I met my new friend April in the strangest of places — the Facebook comments of an Ask Ms. Vicki column.
The topic was one that was sure to draw responses: the wife of an enlisted soldier had written in because she had been asked to be the “pourer” at a coffee gathering for other spouses. She had never been invited to that sort of event and wondered if, because the others were married to officers, they viewed her as “the help”.
The comments were pretty much what you’d expect: Officers wives weighing in to say that it was an honor and she should be flattered; enlisted wives saying that if she’d never been invited to any similar events before, how was she supposed to know that being asked to serve was an honor?
My husband is enlisted — I couldn’t resist commenting, but I tried to be open-minded and polite about it, even as the conversation got heated.
My new friend, April, an Army officer’s wife (we didn’t know each other then), jumped in, too. Her viewpoint was different than mine. We were definitely disagreeing, but we were both taking great pains to be respectful and to consider each other’s comments and perspectives.
An officer’s wife mentioned that all of this stuff is covered in The Army Wife Handbook and if the letter writer had done her homework, she would have known this already.
I responded that — after 12 years as an Army wife — I’ve never read the Handbook, either. The main reason being, I said, that I know it’s often given to new officers’ wives. I’ve always assumed that it only contained information useful to officers’ wives.
(Also, it’s 2015.)
April commented directly to me and asked if I would message her my mailing address. She said she wanted to send me something. I had no idea what she wanted to send and hoped that she wasn’t enraged enough from the discussion to mail me a box of dog poop.
Several days later a thick envelope arrived in my mailbox — and, fortunately, it was far too rigid to contain poop. Inside was a used copy of The Army Wife Handbook and on top of the book was a lovely, pale pink envelope with my name and a smiley face written on the outside.
Here’s what April wrote in her card with the wife handbook:Rebekah,
Hi! How I wish I could present this to you in person … Here is your very own copy of THE ARMY WIFE HANDBOOK! Some parts of it felt very stuffy to me, personally, so I had to remind myself that:
- Learning the rules makes playing the game more fun.
- Reading the directions means we have a shot at having properly assembled furniture. (HA!)
Thanks for cutting through the clutter. For talking TO me, not AT me. We are all in this together!
P.S. I had two copies of the AWH … one I purchased for myself and one that was gifted. I firmly believe that no Army wife should have to purchase one for herself so I’m hoping that we can start a trend by signing & sharing! I’m sure the authors intended for this book to be a desk reference, but I read it, got a good overview (I had a few “ah-ha" moments!) and I know that I have Google to help me if i need an in-depth refresher for a certain topic.
And then I opened the book.
Inside, on the title page, I found this inscription in an unfamiliar hand:April,
Although nothing can fully prepare you … From one Army wife to another, a book full of goodies to go along with your future years of experience.
And then beneath that, in April’s (now familiar) handwriting:
… Because we don’t know what we don’t know! And Heaven knows this lifestyle ain’t for the faint of heart. :-) To us & those like us!
Her words and her gesture made me cry. Not because I’ve always wanted a copy of the book.(I haven’t.)
But because this world we inhabit is a harsh one, we all judge and criticize and jump to find fault in others. We find ourselves judged, criticized and coming up short. There’s never enough compassion — never enough pale pink stationary.
I messaged April immediately and, together, we formed a vision. It would be like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Handbooks would be passed around, one wife to another. Each woman would inscribe each copy to a recipient and sign it so that future recipients could see evidence of past travels. Maybe wives from other service branches would get in on it, too.
“In my mind that kind of spirit *should* epitomize our community,” April messaged back. “We all come from different backgrounds and are all dumped in the same fish tank. We should treat each other with care and support.”
I haven’t passed along my copy yet as I haven’t finished skimming (skimming, people, not reading) it. But, if you’ve got an old copy collecting dust on your shelf, why not sign it over to another wife, with a note reminding her that we’re all in this together?