There have long been shows and movies purporting to be about the experience of being a military family, a military spouse, a military member during wartime. I think that at this particular junction in time, with such a historically low number of Americans with actual ties to the military and yet everyone having an opinion about the history we are writing, there is probably more interest than usual at looking into "what it is like."
I know I get questions all the time. What is it like... to be alone for months at a time? What is it like... to be pregnant while your husband is gone. What is it like... to live on base and hear the National Anthem every night? What is it like...
And then there is the flip side to the "what is it like" question, "I saw on TV..." Yep, that's right. On TV. Without a whole heck of a lot of input from people who actually live the life and with extra drama thrown in for ratings.
So, I have decided to put together my own outline for a show that offers a REAL look at the military family experience. My first rule: lose the beatifully tousled hair and kicky outfits. And NO MAKE UP.
Opening Scene: I am making breakfast. I have not showered yet, my hair is tangled and I'm still wearing pajamas. I'm not wearing a bra. There are still dinner dishes in the sink, and the breakfast I'm actually making is cold cereal. My children are not yet dressed, and there are several boogery noses.
Daughter #2: Mom, I feel sick.
Me: How sick?
Daughter #2: pukes on table.
Next Scene: I am driving four children to three different events by myself because my husband is gone. I still have not showered, and I have a hat covering my hair. I am, however, wearing a bra. When I drop off the child who belongs at the second stop, I have an encounter with the Team Mother.
Team Mother: Did you know that today was your snack day?
Me: Yes, of course I did (lying through my teeth). I am going to pick up some oranges and Hi C right now!
Team Mother: Oh, you always have it so together! I don't know how you do it! I'm looking forward to snack time!
Me: Mentally adds a stop at the grocery store to the list of things I need to do before picking the rest of the children up.
Next Scene: The children and I are late for church. We are driving down the street at top speed when my cell phone rings. One glance at the number and we pull over in a screech of tires and answer the phone breathlessly.
Me: HONEY! IS THAT YOU???
Husband: [crackle crackle] Sweetie! I [crackle crackle] everyone! [crackle crackle crackle]
Me: We miss you, too, Sweetie!
Kids in Background: [chanting] Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!
Me: How are you holding up, Baby?
Husband: What? [crackle] can't [crackle] you!
Me: HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP?
This goes on for twenty minutes until the time is up. The kids and I get back on the road to church and strategically plan our entrance to coincide with the general mayhem at Communion.
Next Scene: Naked children who are supposed to be in the bath tub are running through the house. A box of mac and cheese is prominently displayed on the counter, and a pile of laundry is sitting next to the washing machine. It is obviously very stinky.
Me: I HAVE HAD IT! EVERYONE GOES TO BED, NOW!
Kids: [whining] No, Mom! No! We'll stop! I want to watch The Wiggles! I am still hungry! I want some water! Can I take my bath now? I want a story!
Next Scene: I am lying on the couch, sprawled out. The TV News is on, but I'm not watching it. The phone rings - but a quick check of the caller ID shows it is not hubby. I toss the phone across the room. Off set the washing machine can be heard making strange banging noises, and a sudden rush of soapy water flows into the living room...
This would simply be Episode One. Of course, there would be a few more exciting episodes, and the season finale would be The Homecoming.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure the ratings would bite. That's probably why the shows that actually make it to TV seem so unreal to me - they actually have to do something to keep people watching.