A friend of mine once told me that one day, after I am dead and gone, he fully expects me to live in “the mansion on the hill of a cul-de-sac in Hell.” Those were his words, not mine. According to his beer-soaked wisdom, I would throw great parties, and all attendees would have a great time, bellies filled with food and drink. The show tunes would be cranked up and the grill would be smoking.
Perhaps I’m already there.
As much as it pains me to admit, I do not rule every aspect of my life. Until my husband retires or I actually sell a book, whichever comes first, the U.S Army pays for my queendom. For reasons that I suspect are laid out in the Constitution, I do not control the U.S. Army. (Sighs of relief echo from Texas to Southern Canada from any one who has ever witnessed me hold a rifle.) Instead, my husband and I move to wherever the Army orders us.
Military folk call this phenomenon a permanent change of station or PCS. PCS orders cause the geographical location of my queendom to change from tiny little town that no one outside of said tiny little town has ever heard of to new tiny little town that, once again, I have to look on a map to discover that “Oh…I never knew that was there. Maybe it’ll be nice?” Over the last 11 years, I have, with big doe eyes full of hope, asked this of my husband 5 times.
Over the next couple of weeks or so following the receipt of new orders, Jay and I convince ourselves that the next tiny little town will be exciting and clean and cultured and full of cool, hip people just waiting to welcome us with open arms. Placing myself in this state of disillusion is the only way I am able to endure the annoying violation of having strangers pack my belongings, underwear drawer and all, place my belongings on a truck, and drive my belongings across the country without me riding shotgun in the cab of the moving truck.
During each move, as the truck leaves my driveway, a version of the following prayer goes through my mind. “Dear Lord, please help the truck driver to glide slowly and smoothly around turns so that boxes do not spill out the back and decorate the interstate with my frilly and not-so-frilly things and ease up on his speed at the intersections so that my bed frame does not crash into the china hutch my father built for me.” I am convinced that each of the fine lines under my eyes was the direct result of a PCS move.
At the end of each move is a new-to-me house, more often than not on a cul-de-sac, in the tiny little town that no one outside of the town and its two newest residents has ever heard of. Over the next two weeks, Jay and I will unpack and tear down cardboard boxes, swimming through packing paper, as we gulp down refills from the coffee pot, which is always placed in the back of my car for the cross-country trek and never on the moving truck.
On the last day of move-in, with all the boxes empty and artwork leaning against every wall, Jay will embark on his most dreaded day of the move with picture nails in his pocket and a hammer in his hand. Three hours into this day, Jay will wonder why he married me as I tell him, “No, that heavy-ass mirror your holding against the wall needs to shift two inches to the left…now, three inches to the right…on second thought, it looks better on that other wall. And what do think you are going to do with that hammer? Don’t look at me like that.” After remembering my good qualities and seeing that the house does look better with décor on the walls, Jay decides not to divorce me or smack me with the hammer.
The house is finished. Another PCS move is complete.
The following week, I will start to explore my new town. I will discover all the reasons why this new tiny little town “is so much better than the last!” I will also discover that no matter where I move, I will find the local driving habits annoy me, the people in Wal-Mart frighten me, the townies are extremely suspicious of the newcomers, and the weird, local food would be considered inedible by anyone outside of the tiny little town. I will find Target in the “better” part of town and the best BBQ in the questionable part of town. Downtown will have a kind of cool Irish pub and the highway that runs through the business district will have either a Chili’s or an Applebee’s, if not both. I will go to the grocery store for food and the Class Six for beer. No matter what time zone we are in, cocktail hour starts at 5:00 p.m. I will go home and crank up the show tunes. Jay will fire up the grill. New town, same cul-de-sac in Hell. All is right in my queendom.