“You shouldn’t even be here!”
The man who spoke these unkind words to my kids and me was no one to us, just some grouchy stranger with a bee in his bonnet.
Our favorite babysitter had invited my kids to her art show, part of her finals before graduation. She’s been a lifesaver this deployment, and she promised my son a cookie if he came to see her. So there we were, chatting with her, when this man nearly stepped on my son, yelled at him, then yelled at both of us, and hollered mean things for everyone to hear. The dozens of people packed into the crowded room stared at him more than me (I hope), but it was humiliating (understatement) to be shouted at by a stranger. I gave him the Big Mom Eyes and said, “That. Is. Enough,” and he stomped off.
But the words stung—as words often do—because they found their way to my soft spot, my hidden insecurity, my discouraged deployment doubt.
What AM I doing here? Why am I at this gallery—heck, why do I even live in Norfolk?
My husband was gone the majority of this two-year tour. So why did I move here and get a new job, make new friends, get involved HERE, instead of staying in Florida, in our house and my old part time job? Or back home in Texas near my folks? I could really use some free babysitting for my tot and preschooler. And, I miss my family.
If my husband is away anyway, does it matter where we are? Not, you know, existentially, but practically. I’ve been alone (yet NEVER ALONE) so much of the time we’ve been here. And we’re about to sign up for more of this?
Whoa, all of a sudden I’m thrust into one of those lonely crossroads scenes, all from the rude words of an angry drunk man. Pardon me while I rock out to this old school Justin Timberlake song.
OK, we’re back. For months, I’ve been scouring old hardbacks whenever I see a stack for sale, browsing online, always on the hunt for a dusty, ancient copy of Moby Dick. This is pertinent, I promise.
I’d never read the classic seafaring tome, and a beautiful hardbound early edition seemed like just the thing for a little light reading this summer.
The very next morning after our incident and the night I lay awake, ruminating, I was playing on the floor of the kitchen with my kids and -- get this -- I found a 66-year-old edition of Moby Dick stuffed on the bottom of a bookshelf. My husband bought it over a decade ago, before we were even together.
I had everything I’d been looking for right there on the floor of my kitchen. Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, it had been there all along, between two laughing kids on a dirty, unswept floor.
My husband has things that I need. I have things that he needs. And together, we’ve made a life and a family I am so very proud of. That seems like a pretty good reason to be right here, right now.
It’s good to ask the bigger questions sometimes: Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going?
But as an angry drunk man and an old book reminded me, sometimes the simplest answers to those questions are all I need.
Today, I’m a Navy wife. Playing on the floor of my kitchen. And every time I open that book, I’ll remember to appreciate what I already have.