Then around the first or second week of August, Tim heard a nasty rumor that his monitor subsequently confirmed (that's always the best way to get news, huh?): he is being extended here from summer 2013 to summer 2014. And that isn't all. He is going to deploy to Afghanistan at the beginning of next year, likely for a year. That means that not even a year after we get him back, he's going to be gone again. We are both still reeling from that blow.
We are holding out hope that it really won't be for a year, but as of yet there is no one set to replace Tim at the six-month point. We are praying that changes. I just can't stand the idea of a year. 10 months was too long. Six to seven months I can do. It will mean another round of missed birthdays, but not Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Immediately after receiving the news, Tim said that we would have to stay here for Christmas after all. Since he's not sure when he's deploying, it would be best to have a quiet stress-free Christmas here. We could just spend time together, he could take care of things around the house and get his stuff in order during what could be the few short last weeks he has.
I was disappointed but I understood, and I definitely preferred not to be driving all the way up and down the east coast over Christmas break right before Tim leaves. I quickly became comfortable with the idea of being here and having a laid-back holiday. I felt bad for Tim's folks because they'd been expecting us and had adjusted their own plans so that they would all be home when we got there.
I was so excited when I learned that Tim's parents and sister were making plans to visit us for Christmas. All that needed to happen was for them to make up their minds whether they wanted to do a direct flight to Raleigh or to fly into New Bern with a plane change. They were just ready to start purchasing tickets when Tim called me one day from work and said, "So, I'm thinking.." Maybe we could go up there after all, and just stay for three days, he said. It sounded like he'd just been brainstorming, and while I didn't want to throw a big wet towel on his great idea, I tried to let him down gently. I said, "That's a VERY long drive for such a short stay."
I fully expected him to say, "Ah well, it was just an idea." When he didn't, I became alarmed. As he went on, talking about actual details of proposed drive to New England, it dawned on me that he had already made up his mind and now he was just trying to convince me.
"The kids will be fine, it's just us old people that have a hard time," he said." It was very generous of him to put it like that, but I knew he really just meant me. I hate, hate, hate that drive up 95 all the way from here to there. But I had been prepared to do it, thinking we'd be staying for several days. Besides, will all the kids be fine with it? Even though Timmy will be turned around forward-facing in time for the trip, he will be an active 17-month-old who won't just sleep through it all like he did last time. He will want to run wild every time we get out of the car, and he will hate being buckled back in again and again all day. And by "all day", I mean a good 14 to 16 hours depending on traffic.
Under other circumstances, I don't even mind a road trip. It's just that whenever we're driving to visit either of our families (they are equidistant from us, one way the hell north and the other way the hell northwest), there is so much pressure to just get there. Don't take your time eating that cheeseburger, we've already used up 30 minutes going to the bathroom and getting gas. We need to be past D.C. before rush hour.. (Yes, Tim, I'm looking at you.) There's the cajoling of kids to use public bathrooms with automatic flushers and loud hand dryers that scare the bejeesus out of them. I remember one of the rest stops in or around New Jersey even has flashing neon lights and pulsating music. I felt like I was walking my poor, traumatized kids into a nightclub to use the bathroom! There's the feeling some point after lunch of needing a coffee so bad because you're so tired, been up since 5, but all the kids are sleeping right now and their eyelids automatically fly open and they start demanding food and drink when the car slows down or makes a turn.
We wrapped up the conversation with me saying something like, "Give me time to think about it and get back to you in a few hours." Then I went and banged my head into the wall a few times. Just kidding. But that's what I wanted to do because I already knew I was going to agree to the plan. We will all have a fun time at a big family Christmas just like last year. We will sing Christmas carols at Aunt Jayne's again, and eat lots of delicious food. The kids will roll around on the living room floor in their pajamas on Christmas Eve, delirious with joy and sugar. We will have some awesome memories that will be worth the long drive. We'll make an itinerary and get the most the possibly can out of those three days.
I hesitated to share the details of our decision-making process here, but none of it should be a shock to anyone who knows me, i.e. all 10 of you who read this. I'm going to be honest about it and give our kids something to chuckle at one day. They know their mom isn't the one to just paste on a smile and say, "Whatever you say, honey." Now that I've got it out there, I will not say one more negative thing about it, and I will focus only on the good. Christmas is a chaotic time for many families out there, but it's also a time of togetherness and happiness and celebrating the birth of Jesus. That's what it's all about, and from here on out I am 100% happy about our plans.:D