A dependable pair of muckers
Can an Army wife retire?
Chop, chop – the steel blades slid past each other like the propellers of the Black Hawk helicopters flying past the bathroom skylights of my Northern Virginia townhouse.
Chop, chop… chop, chop, the metal smashed through wood; the sound echoing between the cedars towering on either side of me as if in cadence.
I wasn’t sure how much to cut, let alone if the woody stems were dead or alive. Regardless, I knew they needed a fresh start.
Thump, thump, the clanking began to deafen, its rhythm lulling me into an inner world of sanctitude.
My thoughts tumbled as if in a labyrinth…But I was an expert on knowing how to be on my own and this transition should be no different.
I felt my muckers sink in the sludge warmed by the April sun and inhaled its cool earthiness as I waded further into the mud.
Though we spent over a year planning the transition while stationed at the Pentagon, the change felt abrupt.
Now, back in Cleveland after decades of living and travelling around the world as an Army wife, things I hadn’t thought of in years came to mind.
Images were hard to define, yet sensory details vivid, like the sensation of butterflies flickering in my belly when I drove past Cumberland Park just down the street from my childhood house.
Paul, my older brother, would gain so much momentum standing on the tire swing with me and our younger brother, John, sitting on the hard rubber with our legs linked, we’d lift in the air, floating for a few seconds, before plopping down with a jolt as the chain snapped and straightened, stopping the tire – and us—from flying off.
My tongue watered at the thought of cold strawberries pursing my tongue when remembering my favorite ice cream—red.
Me and John would savor our treats as we sat on the tire, controlling the sway by sliding our toes through the sand beneath our seat as Paul tore off on his bike to join a friend.
The ice cream had been a prize for the summer reading challenge we completed.
I recall splashing my cherry red boots through puddles, holding John’s hand as we made our way to story hour in a rainstorm earlier that summer while walking down Euclid Heights Boulevard in the other direction from the park to the gothic building, Coventry Library.
Back to recent memories of a few weeks after our final PCS move when I took my youngest son, Joey, to see the historic district where I grew up…
“What was it like to live in a Harry Potter world,” he had exclaimed.
I never would’ve imagined my home in the rust belt that way before, but I knew why the city appeared that way to him now.
Inspired by European architect and urban planning, leaders of the Industrial Revolution built the area once called Connecticut Western Reserve into a steel mill metropolis and cultural hub for European and Middle Eastern immigrants, and Black migrants from the south, looking for work.
The infrastructure still includes round abouts, multiway boulevards, a trolly system turned into a metro, and trees dating back to the 19th and 18th century when former Revolutionary War veteran, General Moses Clevealand, surveyed Lake Erie’s shores.
Churches and colleges, museums and mansions, and even working-class homes range from English Tutor and Romanesque styles to Tuscan villas, as well as American Colonial and mid-century modern designs.
Then there are the outer suburbs tucked in the Metroparks that also take newcomers by surprise with their sprawling horse ranches and farmhouses running along the Chagrin River and Cuyahoga Valley.
“Well, I grew up before JK Rowling wrote ‘Harry Potter,’ but as a little girl, I imagined being the princess in the fairytale ‘Snow White,’” I replied to Joey.
I chuckled remembering how I once thought it’d be fun to live in a cabin tucked in German woods surrounded by little men.
How nice to cook and clean for them while they sang, worked, and kept me company, I’d say.
In some ways, some might even say my fairytale had come to fruition.
…Chop, chop, like the rotors of the Chinooks at Ft. Bragg that Eric would train in.
That last cut was successful, revealing a green hue near the bottom of the stem, just a few inches from the bed.
“Whew,” I took another deep breath while analyzing the garden. A mess of ivy and weeds displaying thorns grasped round the bushes, blocking my progress.
I knelt in the sludge that made up the bed. With my gloved hands, I pressed near the base of the vines, yanking the knotted spindles from the clay’s clenches and letting my mind follow.
Winter’s slate skies that seemed to team with burnt marshmallows just a few weeks earlier had dissipated, replaced by a sun shining with an intensity reminding me of the afternoons at Ft. Bragg.
Our last time at Bragg was the longest we stayed anywhere. First it had been three years, then it was four; the height of the War on Terror.
Eric had popped in from base early one evening after being back from that first deployment only a few months.
He’d forgotten about a night jump and had come home to grab something quickly before heading to the range.
Home for a moment, and then gone for hours, days, weeks, or months. We were like ghosts passing each other in the dark of night.
Still deep in thought- I whacked the blackened stem with the oversized hedge trimmer. The sound reverberated between the pines.
The stank of well water, mud-soaked slush, and septic tank hung in the yard.
My eyes watered, but it was not from the odor waiting to be carried off in the next breeze.