It’s tough to say we’re homesteaders. Traditionally, we aren’t. We don’t raise our own chickens and goats and cows. We don’t plow our fields and harvest rows and rows of wheat berries to grind into our own flour. We don’t maintain outhouse locations or mend fences or barter for deer meat because we couldn’t catch a second buck for the winter.
We don’t even fix our own plumbing. We have maintenance to do that for us. We have central air conditioning and a monthly rental bill. We are surrounded by grocery stores and convenience marts and cheap polyester clothing sales. We have WiFi and cell phones and social media accounts. We’re not homesteaders.
We’re too nomadic to be homesteaders. Living this military life forces us to pack up and move every two or three years. It forces us to build a wall around our hearts, steeling ourselves from those inevitable orders – the ones that take us away from the friends we finally just made and leaned on for the past eighteen months, who saw us through a deployment or difficult pregnancy or death of a family member. The fast friends you pray to God for every night, hoping they’ll understand your unwashed hair when you meet them at the playground in the morning.
This life forces us to call our parents about a pregnancy instead of surprising them in person. It forces us to miss births and birthdays and funerals and weddings because we live too far away and we just can’t afford those plane tickets again this year.
It forces us to watch our childhood friends slowly fade into extinction because we’ve been gone for too long and even though they try to understand, you know they probably never will.
It’s a life of hardship and pain and unrelenting sacrifice. It’s having to watch your spouse come home late again because she was only doing what she was told to do and got in trouble for it anyway.
It’s standing at the edge of an abyss of red, white, and blue, knowing you’re screaming and even though he can hear you, he has to stand tall and proud and jaw-clenched and ignore it, because those are his orders.
It’s a life of wondering if they’re coming home at all.
We’re not homesteaders.
We sign rental agreements and grab the keys and take a deep breath as we stand in our new-to-us empty living room. The white walls shout back at us with memories of the last military family to live here. Their Christmas tree stood in the corner where our air mattress sits, rolled up in waiting. The dog explores the back yard, sniffing out the good spots the last dog left behind.
The truck comes and the movers unload our couches and dressers – the only land we actually own, and we now have to check to make sure none of it’s broken or stolen or missing.
We look around, and we’re home. For now.
We suddenly miss our old home, even though we hated it. The heat from the unrelenting sun and the too-small house. This house is too big. Too much.
But fearlessly, we step forward into the sunrise of our new homestead, and we continue to grow. Like the two houseplants we managed to keep alive through a PCS and the tomato plant we’re trying to grow so our family can eat something not covered in hazardous chemicals for once.
It’s the people inside of it. The revolving door of neighbors and friends who wander in and out of our living rooms and lives. The babies we grow and teach and strive to blossom into people better than ourselves. It’s the family from afar that fly into town just to say they miss us.
It’s the echo of our best friend’s laughter bouncing off the walls during our weekly FaceTime calls.
It’s the care packages we so lovingly decorate, showering with glitter and love and hope. It’s the awful smell of CS gas that, after all of these years, somehow still clings to the pile of gear in the closet.
It’s the warm, gut-busting holiday feasts with our new friends and the lazy summer evenings around our patio table. It’s the hope of a steady growth each morning and the exhausted, contented smiles that drift off to sleep each night.
We’re not homesteaders, far from it. But we’re home creators. A quiet band of spouses united under these unspoken rules, striving to make the best of what hand we’re forced.
Building a homestead is so much more than just the number of buildings or the amount of land we own. In fact, we don’t even own land. But the world we foster in our temporary dwelling is bigger than that.
So much bigger.