Waiting on a Homecoming

Waiting on a Homecoming
Written by Amber Cook
Photography by Annie Louise Wilkins @annielouisewilkins

She wakes up excited after a bit of a sleepless night. She tossed and turned restless with the anticipation of reuniting with her husband. Now she flips the covers off and shuffles her sleepy self into the kitchen. Placing the tea kettle on the front right burner, she turns the heat on high, grabs the bag of beans, and fills the grinder. Placing the lid on, she pushes down the button and a loud crunching sound permeates the kitchen along with the rich, comforting aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. She releases the button and pours the beans into the French press. 

While she waits for the kettle to boil she makes her way to her yoga mat, starting this day like any other. She watches her step so as not to pop a balloon and a streamer tickles her face. Her living room is a sea of blue and white balloons. Streamers hang from the ceiling, looping down the hall. She wasn’t going to decorate, but one of the lieutenants she works with said she needed to, it would make homecoming that much more special. She knew he was speaking from experience. Homecoming is a special occasion, despite how wary the spouse may feel. 

What if they got turned around last minute again just like they did three months ago? These last few months had been filled with a lot of tears, disappointment, and false hope. She plants her feet firmly at the top of her mat. As she inhales she reaches for the sky, exhaling she folds forward releasing her emotions. She won’t believe today is real until the ship is tied to the pier and her husband walks off the ship. 

She hears the screech of the tea kettle and goes to pour the water over her beans, and then she returns to her yoga mat. Stretching her arms up over her head she takes a deep breath. As she exhales she bends forward again, reaching for her toes. With her next inhale she lifts halfway, to a flat back. Planting her hands she comes to a plank and slowly lowers down with an exhale. With her next inhale she lifts her head and pulls her chest through her arms for an upward-facing dog. As she exhales she pushes her way back to downward-facing dog. She stays here for a few breaths, embracing the stillness before the full day ahead of her. With her next exhale she hops up to the top of her mat, and as she inhales she comes to stand.

The coffee is now ready. She pours the cup and watches the steam rise in the light of the morning sun. Wrapping both hands around the mug she lifts it to her nose and takes a deep breath, soaking in the glorious aroma. She takes a sip and lets the steaming liquid warm her soul. She savors a few moments here with her coffee, believing tomorrow morning she’ll get to savor it with her husband. Her outfit is picked out already, her husband told her in an email what he thought she should wear. Of course, she goes with what he suggests, a deep forest green jumpsuit that he loves and bright red lipstick. 

She hops in the shower and meticulously washes her hair, shaves her legs, and exfoliates. What will it be like to feel his touch again? She longs to rest her head on his chest and hear his heartbeat whisper in her ear. Nine months is far too long to go without the loving arms of your husband wrapped around you. Scrubbed and clean, she gets out and turns on the curling iron. There’s really no point in styling her hair, the humidity will draw it flat within moments of stepping outside, but she does it anyway. It feels right to put in a little extra effort for an occasion like this. 

Her hair is dry and styled, and makeup has been applied. She steps into a pair of red lacy underwear (sans bra) and slides on her green jumpsuit. She checks her phone, almost time to go! She slips on her nude, pointed-toe flats, and grabs her purse, water bottle, and keys. She pours her coffee into a to-go cup and walks out the door. 

Once in her car, she opens the group chat from the other wives to figure out where they’re all meeting to watch the ship pull in. The moisture in the air is stifling, dark clouds cover the sky, and it looks like it might be a rather wet homecoming. She parks her car and takes a deep breath, trying to steady herself. Is this real? Is he actually coming home this time?

Three months ago they were supposed to be home. 

She remembers that day. She was getting ready for work on a Friday morning, and the spouse group chat from the ship alerted her: was the Navy Times article true? The article stated the Strike group was staying at sea due to COVID-19 and the need for the Navy to be mission ready. These ships were considered “clean” as they had not been in a port recently and had no documented cases of COVID-19. It was true. 

