"Because He's 17 Now"


For as long as I can remember, each time one of our 13 nieces or nephews would visit, or we would visit them, my husband and I would make a trip to the PX or clothing sales to purchase some Army paraphernalia for the kids. We would buy clothing, or some type of G.I. Joe doll or a tank. The kids loved it. Especially my sister's son, he always tells people about his "uncle in the Army."

I'd like to say that this was strictly out of pride in the Army, but sometimes it was a contest between my husband and his brother to try to sway the kids over to their side. My brother-in-law served in the Navy for several years and quite often, the old Army/Navy rivalry caused this purchasing blitz. The kids were always being told Army was best or Navy was best. Once, we pulled in the driveway on a visit up north and the kids came running to the car chanting, "Go Navy, Beat Army" after some intense coaching from my brother-in-law, who stood in the doorway laughing. My husband promptly opened the trunk, grabbed the AAFES bag and pulled out the goods. The Army goods. That bag came out of the car before our dog did!

My husband still has the cot he was issued when he entered the Army. It has been to numerous field exercises (too many to count), NTC rotations and deployments. I'm totally convinced that 30 years from now, I'll still be able to smell the California desert and the woods of Ft. Hood on that cot.

As you've probably picked up on by now, we have a big family. When they come to visit, they usually come in large groups. Rarely have we had a large enough house to give everyone their own bed. That cot has been the bed for our oldest nephew on many occasions. When he was smaller, he loved sleeping on the Army cot. What boy wouldn't? In fact, even if a nice bed were available, there was a time when he would have chosen the cot over a bed because he was into the soldier stuff.

The little boy who used to love Army stuff is now all grown up and will be heading to college next year. Recently, he and his mother came to visit us while they were scouting colleges in the area. As many of you know, I'm currently living in a house that is half the size of my old house. What wouldn't fit in the living space is tucked away in the basement. Namely, guest beds and a sleeper sofa.

I decided that my nephew's mother would take the guest room (no brainer) and my nephew could sleep on the sofa in the living room, but apparently my husband had other ideas.

I'm sitting in the living room just before our nephew and his mother were to arrive and see my husband go down to the basement. Up he comes with a rather small bundle that looks -- and smells -- very familiar.

What are you doing with that?

It's going to be Jason's bed. I'll set it up in the office, there's plenty of room there.

Um. Noooo.

Why no?

Well, honey, because it smells like the Army, for one thing....

It'll be perfect. He loves this cot. You know that. He loves it.

He loved that cot. "Loved" not "Loves."

Wha? Why wouldn't he be excited to sleep on the Army cot?

Um, because....he's seventeen now.

I watched my husband process this. I think he got it. I know what he was thinking, he was looking forward to the next time our youngest nephew visits so he can pull the cot out and start the tradition all over again with another nephew. He took the bundle back down to the basement and traded it for a twin mattress, which we set up in the office. Complete with real linens that smelled fresh and clean. No trace of NTC.

Hard to believe that little boy is 17 now. Didn't stop my husband from buying an Army PT shirt for him. The cot was one thing, but the t-shirt was perfectly fine.

When the doorbell rang, we opened to door to see the 17 year-old standing there in an Army t-shirt. My husband got over the cot business pretty quickly. He handed him the familiar AAFES bag. The bag which contained yet another Army t-shirt. I'm sure my nephew can look forward to an Army t-shirt or sweatshirt for Christmas. In fact, he'll probably get one for college graduation, too.

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