my homecoming to-do list

As my husband’s deployment is winding down the biggest thing on my mind these days is, of course, HOMECOMING!  The window for his arrival opens in less than a month.  Less than a month.  It feels surreal to even type it.


For those who don’t know what I’m talking about:  my husband is a U.S. Marine, and he’s been deployed to Afghanistan since last November; “Homecoming” is exactly what it sounds like, it’s when he comes home.

Crowds of eager and anxious loved ones wait and wait (and wait, right? haha) in a parking lot, field, airport, or what have you for their deployed loved ones to walk out of a terminal or get off a bus.  “Homecomg” is hearing the band play, celebrating a safe return home and a job well done.  It’s craning necks, excited tears, running and hugging and never letting go.  It’s loud and happy, camouflage uniforms meshing with brightly dressed loved ones.  Music, banners, American flags.

To me, homecoming is that moment when I figure out which one is him (because in uniform, let’s not kid, they all look alike) and we make eye contact and head towards each other.  It’s him in those cammies and me all dressed up and we hug and kiss for the first time in a long time, and as I finally get the insane pleasure of breathing him in, I then experience the most relieving exhale in the universe: I know that he is real, he is home, he is safe, and he is mine.

Here, on Marine Corps Base Kaneohe, we are privy to an amazing Homecoming.  The planes actually land right here, on our airstrip, and we watch out Marines deplane, and we reunite in a hangar.  The hangar is covered in banners, the Marine Corps Band is playing, there’s a red carpet rolled up to the plane that our Marines and Sailors will walk down.   As each hero steps off the plane, a lei is placed around his neck.   I’m getting that anxious butterflies-in-my-tummy feeling just thinking about it.  I remember last time, when I saw that plane land, I just kept staring at it in awe thinking, he’s really sitting in there, he’s really in the same place as I.  It’s so surreal and awesome.

homecoming 2009 - me and my duggs!

Banners and first kisses aside, there’s so much more to a successful Homecoming than one may think.  There is a lot to take into consideration, and once the fuzzy excitement of that initial moment has settled in – there’s a lot of reality to face.  Adjustment can be weird, change can be hard.  Reintegration is a whole process unto itself, and every situation will be different.  But for now, I’m pumped for the fun and pizazz of that homecoming day – so here’s what I have to get done in between now, and then to make my lovely day all come together.

My Homecoming To-Do List:

