Sunday, June 23
Mrs. Wookie: The welcome wagon for new girlfriends.
The Jack Johnson was setting the mood yesterday from Pandora, as I slipped the pasta, sausage, and cauliflower bake into the oven. One bag of shredded mozzarella was dumped on top. I was excited for it to start gurgling. In the oven it went as I waited for my guests to arrive after they barely arrive into the state 24 hours earlier.
"Hey, can you recommend a hotel in the area?"
The Navy Lodge was booked solid for Friday, and while I was about to offer up my guest room to complete strangers, I was able to rattle off the hotels in a "non-stabbing" area to welcome the newest check-in and his girlfriend into the squadron. So for Friday they did as recommended: Have the local pizza place bring by pizza and a 6-pack of beer. :)
I know what it's like to come into a new city, exhausted after being stuck in LA traffic (Friday nights are bad), and you want to do is lay down and not move. Pile on top of that, zero social circle makes for a not-fun first time in California. I plan on making their welcome far better than mine. He's had notice that as soon as you're in California, you check in, and you leave. She's had welcome email after email from me, since I know far too strong what it's like to not be considered a part of the welcome wagon. Even though she'll be heading back to live with her parents during the remainder of deployment, she knows she can count on me for anything. So while my welcome was lackluster, I've change the way the "Knives" group works - we welcome everyone. Who says the respect should be different between a girlfriend of 4 years and someone who shotgun married for the healthcare?
So just before 7pm, the doorbell rang. I was excited. I was excited for me. And I was excited for them. They're getting everything I wanted. They're getting a warm welcome to both service member and girlfriend. They're getting a home-cooked meal (something they wanted!). And they're getting the guide to the area on where are safe parts and where most others live. And like great guests, they brought beer. :)
I opened the door and I loved what I saw. I saw us in them. Two spry, young check-ins ready for an amazing time in California full of camaraderie and antics, full of travel, and full of excitement in a sea-going squadron. I say this like we've passed our prime in life. And in some circumstances, we have. The "JO tour" (aka the Junior Officer timeframe of O-2 (Lt. Junior Grade) and O-3 (Lt.) respectfully) is regarded in the same esteem for Officers as the college years to the civilian years. You make absolutely great friends. You experience things that most people don't get to (the bonding between the Junior Officers, their attaches, and the military separations that make for sleepovers, potlucks, and the occasion tears). If I could do the entire 2.75 years all over again (despite we're not leaving for awhile), I would do it again in a heartbeat. I've had an absolute blast here.
And this is all I can wish on our newest friends. We popped the beer, I gave a tour of our home, and showed off the back yard (hello, golf course!). We chatted, ate dinner, enjoy a 2nd round of beer, and talked about how life is in California. We talked homecoming (where as the newest of guys, he will unfortunately take the "new guy role" and be the last person off the boat for the squadron) and then how life will return to normal for everyone. And after they left, I sent an email to Mr. Wookie on the boat with my findings - he'll fit in just fine and she's awesome.
So while we'll only overlap a handful of months from when the boat returns and when we're due to transition (which is still TBD; Mr. Wookie is the next to "pop" on orders), I'm excited to leave a lasting mark on the community. And that's not counting my giant stack of wine corks that have established themselves since shove-off or ability to sneak mini vodka bottles into any beverage.