I learned a lot during my time as an Army Wife. The knowledge I have runs the gamut from how to put patches on a uniform, to how to navigate the military healthcare, to the right clothes to wear to any sort of Army function.
But the most important lesson I learned is perhaps the one I turn to the most.
It’s about the quality of time, versus the quantity. My husband was gone for approximately half of the first four years of our marriage. That means that for Sprout, my oldest, he was gone for half of her life as well. He was gone more than he was here.
We learned to treasure the time he was here, to make the most of each day that we could. If it was nothing more than coloring on the sidewalk and painting on my kitchen walls, we tried to pack as much fun into it as we could. We made messes (get a good vacuum is another piece of Army-learned wisdom), we skinned knees and got blisters and sunburns; but we made so many memories. It was the good memories, blowing bubbles in the grass during the evening, turning bath time into a water fight, decorating the Christmas tree pink, watching Saturday morning cartoons and eating waffles, that got us through the bad times.
So in the spirit of Make Today Good, the Sprout and I set out to make cupcakes. With frosting and sprinkles, per her request. And they aren’t perfect, the frosting job is lopsided, some have too many sprinkles and some have too few. But the point was not to make perfect cupcakes. The point was to have fun, to take an ordinary afternoon, and make it into something just a little more special. Not a huge production, just add a little fun.
In the same spirit, Hubs took Sprout with him while he washed our cars. The job is longer with her in tow, and generally you have to go back over what she does, and you have to make sure she uses the Armor All wipes on the dashboard and not the windows. But perfection is not the point here. The point is just to take a regular moment, and make a memory of it.
The effort we put into it, has brought us together, bonded us more tightly. Sprout will talk about making cupcakes for days. And she will explain, in intricate detail, how you clean Daddy’s car. But making as many good memories as we can has also done more, it has carried us through the worst of times. In the dark of deployment, it was those good memories, and the promise of more, that got us through. While I struggled with grief over the loss of my siblings, I tried to remember to keep the tradition going, to keep making a part of each day, as much of each day as I could, better. And that helped heal the wounds of grief and loss for me.
We have done this so much, tried to pull the quality away from the quantity, that after a rough day, Sprout will ask to do something. She will get out colors, or ask to paint, or ask to put a movie on and snuggle. She has learned to take even a few seconds, wrap herself around me in a hug, and make that moment as good as she can.
So that is my challenge to everyone, to do something more with their day tomorrow. Not more in the sense of more paperwork, or housework, but more in that intangible sense. Make a quality moment tomorrow, to cement into memory.
Make lopsided cupcakes. With sprinkles and frosting.