  • clean the entire house, every inch of it
  • stock the fridge and freezer with stuff he loves
  • have some loose plans for things to do, but don’t get attached to said plans
  • figure out what i’m wearing, hair, make-up
  • prepare some small surprises for him
  • banner making
(NOTE: There are a lot of things on this list that are pretty non-negotiable – like cleaning the house.  But the biggest deal about homecoming to me is more than banners and outfits:  it’s going that extra mile to be very thoughtful, to make his transition from front lines to living room all the easier.   The most important part is LOVE and a genuine smile to welcome him home.  So as we go through my list, I’m not telling anyone that these are things that “must” be done.  It’s just my thing, its just how I roll for Homecoming!)
Clean the house.
I am going to give this house a real deep cleaning before he comes home.  One, so he can come home to a nice clean house.  And two, so I don’t have to waste our first days together cleaning.   He’s been in a tent for seven months and even though they’re super strict on tidiness, that sand gets everywhere. Grime gets everywhere.  Luckily, this specific deployment seems to be much cushier than previous ones he’s been on and I don’t think he’ll come home terribly filthy.  He’s had access to good water and laundry.  In deployments past, not so.   Regardless, clean = calm.  Clean is peaceful. He will come home to a lovely and clean home.
Every sink will have soap and a clean towel by it.  Every toilet will have backup toilet paper in a place where it’s easy to find.   I don’t want him to have to scramble around to find the TP, or a towel.  I don’t want him to feel like he can’t find anything in his own home.
I like to think about things from his point of view.  He’s been going to the bathroom in portashitters, or worse (let’s not go there).  Coming home and using a real American bathroom is a luxury and a half.  It’s likely one of the biggest things he’s missed.  So I’m gonna make it nice, easy to use, just stress-free.  He doesn’t want to spend his very first luxurious bathroom use all annoyed that the roll is empty, or he can’t dry his hands.  (There will be no can you spare a square? moments, lulz).  There are so many changes he’s experiencing right now,  I don’t want to make the man rummage around five cabinets for a clean hand towel, just have it ready for him. Common sense, right?  Agreed!
I read this book about returning warrior psychology and it said that returning warriors all want three things as soon as they get home: beer, pizza, and sex.  And not in that order.
(It’s funny because it’s true!!)
I’ll have ice cold beers in the fridge.  If he comes in at a weird hour, I’ll make sure to get his fav pizza earlier that day – so if he wants to, he can heat it up.  I want him to at least have the option to eat it as soon as he comes home.    He’s already mentioned it a few times during our recent calls:  Bob’s Pizza (from Kailua), extra cheese/garlic/spinach/red sauce with garlic butter on the side.    My mouth is watering just typing it.
Maybe your husband’s “pizza,” is actually your speciality pot roast, and his “beer” is a whisky neat.  Just know his faves, and have them at the ready.
Have a couple choices as well.
I’m going to make sure snacks that he likes are available in the house, and I’m going to do the prep work for a few different meals all ahead of time.  I haven’t decided for sure what I’m going to make…  maybe I’ll cook red sauce the day of homecoming.  We can use it in so many different things, and it will make the house smell amazing.
I’ll bake some treats for him too!
Much like the food options, having too many or too little plans can be no beuno.  In some transitions, the troops are given a fair amount of time to sleep and rest.  They may spend a couple weeks in transition even.  In which case, they get lots of chances to sleep.  Or, your returning warrior may be riding on two hours of sleep for the last forty hours.  You never know!
Last homecoming, Matthew said he was very exhausted and that he just wanted to sleep when he got home.  The plan was to order in, watch movies, he intermittently naps, and while he does I just stare at him in wonder and awe because he’s actually in my presence, snoring away in the middle of an action movie I have NO desire to see.  (did that make you puke?  it kinda should have, haha).
What really happened is that he got home, and got very antsy.  All of a sudden, he had no mission.  There wasn’t anyone telling him where to be and what to do.  Which, in many many ways is lovely, and in some ways – it’s unsettling.  It’s weird. To go from 60 to 0 is hard.   So we ended up staying busy for a couple days, we went out and did some major shopping, drove around, ate out.  Finally on the third or fourth day he was ready to rest, and then we had some quality do nothing/lounge days (with terrible action movies and delivered food).
Like I mentioned earlier about the sleep thing – every situation is different.   Every deployment is different.  Travel plans and the transition process vary so much, it’s very hard to know ahead of time how exhausted or how energized each warrior will be upon return, so I’m not really expecting too much.  But just in case he gets super bored with the idea of just “hanging out,”  I have some plans in mind: we can go boating out in K-bay, go hiking, I can teach him how to tie-dye, etc.   If he’s ready to get out and be active, I don’t want to be all stressed out over thinking up ideas on the spot.
My Homecoming Outfit
At this time… I’m working on something.  It’s forming, it’s in the process.  Last homecoming, I had a dress made for me out of some very patriotic fabric.  I loved it so much!  I still love it and I use it for lots of occasions.  This year’s outfit isn’t finalized, but it’s all in the works.   (And since this is a family-friendly blog, I’ll leave the unmentionables out of this – but uhh, know that there will be specially selected unmentionables on under my outfit, yeah? *elbow nudge/wink*).
I’ll have the outfit, the hair, the makeup all figured out and tested ahead of time.  I’ll have everything set out and ready to go so as the time changes, I’m able to get ready on the fly if I need to.   And the time WILL change.  A 3am welcome home is not out of the question.
Wearing an expensive or fancy outfit is not the point.  But, he hasn’t seen you in person in a while, and this is kinda of a big deal.  I want to make our reunion special (and I want the pics to look so great).  So I’m planning my outfit/hair/make-up so I can look my best for him.    When he finally locks eyes on me, I want him to see the best version of me that he can.  And well, just life you dress nicely for an interview or a fancy occasion – this is special!  This isn’t grocery shopping on a weekday, it’s welcoming home the love of my life from war.   I want the outfit to rise to the event.   And like I said, seriously, I want cute pics.  Cute, patriotic, really fun pics.
Surprises / Presents
I do have a couple little “presents” I’ll give to him when he gets home.  Just a cute little something for him.  Just to be fun.  I don’t know how important this is – but my thinking is that I just want him to feel so special.  This is his day, his event!
I want him to know that I didn’t just throw on a dress and show up at the hangar – I have planned and thought about this special time.  Basically, I just want him to feel like his coming back home is a big deal to me.  And well, it is a huge deal!  I’m gonna gussy up the entryway a bit (I hope he doesn’t read this and get a heads up, haha), have some gifts for him, and just make the day he comes home not a regular ole day.
Banner Making
My wonderful hubbs has deployed three whole times, and he’s never once had a banner with his name on it to welcome him home!  So yeah, this year I’m making sure there’s a banner or two around this base that acknowledges him.  You know what?  Banners are fun, and awesome, and make people feel important.  Could you imagine if there was a big ole banner or sign with your name on it, announcing your arrival.  How regal! The king of my castle is totes getting the royal treatment.  Consider a hand-painted sassy-sloganed banner to be my way of rolling out the red carpet.   Again, it’s all about making this even fun, memorablem, important, and telling of how much his homecoming means to me.
We had the Battalion banner making party BBQ today, actually.   So I went and painting a lil somethin-somethin for Ole Duggs.

