I have learnt over the years that the best thing you can do if you are a stay at home mum on a married patch is to get involved with the other mummies and wives. This is good for your sanity as well as wine appreciation.
I initially envisioned coffee mornings and decoupage hours. I was not wrong. However, I am not that person. I have tried to be that person, a grown up. I failed. I cant even make coffee so what was my future to hold?! What kind of military wife was I? How embarrassing.
I dreaded moving to the next married patch, with its rumoured vibrant hive of crafty, coffee swilling mums.
The pine clad cocoon had been great because being on a patch that was closing down for the most part meant very few neighbours and those that were still meandering around kept their distance. He reckoned it was because of the new born, but I knew it was because they had called the cops those few months before. How do you exchange carrot cake after that?
Our new posting was a few hours north and it was on a scorching June afternoon that we drove into our new bustling little town, Utopia*, the river glistening through it, regulars and day trippers trickling in and out of the riverside’s never ending supply of cafes and pubs, basking in the heat with ice cold beers and snow balls of ice cream whilst half heartedly seeking the shade dispelled by the grand castle nestled into the hill at the top of the high street.
Inching our way up a slight hill with half of England in front of us we finally indicated and pulled off and up over a hump into a deliriously, attractive intimate crescent. The majestic houses wouldn’t have been misplaced on a typical American suburban film set. Each set back into manicured lawns, over flowing cherry blossoms leading the way up to their front doors. From the surrounding back gardens were the excitable shrieks of children on their summer holidays.
Winding down our windows we soaked up the warm air muddled with the scents of lavender being harvested from the rolling meadows below and for the first time since becoming a military wife I almost felt as if I could breathe again, on my own.
One thing that you must know in your heart of hearts is that your fellow military wives are like gold dust and should be treated as such. Our husbands may be ranked, but we are not. We are united. I am about to preach sisters! Hallelujah!
From the day you marry into the military no other person will understand you as well as a fellow military wife.
They ‘get’ the frustration of the constant packing and unpacking of boxes, of friendships, of kids, of stability.
Moving into a new married quarter they will swarm around you, enveloping you into the fold, seamlessly.
They know a glass of wine is needed when your husband announces their second work “team building” trip taking place in the French Alps in as many months. Because what doesn’t beer off piste teach you that you couldn’t learn in the office?
You will never be lost for a dog walking companion, a baby sitter, a confidante.
The night after dropping the children back off at boarding school after an idyllic summer holiday, when the back of your throat aches to sob the tears only a mummy can sob there will always be someone there with cake. Cake and the promise of a child free cocktail that weekend (which is the best kind of cocktail)
When you endure that annual melt down of resentment towards your husband because it was you who sacrificed your career, your friends and family, your dreams in order to follow him to the four corners of the globe, watching him succeed while you are elbow deep in the washing up bowl with a piece of cooked onion stuck to your arm and a toddler screaming into your crotch, they will nod in agreement, contribute to the rant whilst tutting sympathetically at each other. Someone will suggest you get a dishwasher. Someone else will suggest opening some wine.
Then there are the times when no one else knows how it feels to watch your husband climb in a taxi destined for the airport where he will be flown to a remote, savaged, war torn puzzle piece of the world where he will fight for what is right and you don’t know if he will come home. The mixture of pride and bitterness that fills your heart. He is your husband, the father of your children, your best friend, the one person you would sacrifice your career, your friends and family, your dreams for. When you crawl into bed that night to do a deal with god and beg for his safe return as you pinch your nose to stop the tears, it is then that you will receive a text message from a fellow wife telling you that her kid had spread his own excrement across their bathroom that day.
You will know these women for a few months, a few years or perhaps a lifetime. They need you just as much as you need them. Stick together, once you’re in the circle of trust, you never, ever leave. Partially because you will know too much, but mostly because the military is such a small world … and your balance on the group bar bill is too large to ignore.
Meeting this fine specimen of a woman is a lot easier than I feared.
