I am very happy to say that Tim now has orders and we now know where the next chapter of our story will take place: about 400 miles south of here in Parris Island, SC. The waiting game is over. It never even really happened. Up until a few days ago, here's where things stood: Tim has a course called Command and Staff that he has to finish one way or another: online, seminar, and residence are the choices he has. For the last couple of years he's been doing the online option, but there was still a good chance he could be selected to attend a residence course in one of a few places around the country. That would mean that we move somewhere and stay there a year. You can tell the Marine Corps what your preference is, but in the end it's their decision. We liked the idea of a year in Newport, RI to be in New England again, but we could have just as easily gotten Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Blech. But if Tim wanted to wait and see about getting school, that was fine with me. But what I really was hoping for was a B billet (a secondary short term duty assignment) for three years so that we could settle down again. He knew that.
Tim does not like the scholarly aspect of being an officer. He never has. Studying, sitting in class and writing papers are things he dreads even though he always does well. He still has to do the online course, but it's more spread out and he can chip away at it little by little. Waiting to see what the Marine Corps decides is another thing he dreads, and I right along with him. First, later this fall, we would hear that a board selected him for school (or not, but it seemed likely he would be selected). The next step would be months later, maybe sometime in the spring, we would find out where the school is. Then we'd have just a couple months to research housing, schools, etc. Then we'd move this summer, spend a year at school, then move the next summer somewhere else to be determined. Neither of us looked forward to moving our family that includes school-age kids, two years in a row.
A few days ago Tim sent me a list of places with openings for a recruiting billet (that is one kind of B billet, by the way). Tim did recruiting before in Boston as an OSO -- officer selection officer -- and liked it. He was also very successful. His office was number 1 in the nation one year. He's always said he would like to do recruiting again in some other capacity. The particular billet he was going to try to get would be supervising several OSOs. He talked about it with me to make sure I was OK with the idea, and then started sending emails. The list of possible places was short, and only got shorter the more he found out. We'd talk about this place, that place or the other, and then the next day he'd tell me what the monitor had said, or what some guy currently in that job had said about another. Harrisburg, PA was off the table. Then Ft. Worth, TX was too. Finally it boiled down to two choices: Garden City, NY (Long Island) or Parris Island, SC.
We did a lot of discussing and soul-searching one night about what life in New York City could be like for our family. There would be a lot of people and traffic. There would be a lot of things to do and see. Tim imagined being able to take Delaney into the city. We would be only a four-and-a-half hour drive from his family in Massachusetts, and we would probably have more visits with all of them, being so close by. We're always wishing for the kids to be able to see more of their relatives on either side of the family, and that alone might make it worthwhile. A quick search of homes for rent on Long Island turned up.. nothing. But that's OK, we'd have several months to figure that out. We went to bed that night convinced that Garden City was our decision. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and the kids, and it would get us out of our "comfort zone." Right before calling it a night I posted a question on a Facebook group for Marine officer spouses asking for any and all information and advice anyone has to offer about Garden City -- schools, day-to-day life, best places to live -- literally anything and everything. I did it with a shrug, thinking not many of them had been there, and I would probably not be getting much feedback.
But holy cow, when I opened up my Gmail the next morning, did I get a surprise. It turns out that way more Marine families than I ever would have guessed had been or are currently living in Garden City. They had all kinds of things to say about it. I started sending snippets to Tim at work. "People are kind of mean and grumpy," "houses are old and small," "traffic is ridiculous", "cost of living is super high." But not everything they had to share was so negative. They shared a lot of positive and helpful things too. I learned about a community of mostly military families that was in walking or running distance to work, and to a whole lot of things we would like to have around (grocery store, gym, places for the kids to do sports). I was told the food is awesome and there are so many nice restaurants -- no surprise there. I was told which school districts to avoid and which were good. I was advised not to buy because property taxes are through the roof. What was really eye-opening to both of us was how even the people who ended up enjoying their time there had had to adjust their expectations pretty drastically in order to do so. A smaller house, cranky people and lots of traffic were things that had to get used to really quick. After that they sought out friends and things to do that made them happy. They adapted and thrived. One mom told me about a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group she loved, and how she bonded a lot with the folks in the military neighborhood I mentioned before. They went to the city sometimes and had fun. They made a lot of good memories, but they were relieved when it came time to move on.
Parris Island started to look better and better to us, which was funny since we hadn't even included it in the previous night's discussion. That's because we already had a pretty good idea of what we'd be getting into there -- another small southern town, close to the water, a heavily military community... That's basically what we have here. It's in our comfort zone. And what's wrong with that? We're happy here, are we not? I love not having to deal with traffic. I like seeing friendly people everywhere I go except for the DMV because, let's face it, there's no such thing as a friendly DMV. I love being close to the beach. I love not having very cold or long winters. I love being able to afford a house with lots of space inside and out. Tim mentioned to me that for him, it doesn't matter as much which place we live. In either place he'll have to work and travel a lot. It's almost like the decision is mine to make since I'm the one who has to be happy. If Mama's not happy, nobody's happy. And we both know that I am not cut out for life in the fast lane. I have no idea how I would deal with NYC. I would be too scared to leave my bubble of things that are in walking distance, which is great in terms of fuel savings but probably not to good for me mentally. I like the feeling of freedom and space. Tim does too, although if I was all for New York he would want to go for it. He is very adaptable and could become a New Yorker in no time. He might have some trouble being surrounded by Yankees fans, though.
I called my mom later that day and filled her in and asked her to pray for us to make the right choice. She said, "It sounds like you've already made up your mind." She thought that Parris Island sounded like the right call. Tim's dad had something similar to say, Tim told me. He said, "You guys are southern people and you like that way of life." Or something like that. I think he also told Tim to get a house with a boat dock.
As far as distance to family, things will remain pretty much the same. It's about three hours more to get from central Massachusetts to Parris Island than it is to get from central Massachusetts to New Bern, NC, a quick Internet search tells me. Surprisingly, the drive from Cincinnati, OH to Parris Island is nearly the same as the drive to New Bern, NC. Like within 15 miles. It's because it takes forever to drive across NC. I'm not sure why I bother with all the calculations. We're still too far from anybody. I am disappointed this next move won't get us anywhere closer to either of our families. I had gotten my hopes up about Harrisburg, PA and Tim had been like, 'meh.' But I would have been thrilled to be mid-way between them and a short day's drive to either. I define short as 8 hours or less. You wouldn't believe how many miles I've learned to consider a day's worth -- more than anyone ought to do in a day, I'm quite sure. Know this, husband: I will not be trekking all the way up the east coast to visit the family without a stop somewhere in the middle. It is already way too far! We don't really look at flying as an option because there are way too many of us to afford to fly.
By the end of that next day we had decided on Parris Island and Tim told the monitor at his earliest opportunity. It's done, he has orders, and his name has been taken off the list for school. So unless something crazy happens (and crazy things have been known to happen), we can count on that being what's in our future. Oh, and another thing -- you can't be deployed while you're in a B billet. Three years of relative stability to look forward to. We've earned it.