Between Worlds

A military family is preparing for a military move, father holds his daughter.
Written by Lindsay Swoboda | Photography by Annie Louise Wilkins
My husband Ryan and I stood in Walmart, judging the size and price of strollers.
“This is ridiculous,” I said, wiping my brow. I was sweating trying to make this choice in a matter of minutes. “Our jogging stroller is coming in the household goods shipment.”
“I get that. But we have no idea how long that is going to take.” Ryan said and folded a green and black jogging stroller in and out, testing it.
“How much longer is she even going to use it? She’s three!” I said, my voice rising as I took the stroller from him and pushed it down the aisle. Unfortunately, our “good” stroller had been lost by the airline somewhere between Paris and Baltimore.
“You needed your other stroller all the time in Morocco, just for groceries. I bet Ecuador will be the same.” Ryan said. I crossed my arms and sighed. He was right. We needed to get this now and make our transition easier.
As we hauled the stroller and an array of other goodies up to the check-out, I caught the eye of my mother-in-law. She smiled at us and gave us a thumbs up as she wheeled our three-year-old girl around in the cart, keeping her busy. The smile I shot back at her was more of a painful wince.
I felt both sick and empowered in the car that day as we whizzed from place to place. I remember after Walmart; we went and bought another suitcase. In a few days, we would go and meet with my grandparents. In a few more days, we would have an open house for everyone that wanted to visit with us before we journeyed onward. We needed to see a dentist and squeeze in a date for just Ryan and me.
This was the plan, after all. We were making use of the small leave block we’d been afforded between duty stations, but I longed for quiet and rest and for all of it to slow down.
I know I hugged family and friends and tried to be present with them while our jet-lagged toddler cried in the early morning hours. I remember I got to drink a coffee and read a book one morning out on my in-law's back deck by myself. But a lot of the rest of the trip is blurry to me now. We were in a hurry, both in our timing, in the execution of what we needed to accomplish at that time, and in our spirits.
We were between worlds, our feet floating between one home and the next.
My heart attempted to fill up on that trip as I gave and received love from our nearest and dearest, yet it felt like a tease, the worst kind of joke, to then step on a plane (again) and zip away from them.
This spring of 2022, I stepped back on a plane with Ryan. Our three-year-old is now seven, and our twenty-two-month-old earned his wings on board. The itinerary was to fly from Virginia to Arkansas and then back again for an eleven-day visit. My parents oversaw picking us up, opening their lovely home to us, and dropping us back off at the airport when our time came to an end.
That was all the planning that we had done.
One night, after we had tucked the children into their beds, we chose a beverage and met up on the top deck. Dad left some games out on the table for us to peruse, but first, we all sprawled out across the patio furniture and sipped our drinks while we watched the sun dip down over the mountains. 
A comfortable quiet fell over us that night, the kind of silence that comes with good friendship and family when no one needs to fill the space with anything but being together.
There were moments like that all week long, where I felt myself sinking softly into being cared for and nurtured. I know and feel the difference now, that this trip was not part of any mission to get us onward to the next place or see everyone that has ever loved us all at once. A tired toddler still woke us early (every morning without fail), and we still bopped around to activities, but we also had space to settle and breathe and be. I read multiple days out in the hammock swing, with no other sounds but the forest rustling her leaves.
On our second to last night, we gathered for a game, and in-between rounds of Sequence, my parents told us how glad they were that we had come. 
“We are so glad we came too,” I said.
“Yes, this has been so relaxing,” Ryan said, and I touched his foot with mine under the table and smiled at him.
“I think there is a difference,” I said, “between a trip…and…” I paused, trying to find the right words.
“And a vacation,” Ryan said.
“Yes! That’s it!” I said and smiled again.
“It’s been great for us too. We want to try and be a place where you relax,” my dad said. We nodded, picked up our cards, and got back to our game.
As summer is upon us, we might be facing the hustle of PCS season. For me, that always comes with big feelings, hard work, and more trips than true vacations. Even if we aren’t leaving our duty station, we might be supporting a friend that is. 
Perhaps we’re adjusting to our kids being home for long stretches of time or planning a big adventure that sounds fun but may (most definitely) have a few challenges along the way. 
Where are you this summer? 

Take a pause and reflect with us:

  1. What does your summer look like? Are you staying, going, saying goodbye, or getting ready to welcome newcomers?
  2. Do you have any travel planned? Is it a trip or a vacation? Is there a way to carve out space for both?
  3. What does a life-giving summer look like for you? Does it mean speeding some things up, slowing down, a certain beverage, and buddies on your back porch? More silence? More noise? There’s no wrong way to frame this season in a way that feels good for you, so you can show up as the person you want to be.
Words by Lindsay Swoboda @upliftinganchor 
Photography by Annie Louise Wilkins @annielouisewilkins 

Author Behind the Legacy Letter

LINDSAY SWOBODA is a writer, editor, and military spouse. She is the mother of two and lives wherever the Marine Corps sends their family. Her work has been featured in Legacy Magazine, Coffee + Crumbs, The Line Literary Review and Books Make a Difference Magazine. When she is not writing Lindsay is either seeking time in nature or pursuing her other favorite hobbies: reading and sewing. She tries not to miss having tea in the afternoon with a cookie. 

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Between Worlds is an essay that was written especially for our Legacy Letter community. Legacy Letters are words meant to encourage and inspire. Join our email newsletter and on the first Monday of every month receive a story by one our team members along with reflection prompts to intentionally carve out your path within the margins of military life. Sign-up here and customize how we show up in your inbox! 
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