although the Army would move Ollie’s family for free, his darling wife exuberantly suggested that his family move themselves. “We can make money!” she exclaimed. A former real estate broker and daughter of an accomplished used car salesman, she closed the deal.
It was then decided with and/or without Ollie’s input that the family should not wait through the entire 90 day stabilization period before moving, because school started so early at the new post. Although he really just wanted to go fishing and relax since he had just spent 300+ days working in the desert with no days off, he agreed with his insistent wife that the family should move barely more than a month after he returned home.
She worked feverishly, making lists and binders, packing boxes, nagging him to do more, procuring paperwork and feeding everyone the scary back-of-the-freezer food and weird cans of stuff so that nothing went to waste. He went fishing and played with his babies. She was angry. He was exhausted.
They were better at living apart while married than they were at living together while married. She wondered, “Who is this strange man who thinks he has the right to touch things in the kitchen?” He was befuddled by this crazy woman who made a list for every damn thing. Regardless of conflict, they were relieved to fall into bed together each night. They slept tangled in a mess of arms and legs, often losing track of whose feet were whose.
Megan’s planning paid off for the do-it-yourself move. She got the house packed, the truck loaded (she paid workers to do that because she was sure divorce was imminent if they tried to move furniture together), the utilities stopped, the paperwork done, the house cleared. She arranged hotels for the first and second night of the move. She was on fire.
Moving day finally arrived but Army finance complications delayed their departure by about eight hours. It was late afternoon before they got the circus caravan on the road. The kids had already been in the van for most of the day. They decided to make the first leg of the journey very short, just a couple of hours, to test out the system and make sure everything was working while friends were close enough to help if there was a problem. They gratefully pulled into the first hotel parking lot, ready for dinner and bed.
That’s when Megan discovered that she had left her wallet in a shoppette bathroom back on the post they had just left. All of their cash from closing their bank account was in it–a whopping $950. A few tense moments later, Megan was back on the road. The shoppette confirmed that the wallet was in their possession. To her great relief, the cash was still there. Ollie stayed with the kids at the hotel and considered how his wife could pull off such an epic move with extraordinary organization and then be so flighty as to leave nine hundred and fifty dollars cash in a gas station bathroom.
He was beginning to doubt her competency but it was far too late to change the plan at this time. Perhaps he should have paid more attention when she explained that they would book their hotels through Hotwire while they were on the road. “That way, we can just stop wherever we want to stop for the night. And, we’ll save money!” She didn’t go into detail about how Hotwire works–you choose a general area and the “niceness” of the place you stay, but you don’t actually know the name and location of the hotel until after you have paid for the room. Megan thought it was a great opportunity to stay in shwanky hotels for cheap. Megan wasn’t driving the big-ass U-haul.
The first night, the hotel was great. It was new, clean, had friendly service and a big parking lot. It was right off the interstate. After a good night’s sleep, Ollie’s faith in his wife’s planning was somewhat restored. The second night, the “four-star” hotel in Little Rock was old and musty. They arrived late and departed early. It was a little hard to find, but still had ample parking. The third night on the road, Ollie knew for certain that he’d married a crazy person.
She booked a hotel in downtown Nashville. The rate was incredible for a five star hotel where the country music stars stay when they are in town. She called the hotel, explained their circus rig and inquired about parking. “Most of our guests use the valet and the parking garage, but your truck won’t fit. Just pull up on the street and park where the tour buses usually go.”
And that’s how they ended up with a U-haul pulling a trailer with a car and kayak on top and an old conversion van parked in the place usually occupied by Miley Cyrus’s tour bus.
Ollie was unimpressed with the accommodations after several close calls in downtown traffic. Megan thought he was a party-pooper who needed to lighten up and enjoy the adventure. She prowled the common areas of the hotel with the eight year old, hoping to catch a glimpse of Miley around each corner. Besides, the view was amazing! (Again, Megan wasn’t the one driving the big-ass U-Haul.)
During the drive, Megan called the housing office at the destination to confirm what she had been told by phone for the previous few weeks. “We are driving to you now and will arrive in two days. I was told that we are on the waiting list and that you should have a home available when we arrive.”
The lady on the phone chuckled. “No, ma’am, we have no homes available. You are on the courtesy list, not the actual waiting list. You’re going to have to find somewhere else to stay, but all the hotels are full right now so I’m not sure where you can go.”
On Day Four of the DITY, the caravan pulled up to a camper trailer at the MWR campground near post–the only available, affordable temporary housing in the area.
“It’ll be fun?” Megan said hopefully to her weary family. “It’ll be like a vacation!”