me. painting a banner. today.

Also, does FREE printed signs for military homecomings.  Free!  My cousin Heather passed this link on to me, and my gal pal Lauren out here told me about it as well.   Military Build-a-sign Link.
In Conclusion…
This is all what works for me.  Every single marriage has their own way of doing things, and other people will have their own to-do lists, methods, and ways of going about it.  No matter what you do to get ready – the bottom line is that you’re prepping for HOMECOMING.  It’s happy, it’s awesome.  It means your loved one is almost done with deployment, and the amazningess of reunion is right around the corner.   However you handle the final lap, congrats to you for coming this far, the end IS in sight.
In regards to reintegration (the time of settling in and getting used to having your warrior home again), I’m using a common sense approach to preparing. But in reality, I’m not sure how much preparation can really go into it?  I think it just has to happen.  I’m going to do what I can to set us up for success, but really we’ll have to take every day one at a time and see what happens.  Patience, understanding, empathy, and deep breaths will all be really important during that adjustment.   And hopefully, things we’ll go smoothly and we’ll get our groove back nicely.
What do you have on your list that’s not on mine?  Got any great tips to share?  Tell me, tell me!

3 responses

  1. Love this post, Rose. I’m so happy for you that you guys are almost done. This has been a crappy deployment for you and I’m super proud of you for making it through it.

    I totally agree about the reintegration thing. I had NO idea what to expect when J came home for R&R, so I didn’t make many plans. I wanted to have things waiting for him, but he said he wanted to go grocery shopping. It was one of the things he missed doing, so I saved it for him. I did have some Pacifico and Hamburger Helper waiting, but he made it clear that he wanted to cook it. I just kinda followed his lead those first few days and made sure that I asked him what HE wanted.

    I wish someone would have told me how tricky those first few days back can be. Especially if you have kids and have been raising them on your own for X number of months. I had a hard time adjusting with him being here and helping me with Liam, and in a way, I resented him knowing he was going to be leaving again, and I’d have to re-pick up all the pieces. It sucked and definitely put a damper on things, but we talked and I got over it. I realized that he’s still my husband and he deserves to know what’s going on in my over-analytical brain, and that he’s been through all this before, so he can kinda help me through it.

    I haven’t had my HC yet, and I still have a couple months to go, but I’m already starting to get lots of creative ideas! First, I’ve gotta get our home together though!

  2. This was awesome!

    One huge thing people overlook is how much two people change and grow while apart (never mind factoring in kid issues like Carrie is dealing with). And you don’t change and grow the same way you would if you were together. So not only do you need to re-integrate, you need to learn who each other are all over again. The amount varies with the people involved, but it’s a universal truth. All the more so when one or more are involved in things like deployment to war zones.

    But I have no doubt at all you two will do great.

    Oh, yeah, you mentioned the food and drink plans, but what was that third topic?


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