Being a lot more shy than I realised I actually was, now that I was officially out of my comfort zone, I knew that if I didn’t make a move as soon as we moved in I would lose confidence. This is where having a kid comes in handy, if you don’t have one, get one. They make introductions a lot easier, a great conversation starter!
Alternatively make these, you should have all of these ingredients straight after a move, other than the chocolate chips, who has those just lying around?!
100g Butter at room temperature
150g Self raising flour
100g of chocolate chips
- Pre-heat oven to 170*C, Fan assisted 150*C, Gas mark 4
- Grease a baking tray
- Beat butter and sugar until fluffy
- Stir in the flour and chocolate. knead with hands to a smooth dough.
- Divide into even sized balls, place them apart from each other on the baking tray, flattening each one with a fork.
- Cook for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool them on a wire tray.
Obviously you will need to test their gooey chocolatey-ness as they cool. Obviously.
Now, having completed your extensive quality control process (because screw that ‘new patch, new diet’ idea) make up individual plates of cookies and over the course of the afternoon pop over to each of your close neighbours, generally the ones either side of you and the two directly opposite. The following day, empty plates shall return and phone numbers will be exchanged and by the next Friday you’ll be in the military wives choir, arranging flowers whilst organising the military spouses wine tasting evening.
Failing that, read the Top Tip of the Week and you’ll be a shoo in.
So I made the cookies, I made the move and I knocked on strangers doors like a girl scout. A girl scout with a baby on her hip. The best kind!
Summer flew by, a whirl of long, lazy walks along the river with dogs and children and grown ups prancing about like children. Hours spent lying on the river’s sandy banks dipping into the cool, dark waters when it got too warm. You knew it was time to go home when the cows stumbled down to partake in their evening paddle. The scarlet skies would tumble across the hills as we all took it in turns to host sumptuous barbecues, the He’s and Him’s manning the grill, the cooler box and the various pets that had decided to join us and The Wives Club taking control of babies, baths and bedtimes before we all met up again in the back garden, the sun and the moon fighting for pole position, the apple trees casting long shadows across the lawns and the sparrows twittering in the hedges as we all lounge around sipping and munching.
Autumn whispered its presence with a golden light that melted into everything, the leaves, the church spire, the rippling waters of the river. The horses snuffling through the piles of fallen apples, drunk on memories. Lawnmowers and motorbikes were tucked up into sheds, swimming pools deflated and washing lines taken down. Walks along the river avoided dips in the dark, cool waters and now involved competitive hunts for conkers.
Winter snuck up on the little town of Utopia with gentle dustings of snow, never enough to justify snow tyres, but enough to give a little hope. It was babies first Christmas and all the wives in turn baked or crafted something to note the occasion, a jumper, a christmas bauble, a teddy. Front doors were adorned with elegant Christmas wreathes (hand crafted at the weekly wives craft club – which would explain why we didn’t have one) whilst christmas carols murmured through everyones halls, the smells of mince pies and mulled wine wafting out of the air vents. Christmas parties were hosted and attended, inebriated with laughter and warmth. Walks along the river avoided dips in the partly frozen, dark, swirling waters and now involved crunching through its overflow.
Three weeks into the new year, we moved.
Top Tip of The Week:
Host a ladies lunch for your fellow wives (just the ones that you can see from your kitchen window, not the whole flipping station don’t worry!)
Heres the tip: Serve Prosecco.
You will be met with one or two legitimate ”school run” excuses, but once you pry the cup of tea out of their vice like grip and replace with a delicate flute of amber bubbles, (Just the one mind! – if they’re doing the school run, two if they’re not, three or more if they are sans children) and no lunch will ever be the same. Its deliciously naughty and decadent and you allow them a small peak into past lives pre military wives.
You will be ‘That Wife.’ The influence. Other wives will go home and later that night begin plotting the next soiree. Can you have two ladies lunches two days in a row? Er… yes.
You will move and wives will text you proudly announcing they are to host a ladies lunch – a special one, with bubbles. We are allowed to giggle and to be a bit naughty. It makes you more human, more of a woman, hey…even more of that woman you used to be before you weren’t anymore. No permission required.
Until next time xoxo
*Utopia not its real name.