I had joked with Paul for weeks leading up to this trip that I was going to take a flask and sneak drinks out of it because it was the only way I thought I could survive the trip. He’d tell me no, I can’t drink in the family van on the way to his brother’s graduation from the Marines, but it only took until our first morning there for him to concede that perhaps it was actually a good idea. Even he said, “Katie, me, you, and Janelle are finding a bar” as soon as his mother stepped out of the van at a Marines store we’d already been at the previous evening because she bought the wrong shirt, and to this day I don’t understand why. I think it had something to do with what it said. She came in the girls’ room while we were getting ready and was like, “Oh, no, I bought the wrong shirt!” so I just totally pretended I got the problem. I think she thought it implied Jacob was already a Marine, which was totally inappropriate because he technically wasn’t yet, but seriously, at that point, he’s as good as and nobody but crazy Marine moms really care about the details of sayings on shirts.
Now, about those Marines shirts–we stopped at that Marine store before the beach house so we could all get matching USMC shirts. All nine of us. Maybe it’s because the military is so normal to me, but I really did not want matching USMC shirts. I thought it was stupid and overboard. I kept my mouth shut and went with it because I didn’t want to be the bitch who was like, “Nope, I’m not doing this,” especially when at this point we’d been on the road all day and Paul’s mother was starting to reach her peak point of freak-out mode. My mother agreed. I was texting her and complaining while I sat outside after I found a shirt and waited for everyone else because they were spending a really long time looking at the same stuff, and she kept making “Brady Bunch” jokes. I imagine she was very proud of herself and kept making herself laugh.
I thought, “We’re either gonna look ridiculous or everyone else there is doing the same thing.”
And fuck my life, everyone else did it, too. That first morning was the Marines’ motivational run, where the guys basically run but the families can line up in their matching shirts (some people went homemade!) and hold banners and scream and look for their Marine, which isn’t easy because they all look the same.
I was totally ready to tap out by 7 a.m. First came the usual vacation complaint from Paul’s mom, which was that Julie’s talking and giggling kept everyone up–an exaggeration. Now, we girls had a whole method down for showering since half of us prefer showering at night and half prefer morning. We were basically ready to go before everyone else (on more than one occasion and including one morning where everyone but us overslept), but Julie was experimenting with Katie’s curling iron, which really was only killing a few minutes while, like I said, the rest of the house was not ready. So their mom comes up and goes, “Julie, you ARE NOT,” as if this is an endeavor that’s going to take hours. And then, like moms for centuries when yelling at children for taking their time getting ready, she actually wasn’t ready herself and then asked for Julie’s flat iron. Add that just general chaos of early mornings trying to leave on time for something and the fact that Jacob was in the Marines now and she hadn’t seen him in some weeks and it was just so horrible and hard, and it was so high-stress that I was ready to declare it the worst vacation I’d ever been on in my life, and we hadn’t even been in the house 12 hours.
But everything has a silver lining, and the silver lining is that Paul becomes twice as funny and his humor becomes twice as mean. I actually kind of miss Vacation Paul because he was really sassy. Our mutual favorite was his Marine Mom line he kept using because it kept being relevant: Every time we were out somewhere and his mom started talking to someone, or even if we just weren’t with her, he’d go, “Oh, she probably found another Marine Mom. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS HOW HARD IT IS!” Right, except for the other Marine Moms, or other moms with kids in any other branch, or, you know, the loved ones of soldiers actually deployed. On second thought, don’t tell someone with a deployed friend or family member how hard you kid has it in boot camp because I guarantee you they do not give a shit. And let’s not get started on how she said they were too hard on them in boot camp. It’s preparing them for potential war, lady. They had to run with a cold and Jacob has scabs on his knuckles? Must be so hard.
Then we had to run–run–to the run route from the van, which was really just in a parking lot next to the road, because it was 6:45 and the run started at 7. Yep, we’d better run because it’s gonna take us 15 minutes to walk across the parking lot, and they’ll run by at that very second and then they’re gone forever.
Naturally, everyone was screaming. You could tell by the screaming that someone had spotted their Marine. This flared up again later in the day when the Marines were granted liberty for the day. I’m all for happy reunions, but I’ve seen calmer deployments and homecomings.
It is interesting to note that I’ve never heard anything from anyone else in the military that suggests this is the norm. Terra told me that at Scott’s Navy graduation, the parents seemed much more proud than overemotional, and she brought up the good point that their mother’s reaction to the whole thing could very well have impacted everyone else, because at least half of the kids talked like Jacob was at war. Boot camp may not be easy, but the reactions were more in line with a deployment.
As a girlfriend and someone who really does want to be supportive of Paul, his siblings, and even Katie, it actually make things dicey. Terra deserves all the credit in the world for how she’s handled Scott in the Navy: She has her bad days, but after a week or so, she’d adjusted. Sure, she freaked out when she got a letter or phone call, but that’s understandable. Other than that, she kept on going, and that’s how military life works. You adjust to the absences and you keep living your life. It’s difficult to be sympathetic to someone who can’t handle their kid or sibling in boot camp when you know that in boot camp, they’re actually pretty safe and secure. My dad has shrapnel in his body because a grenade exploded above him when he threw it back out of his tank after someone else threw it in. We have a bad relationship and I struggle with this, but he really did save people’s lives. It doesn’t change the shitty things he’s done and continues to do to me and other people, but it was very moving to see mothers come up to him crying, thanking him for it. I’ve grown up knowing army buddies. Guys I’ve seen laughing and drunk have gotten pinned in humvees engulfed in flames, resulting in leg amputations, resulting in drug addictions. I know the guy who pulled that guy out of the humvee while live rounds were going off and he was screaming, “Don’t let me die here like this.” My family knows a guy who suffered a head injury and subsequent mental problems, then started abusing his wife and went AWOL.
It’s not exactly sympathetic and supportive to say, “This isn’t that bad. You’ll get used to it. You need to calm down,” but it is exactly what you think.
Shit was unreal, though their mom calmed down considerably for the rest of the vacation after we had a few hours with Jacob and the rest of the vacation was pretty much fine until half of us got a stomach virus.