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Never too busy for milspouse time

By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: March 12, 2021

One would think that military spouses are busy enough, managing homes, children, jobs, pets, in-laws, bills, school, and other endless details, often while their active-duty partners are away. In fact, it would make sense if they turned away from added pressures, withdrew from obligations and isolated themselves altogether to maintain control.

However, no matter how many plates military spouses spin in the air, they’re always game to add one more.

One weeknight about 27 years ago, I was a new Navy wife, living in Army housing on Fort Ord in California. Although our military marriage was simple without kids, a mortgage, sea duty or complicated taxes, I kept myself busy working as a research attorney for a local law firm. But, when my friend Karen suggested that we go to her neighbor’s Tupperware party on post, did I decline? Choosing instead to relax at home after a long day at work?

Hell no.

I jumped at the chance like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Now, mind you, I wasn’t the Tupperware Party type. I remembered my mother, in gabardine bell-bottoms, a cigarette perched between her coral-tinged lips, bringing home burping bowls from one such party in the 1970s. I never pictured myself, a young litigation attorney with plenty to keep me occupied, seeking that particular kind of entertainment.

But there I was, crammed with a dozen other military wives in cramped Army quarters, nibbling deviled eggs and cheese dip, watching our host demonstrate Micro Steamers and Modular Mates. The wide-eyed, goofy grin on my face was clear indication that, despite not being “the Tupperware party type,” I was happier than a pigeon with a french fry to be with my fellow milspouses.

Captivated by one wife’s riveting testimonial about her “timeless” Meat Marinator, I was hooked. I ordered a Freezer Mates starter set (which I still use) and won a door prize — a bright yellow plastic corn cob butterer, with a nifty built-in salt shaker (which we eventually gave to Salvation Army, unused).

During the tours of duty that followed, I had more babies and got much busier, but I always sought out fellow military spouses, even if it meant buying products I didn’t need, playing ridiculous games, taking on tedious volunteer responsibilities or adopting hobbies in which I had no interest.

Even after our 3-year-old son was diagnosed with developmental delays — requiring me to do daily home therapy and attend multiple weekly speech and occupational therapy appointments while caring for our infant daughter — I needed the company of other spouses even more. During deployments, I learned that the best way to handle the mountain of responsibilities and crushing loneliness was to meet up with military wives as often as possible.

Despite my sausage fingers and medieval hand stitch, I took up quilting with Army wives. While overseas, I went on countless military spouse shopping trips for antiques, Polish pottery, French linens, Italian leather, Belgian antiques, Czech crystal, Swiss Army blanket bags, Bavarian carved wood, cheese, wine, beer, chocolate — you name it, we used it as an excuse to go shopping together and buy it. I volunteered to be Parliamentarian of the Spouses’ Club, just so I wouldn’t be left out of Crystal Bingo. I committed to three … or was it four? … Bunco groups, joined book clubs, took sailing lessons on base, competed in a wives’ base bowling league, golfed on military courses, hung out at the base dog park, and attended every home sales party hosted by military spouses I knew. Despite our limited budget, I dropped cash (or credit) on Longaberger baskets, Mary Kay cosmetics, Discovery Toys, Silpada silver, Tastefully Simple foods, Creative Memories scrapbooks, Lia Sophia jewelry, Pampered Chef gadgets, and yes, Tupperware — just so I could be with my milspouse peers.

No matter how busy we are, military spouses will always create excuses to get together. Why? Companionship? Understanding? Fun? Distraction? Avoidance? Therapy?

The reasons may be complicated, but being in the presence of fellow spouses reveals one simple, but sometimes hidden, truth about why we volunteer for this crazy military life in the first place:

Because you are never alone.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com