Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The "h" word

It has been over three months since I've seen a Porter. Skype doesn't count.

And it's hard.

And it hurts.

Sometimes, my throat closes up when I'm just standing at the sink and I have to struggle to catch my breath.

Other times, I don't struggle. I sit down and I cry and blow my nose.

There. I said it.

Sweet family, this is not me trying to make you feel guilty to buy an expensive plane ticket up to see me. I'm not saying you don't call me enough, email me enough, or pay me enough attention. I could call you all more.

You've probably noticed that I don't talk about being homesick as much as you thought I would. It's because I can't. Just saying "I miss you" has me secretly fighting tears.

And don't worry about me. This isn't an all-day, everyday battle. Jim and I are making friends, I'm starting my new job, the weather is still beautiful, and the puppy is more fun than irritating, now! But I ache for a Porter hug.

So please, hug each other tonight for me.
And Caleb, Lord willing, we will all be together at Christmas.

I cannot wait.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


The last weekend of September we, along with our friend Vic, traveled up to the Coast Guard Academy for homecoming. It has been five years since James graduated and they had a group of about 30 show up for their reunion. It was fun getting to meet so many of his classmates!

One of his classmates was sweet to offer her guest room for us to stay in... despite the recent addition of  their first baby. We were going to try to be at the Academy by 9 to see the Friday morning drill, but breakfast was good, coffee was better, and the conversation was fun... plus, Jackson, I do believe, is one of the happiest babes I have ever seen! He would bounce in his bouncer and gaze intently at the face of whichever adult was talking. When they stopped, he would grin delightedly, as if every sentence was a joke and he totally got the punchline. Lisa told us that he sleeps through the night without a sound, and doesn't wake up until 0740. I never heard him cry. And get this... he swallows his spit-up! She said that he'll spit up a little in his mouth, then swallow it right back down. How totally gross and amazing is that? No spit-up clean-up?! Do his poops even stink?! Man!

So, it was more like 0930 before we got there... and I did get to see the end of the drill. Jim was being sweet and taking me around and showing me various things about the academy. He said that he's glad that he now has some nostalgia regarding the place. The mere "Welcome to Connecticut" sign use to make his stomach churn.

We walked through the dorms... excuse me.... the barracks and I saw all eight of the rooms he stayed in. They have to change rooms every semester (and supposedly roommates, but if you know the people who make the assignments, you can stick with the same person). So, Jim only had like, four or five different roommates. I've always liked walking around dorms and seeing how people decorate their rooms differently. I found myself glancing into each room, the door obediently propped open (they are only allowed to shut them when they go to sleep at night), wondering what kind of personalities would be revealed via posters, curtains, bedspreads.... etc.

Nada. Zilch. Noodle.

The gray metal beds all had navy blue comforters tucked in tightly around the mattress. Occasionally, a houseplant sat in a windowsill. There were no posters, there were no bulletin boards, no throw pillows, no curtains. There were white blinds. I felt like I was in prison. They had state flags hung outside their doors. Hooray for decor.

There wasn't a whole lot of "hanging out" going on. I mean, they were in their rooms studying, or going somewhere for practice, working out...whatever. Every now and then, someone would come walking stiffly down the middle of the hallway. If there was a group of loitering home-comers in the way, they would have to "square" around them. It's pretty self-explanatory. Group in the way, swift turn to the right, take two steps, swift turn to the left, a few more steps, swift turn to the left, a couple of steps, swift turn to the right... and you are back on your original path. Jim said that that is how you have to walk in  the hallways your entire first year. Usually, you didn't have to do it on event weekends because there would be so many people in your way. He said that the ones we saw doing it were probably being punished. Also, during your first year, you have to square your way up the stairs. On the outside wall. Yeah, no short-cutting your way along the rail.

Doesn't it all sound so peachy?

I did like the cafeteria. Or the wardroom. They ate family-style, the entire academy in the room for a meal. Like Hogwarts, but smaller tables. And more strict. A fourth class (4/c, the Coast Guard term for freshman) at each meal, could be randomly selected to go up to the head table and tell all the important people AT the head table a minimum of three current events. Jim said the weirder the current events, the more successful your time at the head table would be. Also, forget being pulled up to the head table, as a 4/c, you could be selected at your own table to share three current events. If there were three 4/c, all three MIGHT have to share... and if you were the last one picked, you better have some new information, because repeats were not allowed. And you better have different ones for lunch and dinner as well, because you MIGHT get picked on again.
These are just a few of the trials and tribulations forced upon the freshmen. Jim has many many more stories. I made him stop because I was afraid I would have nightmares.

The first year was the year they intent on breaking you, if you haven't caught on to this.

Lovely. Just delightful.

I got to see some more people being punished! They were being hung by their toes from the windowsills and used as targets for their classmates who were forced to practice their sniping skills.

Just kidding.

All they had to do was march in formation, back and forth, across the concrete quad. Back and forth. About face. Back and forth. There were two guys doing it. Then five more joined them. Then another girl. Then another group of three. It was like a parade!


Anyway, we watched the sailing race as we walked the waterfront, looked into the rowing teams' training rooms, and picked up our tickets for the football game. The academy has a lovely piece of land in New London. Despite all the above mentioned horrors, I could tell that Jim loved a lot of what he had done there. I mean, hello! Learn how to sail?! Be on the Eagle (the Coast Guard's three-masted, majestic cutter... look it up, it's beautiful) and sail around the world for a summer?

The football game, despite the constant drizzle from the rain cloud that wrapped around us and changed all female hairstyles into curly, frizzing wet messes, was insane. It was 59-0, Coast Guard. I had never seen them play and was duly impressed, but all the home-comers were going insane. They had NEVER seen that many touchdowns. You see, the SEC the CG ain't.

Game over, goodbyes were said, and Jim, Vic, and I walked back to the car, which we had parked off campus. They laughed about the fence around the academy and the guarded entrances. It wasn't to keep people out, they said. It was to keep the cadets in.
As we approached the gate we had walked in, we saw that it was closed. We also saw that there wasn't a guard in the little bunkhouse to open it for us. We knew that the one further up campus was locked... and the only other option was the gate on the corner of campus diagonally opposite from us. We were wet and tired. A car approached on the other side and we waited, hopeful that they would trigger the gate to open. The vehicle slowly approached the spot, sat on it for a while, and we stared dejectedly at each other. The man asked from his car, "How do you get in?" We said, "How do you get out?!"
We all laughed at our predicament and they drove off. And then we starved to death. The End.

Actually, we just stared at the tantalizingly small opening that the gate had left us. I knew I was the problem. You see, my husband was/is known as the monkey for his climbing skills and Vic is called the ninja. They could go over the gate. So, I suggested it first. Vic voiced that it looked a little unsteady and he would rather go over the fence part. I knew I definitely could NOT go over the fence, but could go over the gate. It wasn't really going to be that difficult... just something that a monkey and a ninja would not ask of a girl, being the gentlemen that they are. Jim neatly climbed over and offered me a hand. After jumping from the top into his arms, we rode away on a white horse, into the sunset.

Actually, he just kissed me on the forehead and turned back around to see watch Vic climb over the fence. The ninja, of course, had disappeared. What?! How?! He HAD been eyeing a tree further up the fence, so we headed in that direction. As we approached the overhanging branches, they rustled mysteriously, a black duffle bag came sailing over the sharp points of the fence, and Vic dropped onto the sidewalk. Once again, we walked towards the car, this time really laughing about the fence's intention of keeping cadets (and their wives!) in.

It was fun, I was disturbed, everyone was wet, and we all laughed. Praise God for memories like these.