If I’m being honest? Oklahoma was never a location I saw on the map of my life. Funny how things turn out, sometimes.
Back in 2001, as my husband and I were awaiting or orders back to the states after a glorious 4 years in Germany, we dreamed of where we might go next. I mean, it’s called a “dream sheet,” after all, that paper where you pick out your top choices of assignment. But we found out, as so many others did before us, those dream sheets were filed in the circular file (i.e., trash) before his name was placed into the next slot in need of an eligible (i.e., availble) person of his rank. Though we had selected bases in New England, Florida, New Mexico and Washington state, I felt that the powers that be played connect the dots, and X marked the spot. We landed smack dab in the middle: Oklahoma.
I always loved the Dave Frizzell & Shelly West song “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” but after moving here, it didn’t sound so much like a love song as an accusation. It was a difficult transition. It was Labor Day weekend when we pulled into town, a “down” weekend for the base. We were lucky to find a hotel across town that would accept us with our dog. It was hot. And windy. I was 3 months pregnant and I was tired, uncomfortable and grumpy. There was a marathon of television coverage on the May 3, 1999 tornado on cable–and we hadn’t seen cable in 4 years, so we were enthralled with all the channels we hadn’t had back in ’97–but we couldn’t turn away from the tornado coverage. This? This was where we lived now?
We tried to have a picnic so we could spend some time outside of the hotel, but oh, the wind. And that night, the skies turned sickly green and opened up and poured and rained and thundered and hailed. The next night we moved to another hotel, right across from the base, the familiar touchstone of a military family. We spoke to one of my husband’s co-workers, told him where we were staying and he replied “Oh, they reopened that hotel where the murder happened?”
Welcome home. After the holiday weekend, my husband was due to go to work and finally in process (run all over the base with a packet of papers that told the military world “here I am!”), but on that Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, the unthinkable happened and the base went into lockdown and when he called his work to find out what his next steps should be, they told him to sit tight for the day. So we did. We, along with the rest of the world, watched.
Eventually, he went to work. We found a rental. I found a job. We made some friends. All the while, we planned our exit. We didn’t dig in too far; we had no intentions of staying. I had horrible dreams every night of all the poisonous brown recluse and black widow spiders waiting for me, just under the bed. Nothing was familiar. We didn’t like it, but we made the most of it. Once we hit our 3 year commitment? We were outta here.
Finally, in 2004, the reality became clear. He was away on a last-minute deployment, working every job possibility he could locate that would take us from Oklahoma to … someplace else. I was in Oklahoma, having quit my job and doing the single parent shuffle in the final trimester of my high risk pregnancy. Though we prepared and searched … there weren’t any alternatives. We were here. And we were going to have to learn to embrace the suck.
When he came home, that’s what we did. We bought a house. I went back to work after a few months when it became clear that I wasn’t cut out for not having a job. We invested ourselves in our community a little more. We changed our state of residency. Voted in our local elections. We tentatively stepped out of the bubble we had put around ourselves, and we stepped into our lives and learned to bloom right where we were planted.
Really, it’s just all about the perspective.
Now, all these years later, he’s retired from the military and I no longer have that job. Our 2 anchors are no longer tied to us, but now we have anchors of a different sort. We’re invested in our community. Everything is familiar now, even the things we may not agree with. We have friends and loved ones and children who are full Okies.
It really is all about the perspective. When you decide to view a situation that you may not be thrilled for in a positive light versus a negative, it’s amazing how many positive facets that situation suddenly holds.
I can’t say for sure that I’ll live in Oklahoma for the rest of my life, but I can tell you that I will appreciate all the life that I do live here. I’m thankful for my Oklahomies and thankful that things turned out just the way they did.