When I was fourteen, my parents informed us that they intended to divorce. I remember that night like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday in February and I was sitting in my dad’s seat at the dinner table, because he wasn’t home, eating canned chicken noodle soup. My sister was at the other end of the table. My mom broke the news to us while we slurped the noodles off of our spoons. I think she fully expected an explosive reaction; neither of us batted an eyelash.
A few months later in April, my mom invited my grandparents over for dinner. We had dinner in the dining room which was a huge deal because for as long as I can remember it was the type of room for show not practical use and definitely not for kid use. Halfway through the meal my mom dropped the bomb shell…could my grandparents find room for my mom and her two kids in their house…in New Jersey? I was devastated. Fourteen year old me thought that my entire life would crumble if I moved out of the one square mile neighborhood in Philadelphia that I called home. I thought of all sorts of arguments and schemes to get out of moving away from my friends and routine and none of them worked. Four moths later, I was living in New Jersey and beginning of my freshman year of high school.
I loathed my situation for easily two years. I would coerce my grandfather into driving me back to visit my best friend almost every weekend. Somewhere in those two years though it started not to suck so bad when I couldn’t get back to my old neighborhood. I started making friends and a social life and things felt more and more comfortable.
I reminded myself of this hard earned life lesson when the talk of Tim applying for the AGR program started. He reminded me over and over that we were ninety-nine percent guaranteed to move for the first assignment. I was game for anywhere…the South, overseas, the Pacific-Northwest. Bring it, Army, I’m ready for it! So when we got the notice that Tim was accepted and we had three days to reply with a “yes” or a “no” to a tour in Arkansas I was gun-ho after the initial shock of Arkansas wore off. Let’s do it! And then when we said “yes” the Army turned around and said “Just kidding! You’re moving to Long Island.”
Long Island? As in New York? My bubble was burst. I wanted to travel the country and maybe the world but instead the Army was moving me one hundred twenty miles up the Parkway?
In all the times I’ve visited New York City, I never stepped foot on Long Island except a quick bus tour over the Brooklyn Bridge and then back to the city. My knowledge of Long Island was limited to massive stereotypes and the following: Billy Joel, the Hamptons, the word “Massapequa”, nightmarish traffic, the Jets, the Giants, the Mets, and the Yankees. I assumed I’d be moving my family to live in a row house in a very urban environment. It wasn’t exactly the setting I wanted to raise our kids in and God knows, my Phillies/Eagles heart didn’t want to be surrounded by Giants/Mets/Yankees fans. Arkansas seemed like such a better option.
As with most assumptions they were proven wrong for the most part. During our search for a house, we found a lot of small town feel communities. For the crazy amount of money it costs to live here the amenities are worth it…the schools are top rated, the towns are clean and safe, the public attractions such as pools, parks, and beaches are numerous, well maintained, and close by. Unlike New Jersey, I can stroll into almost any store and purchase beer and wine. The food is delicious and the options are endless, which was a serious concern of mine about Arkansas.
There are some downsides in addition to the obvious Mets/Yankees/Giants saturation. I have to pump my own gas here and it’s more expensive than it is in New Jersey. Tim is assigned to a brigade at Fort Totten which doesn’t really exist anymore and we’re limited in the support we would normally receive if we were attached to an actual post. The people have been difficult to get a read on as well. No one has been outright rude but I feel like we stick out as not being life-long residents and that makes people a little standoffish. I’m hoping this is simply a growing pain of moving to a new place and not the tone we need to deal with for the next few years.
Back in June when we found out we were headed here, I had the idea in the back of my mind that it wasn’t actually going to happen. The Army was going to pull another bait and switch and we’d be headed to somewhere else but here we are. And I’m not hating it. We’re not completely on our own here, our family is only two hours away, we have established friends who happen to live in the area, and I’ve had some nice chats with other moms at the playground and school drop-off and pick-up.
Expectations of a new situation are almost always difficult to meet. I truly didn’t know what we were going to get until we got it and now I’m trying to find out what makes this place tick, find the positives, and work around the negatives. It’s something I should have done when I first moved to New Jersey all those years ago and not wasted two years pining for what was gone. Knowing my time is limited here makes me try harder to push through the days that I feel like this was a huge mistake.