So I married the Navy guy when I was 16 and he was 22. He said he loved me and coming from where I did that was good enough. It really wasn’t good at all. I sucked at being a wife as much as he did at being a grown up. ‘Nuf said.
He was stationed at the Terminal Island Naval Station for a long time. We had been living in Naval housing for the last year. We moved there from the projects in Harbor City where I witnessed my first knifing. Two years after we married I had my first daughter and two years after that I was pregnant with my second.
A couple of months before my second daughter was due he got transferred to a ship that was being homeported at Bremerton WA. He told me that there was a two year waiting list for housing in Bremerton and that I would not be allowed to stay in Long Beach Naval housing once the ship moved to WA. Then he did absolutely nothing.
Later, while I was in the hospital giving birth (unattended…but that’s another story) the Navy movers came and packed up all our stuff and shipped it to Bremerton to go into storage. I brought my newborn home to an empty house to sleep for our last night on the floor in a sleeping bag. Then at 0 dark 30 I took my beloved husband to his ship where he climbed aboard and sailed away. I experienced a profound sense of relief even though I had nowhere to go.
I had some clothes for me and my girls, a big bag of disposable diapers, two sleeping bags, a couple of blankets, two pillows, a small tent, a foam ice chest, a couple of towels and my blue 1972 Pinto with an awesome, illegally chipped and amplified CB radio. We spent a couple of days sleeping on the floor of my husband’s brother’s house, bless his heart. I HAD just given birth a couple of days before and I was a little tired.
Then I heard from my oldest and dearest friend Mo. She was a corpsman in the Navy stationed in Quantico VA and she was getting married in 4 days. Since I had no previous engagements I decided I needed to go sing for her wedding. I had $300, two healthy, happy daughters and a good car. Using the sleeping bags and blankets I turned the back seat into a playpen. Filled the ice chest with victuals and hit the road.
Through the magic of CB radio, we convoyed with truckers going cross country. My handle was “California Blue Eyes.” They were my friends and advisors. When they pulled into a truck stop to sleep and gas up they had me park between them to keep us safe. They got us into the trucker’s showers at the stops so we stayed clean and sometimes bought us a meal. They were angels. God has always taken care of us.
My angels and I chatted and joked and sometimes got serious all the way from Buena Park to Quantico. We arrived the day before Mo’s wedding. 3 days to cross the country. To say she was surprised to see us would be a bit of an understatement. The base at Quantico has a kind of motel for service families. It was blessedly cheap and they even had a babysitting service so I could go to the wedding and not have to take my two year old and newborn. It was great. The wedding was a riot. We stayed there in Quantico for a little while. Then we hit the road again.
We did the grand tour. Visited DC, went south and stayed with relatives, played in the Atlantic Ocean, ate Sausage McMuffins with farmers at 5:30 AM at a McDonalds in Iowa surrounded by nothing but fields of corn, the parking lot full of tractors. I got us a free meal at an A & W in Nebraska for teaching the cook how to make frozen taquitos and to make edible guacamole out of the frozen bottle of green stuff that had them mystified. I can still hear her voice calling them “taquitters”
Sometimes the truckers would hire me to clean house for them. They’d take their wives out somewhere overnight and we’d stay there and watch their kids. I’d do some chores for them, put the kids to bed and do my laundry. I would get to sleep laying down in a real bed for a night. Heaven. The next day they would come home, pay me way too much and the girls and I would hit the road.
We camped out in Rocky Mountain National Park. After packing in to Hidden Lake for four days, we drove to the highest point, way above the treeline. The sky was grey and the place was deserted. The girls were asleep so I parked the car and sat on a nearby, lichen-covered rock and just worshipped. My heart swelled and I was overwhelmed as I sang old hymns into the silent grandure of the beauty spread out infinitely before me. That the incredible God that made these 14,000 ft mountains had brought us safely there. And when I thought I had reached the pinnicle of this state of grace…it started to snow.
I had never seen snow fall before. It was just a light sprinkling but it was enough to push me over the edge. The penultimate blessing. I sobbed with joy like a baby, facedown and humbled into silence and overcome with glory.
God has always taken care of me.