…this angel that Junior made out of a toilet paper tube when he was 6 years old. We were between houses that Christmas, renting a place until our house was finished being built. All of our household goods were in storage, so when Christmas came around, we had to make all of our decorations by hand. Junior surprised me by making this angel all on his own for my Christmas gift. Even now, when we have all of our regular ornaments and decorations, this angel goes on the top of the mini tree we put up every year with most of the handmade ornaments from that Christmas.
I love unpacking that angel each year and remembering how we have made the best of things for many Christmases. That’s part of what being a military family is about. Many times, the holidays come, and you are separated from your loved one. Thankfully, we have only experienced that a couple of times. More often, we found ourselves far away from our extended family. It was in those years that we developed our own traditions and some treasured memories.
In our first year in Hawaii, Darling Husband was deployed for Christmas. We traveled to meet him at a port call in Singapore. I carried a present or two for each kid in my suitcase to open on Christmas morning. The kids loved telling their grandparents that their Christmas came first because they were over the International Dateline. And Christmas clothes for the tropics looked a lot different from normal:
By the next year, we had orders moving us back to the Mainland 2 weeks after Christmas. Nearly all of our things except for the bare-bones essentials had already been shipped ahead. We had borrowed furniture. Our Christmas tree that year was a scraggly, 2-foot potted Norfolk pine, decorated with just one string of lights and a few strings of popcorn and cranberries. We remember that as the year of the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.” All of the presents that couldn’t easily fit in a suitcase had to be crated up and sent to the Mainland, not to be seen again for 6 six weeks while they were in transit.
Without a doubt, the holidays can bring some really tough times for military families. Sometimes, holidays in the military force you to get pretty creative in how you celebrate. Years later, though, the memories of those unusual celebrations are the ones that really warm my heart.