At the end of November, I had the privilege to visit Ft. Drum, NY, to speak with the Army spouses stationed there. Like many of the major division posts, Ft. Drum has faced non-stop deployments in the last five years, with some families experiencing as many as three since the War on Terror began.
Despite their weariness, the ladies were welcoming and upbeat. The program director of the Spouse Club is an organized, energetic and imaginative sparkplug named Lisa Sweet. Her theme for this luncheon was “PCS Moves,” so the menu featured — naturally — a box lunch (submarine sandwich or Cobb salad) and cans of soda.
Decorations included the familiar stacks of brown cardboard boxes and packing paper at the entranceway. The table centerpieces were really cute and clever: small cardboard boxes topped with a plate of brownies and a card that said “Welcome to the Neighborhood.”
(Lisa Sweet with PCS table decorations.)
The ladies on the decorating committee had spent the evening before writing hilarious descriptions on the boxes with black Magic Marker. We’ve all chuckled (or cringed) at these misspellings, malapropisms, and combinations during our moves:
TOILET BRUSH/FINE CHINA
THIS END UP w/arrow (Box placed upside down)
GARBAGE CAN WITH TRASH
LIVING RM/LOOSE CHANGE/DUST BALLS
BOX 1 OF 43
BASEMENT JUNK–NOTHING WORTH STEALING
KITCHEN–SPICES FROM 1997
WET DISH RAGS/OPEN CEREAL BOXES
ABSOLUTE, WILD TURKEY
EMPTY BUDWEISER CAN
SODA BOTTLE SEALED WITH DUCK TAPE
To get the program started, three women competed in a packing relay. They had to wrap and stuff numerous items in a small box, tape it shut, and race to the spot on the wall with the assignment of their choice: Italy, Germany, or Ft. Polk. Guess which one was picked last?
In my talk, I shared a little about my book, Household Baggage, and why I wrote it. As an Army wife, I wanted to capture our world and help my readers appreciate and acknowledge their challenges and strengths. When I read this passage from my story, “Climate Shock,” they laughed knowingly:
“I think families should get a clothing allowance when the military moves them from a hot southern climate to a cold northern one.”
Watertown, NY (outside Ft. Drum) is known as “Snowtown USA” with an annual snowfall of 101 inches, approaching 200 inches in the snowbelt areas. Upstate New York was freezing when I arrived, and the signs around my exit were so obscured with snow that I could barely find my way around. Ironically, the winter safety briefing scheduled for the night before was postponed due to bad weather!
Despite the cold, I was warmed by the company and truly grateful for the opportunity to visit the ladies of Ft. Drum.
Marna Krajeski **marna at householdbaggage dot com**