I'm sitting down to type this while Hubs makes pizza. That's right, my Hubs is home! And my favorite thing in the whole world is happening right now; watching him cook. I'd take a picture for you, but then I'd have to get up from sippin' my mimosa.
I scoured the web looking for blogs or website for tips/info on homecomings. I needed details like; how early to get to the pier and what to pack for the kids while we wait and best way to find my Hubs when the sailors get off the ship. The tips I found were more like; don't worry if the first embrace is awkward and shave your legs right before you go and suggestions for poster sayings. So, I wanted to share our day in hopes that it may be helpful to someone out there.
Hubs was originally supposed to come home on Sunday morning, then he was delayed until Tuesday morning (with the possibility of being approved to fly home early) and then it was delayed even more until Wednesday. Even on Wednesday, they were moving ahead of schedule and it was 3:00, then 6:30 and then 5:00 and I was just about to lose my mind!
I barely slept the night before because I was so anxious. I was more nervous about his homecoming than our wedding day! I thought we would do school, but I barely made it through 1 page of math with Princess P because I was pretty sure I was going to barf. We went to the store to get balloons and milk and then worked on decorating and cleaning up. It was really just a long painful day of trying to find something to do while we waited to leave and checking my email 1,000 to find out the latest update.
I snapped this on our way out the door.
The kids, showered and hair sprayed/combed hair, with ironed clothes and happy. Princess P made her own sign to hold up so daddy could find us. I made the banner that says 'Welcome Home' and meant to have the boys color in the letters, but that never happened.
The pain of the day really cranked up on the way to the base. We got stuck in stand-still traffic before a tunnel we had to go through and once we FINALLY got through, we got stuck right in front of this very long train.
Tip #1: Know the base you are going to well. Sounds like a silly tip, but take a tour before the homecoming and know where the piers are. The command we are at is an odd assignment and I've only been to the base twice (an air force base is much closer that I use for doctors appointments). I thought for sure they'd have signs up about where to go. Nope. No information, no signs, no line of people to follow since it was a work day. Thankfully deployment taught me the fine art of "figure it out yourself".
When we finally found the piers, there was no communication...which really stressed me out. Where to park? No one knew. What time is the ship coming in? They should be coming around the corner any minute...the corner of what?! Do we really just stand here until they get off? That's what everyone else is doing. We got to the pier about 5:00, when we thought the ship would be pulling in. It wasn't there, so we sat in the car for about 30 minutes. We finally decided to brave the rain and ventured out to see if there was any room under the tent. We squeezed ourselves in the back and waited another 30 minutes.
Princess P could barely contain herself and kept going back and forth between the tent and standing the rain to try to find the ship. Her mood was very different than I've ever seen her...I think she just didn't know how to handle the stress and anxiety, but she welled up several times at just the thought of being more patient.
The boys actually did remarkably well. We spent the next several hours taking trips to the car to get rainboots and snacks and to find a bathroom and to look for a better spot to see the ship. We were excited to see the ship finally pull in at 6:30. Bummer for me=they weren't lined up around the ship in their white uniforms because of the rain.
Hubs said it would take about 30 minutes for them to tie up and lower the bridge to get off. We were, however, not prepared for that 30 minutes to turn into 90. That was the most excruciating part of the whole day...just starring at the ship for hours waiting for men to start walking off. By this point, I was quite frankly, mad. We hadn't had dinner (thinking Hubs would be off by 6:00, we planned on getting dinner together afterwards) and the 4 of us had been in the rain for 3 hours. We were soaked and our cute outfits were ruined and it was dark so he couldn't even see the outfits and it was past the kids bedtime and we hadn't even had dinner and how in the world was I going to find him in this sea of people?!
Tip #2: laminate the signs your kids make
The kids were melting down, so we headed back to the car to dry off (did I mention my umbrella broke as a result of last weeks soccer game in the Nor'easter but I didn't know it until we were at the pier) and let them play the electronics that I took, but couldn't take out in the rain. Bubby put on his pj's and Charlie strapped himself into his seat, very ready to go home and go to bed.
Tip #3: Take a change of clothes and suckers and some kind of entertainment that can get wet...but I have no idea what that is...maybe Grandparents?
I thought maybe it would be better Hubs came and met us at the car; maybe if we were removed from the crowd it would be easier to find each other in the darkness. But then he wasn't responding to my texts and I saw 2 sailors come out to their car alone and I couldn't stand the thought of him walking off the ship and us not standing there to greet him. My gut said to get back out in that rain, so I made the kids put their rainboots back on and convinced Bubby to go back out in his pj's and we ran back to the pier. My gut was right. 2 minutes after we got to the pier, I saw Hubs set down his bags and begin to walk past us in the mob of people. I hesitated for a moment because it was dark and everyone was in the same uniform and I thought about how embarrassing it would be if I shouted his name and ran up to him and it wasn't him. But there's something so cool about this connection I have with him and I just knew it was him. I shouted his name, heard the kids shout "DADDY!" and as he turned and I saw the smile his face, it was all worth it.
Remember those expectations? I did have a picture in my head of him coming off the ship and the video I was going to get of the kids running up to him and the awesome picture I was going to snap of me jumping into his arms. It was a non replaceable moment we shared as we embraced as a family in the pouring rain. I will never forget us all smashed together and Hubs kissing each one of us. I won't forget how he took the time to hand Princess P the flowers he brought her all the way from Florida and hearing him say I looked beautiful. But I was bummed that after those sweet embraces, we dashed to the car, changed a couple more pj's, loaded up all of Hubs gear, took this quick photo to document we were together:
And began the long drive back home in the pouring rain. I felt rushed and like I didn't have time to really stop and savor what was happening. I was sad that the few pictures I got were blurring and not at all what I had in my head. We stopped by Chick-fil-A for a very late dinner and coming home was more rushed work.
Tip #4: Have good food and water stashed in the car
If I could suggest anything about a homecoming with small children, I would say if you can, recruit someone to come with you to help and take pictures, but then is willing to slip away when your spouse gets there.
I laid down for bed last night and realized that the icky feeling I've been feeling for 4 months was gone. instantly. The horribleness of the day was erased and soon the deployment will be a blur in our past. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness; the ship Hubs was on, went back out this morning due to hurricane Juaquin. If he had been delayed anymore in Florida, he would still be out in the ocean waiting for Juaquin to pass and I would be going through a hurricane solo.
I am so crazy thankful that he is home and we can take on the next challenge together as a team. I was ready to drive straight to Arizona last night so I never have to see rain again, but I'm thankful that the rain has cleared all of our potential obligations and "forced" us to stay home and just be together. Let reintegration begin.