Our guys wouldn’t be coming home that week. She did her best to make it through the workday without crying. She had corpsmen to guide and patients to care for. One of the spouses set up a Zoom call happy hour for that night. While the spouses live in the same city, they aren’t supposed to socialize to minimize the spread of COVID-19. She remembers they shared what they were drinking and shared their tears. Many of them said they were grateful they hadn’t started decorating or shaving their legs yet.  

The dark clouds press down above her as she walks over to the wives she has leaned on these last nine months but hasn’t seen in three months. It is good to be together, and a little jarring after three months of seeing nobody aside from her coworkers. Anticipatory chatter fills the air as we gaze down the jetties and out to the ocean looking for the slightest sign that the ship is near. 

After what feels like an eternity, we get word that the ship is close. We all climb out onto the jetties, gray boulders lining the river that leads into the basin where the ships park, trying to get as close as possible to see the ship as she comes home. Hands are held out to help each other as we climb in our cute outfits and not-so-practical shoes. As we lean forward on the rocks our chatter quiets, and everyone faces to the right, squinting to try and spot the ship. 

At last, we see the ship, and at that moment the clouds clear, the sun comes out, and a rainbow is painted over the ship as she makes her way down the river. We see our sailors lined up on the ship, all standing at the ready for the evolution about to occur at the pier. From the jetties, we wave frantically, trying to guess where our specific sailor might be. There’s no dry eye to be found as we welcome them home. 

Once the ship makes her way down the river, we make our way to our cars and over to the parking lot where we get to take our sailors home. In order to receive our sailors, we are told to either wait at our cars or put a mask on and come to the gate. Wearing her red lipstick, and not wanting to mess it up, she waits at her car. She texts her husband “I’m in the 3rd row from the edge of the parking lot, when I look to my right I can see the gate.” She hopes he can decipher what she’s trying to say and that he can find her. She rapidly types another text “I’m wearing my green jumper and I’m standing in front of my car with a sign that says ‘Welcome Home ENS Cook.’”

Standing on the tips of her toes, she keeps trying to spot her sailor. He’s lost in a sea of white and green. She can’t make out any faces because their covers cast shadows over their features. It is impossible to distinguish which one is hers. “How am I supposed to find my sailor in this sea of uniformity?” she thinks. Her heart races as her eyes search each sailor for something familiar. “I’ll recognize it when it’s him. I have to. Is that him? No, too short,” these thoughts run through her mind as she waits. 

Suddenly, one starts to stand out. He looks to be the right height, a sea bag slung over his shoulder, and a clear plastic box under his other arm. He tries to wave but she cannot tell if he’s waving at her or one of the many cars beside her. 

He hollers at her, “Hey good looking!” with a big cheesy grin on his face. 
She begins to bounce where she stands, the anticipation and excitement bubbling out of her. Finally, they meet again, two hearts reunite at last. He sets his box on the hood of her car and pulls her into a deep embrace and a gentle kiss. 

He hoists his sea bag into the back of her sky-blue CR-V and they drive the five minutes to their house, a house he hasn’t yet been to yet. She had to move their belongings and location while he was gone. 

She parks in the driveway and looks over to her husband, smiling, as she says “Welcome home my love.”


About the Author:  Amber Cook is a military spouse (Navy), mama, yoga teacher, writer, and Registered Nurse. She is a gifted community builder who can often be found outside walking, running, or helping her toddler climb around the playground. She loves to savor a really good cup of coffee and create guided meditations and yoga flows to help support her fellow military spouses. 

You can find her on IG and YouTube @themindfulmilitaryspouse
Amber has a special edition of The Mindful Military Spouse to honor Military Homecoming Anxiety Relief. You can listen to it here
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1 comment

  • Amber…
    WOW!! Beautiful…in tears! Keep writing, Amber!

    Maria Raczkowski

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