This the story of how I became “The Happy Housewife.” You might want to start at the beginning.
Life in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. No welcome packet, sponsor letter, or phone call could have really prepared me for life on the island.
I realized about an hour after arriving that the island was all about community. No one had any family there, everyone was a new friend, and communication outside of the island (except email) was pretty limited. Your friends became your family.
There were no cell phones and dial-up internet on a good day took 20 to 30 minutes to connect. We were truly isolated from the world.
And I loved it…. most of the time.
While the kids and I were settling in to our lives in GTMO, Sailor was miserable. Everything the detailer and people at the hospital told him about the job wasn’t true. One day in frustration he asked one of his co-workers, “why didn’t you tell me about this when I called down here last year and talked to you?”
The co-worker responded, “If I had told you the truth, would you have come?”
Sailor was scheduled to work about forty-eight hours a week and then was on call for another forty. He wore a pager so he could be reached at any time. Since the hospital was so small there was only one nurse on duty at a time. If things got busy they called him in, this seemed to happen on a daily basis.
Since the detainees arrived in GTMO the island population had doubled with all the temporary military stationed there. They had their own medical facilities but all emergencies went through the main ER. What had been a slow, see one patient a day job had turned into a nintey hour a week job and Sailor was miserable.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like working ninety hours a week, he just didn’t like working all those hours as a nurse. He began seriously planning his transfer out of the Nurse Corps.
I threw myself into the community because I knew that was the only way to survive our tour. Sailor and I had already decided to send our children to the school on base so I started the process of registering them and meeting other families at the school.
We were known as the big family on base. There was one other family who had more kids than we did, but they kept to themselves and no one really knew them. Since I involved us in every activity the base had to offer we were soon known by almost everyone.
Every Friday night the base offered free movies at the outdoor theatre. This was a big event (since there wasn’t a whole lot to do down there) so we loaded up the kids and headed down to watch the free movie, munch on fifty-cent popcorn and meet some new people.
I was particularly excited about this night because the doctor who delivered our third baby had just moved to Cuba. I had met his wife briefly at a picnic the week before and I was looking forward to getting to know her better.
After the movie ended I found my doctor’s wife and we started talking while my four-month-old baby sat happily in his car seat on the ground. Sailor was in and out of the conversation and after a while we realized I needed to grab a bag of bedding from the doctor’s car that I had let them borrow.
We headed over to the car and continued to talk and talk. In fact we talked so long that I looked up and saw Sailor driving out of the parking lot in our minivan. I waved my arms at him (because I was not in the van and didn’t want to walk home) and he drove off.
I couldn’t believe Sailor left me at the movie theatre!
The doctor’s wife offered to give me a ride home (it was only a three minute drive) and I got into the car. As we were driving to the house I was getting irritated that Sailor left me at the theatre, what was he thinking? We had only lived there a few weeks and I sure wasn’t comfortable walking home by myself!
We pulled up in the driveway and we chatted a few more minutes. I got out of the car as Sailor was walking out of the house.
“How could you leave me at the theatre???” I asked in my not-so-happy voice.
“I didn’t leave you, I thought you already left.” Sailor responded in his not-so-happy voice.
“How could I have left…we only own one car!!!” I responded.
As I started to walk towards Sailor he looked at me and in a serious tone asked,
“Where’s the baby?”
“With you.” I responded calmly.
“No, he was with you.” Sailor said, his tone growing worried and angry at the same time.
What happened next was a loud exchange between Sailor and I debating the responsibilities of parents to make sure all the children are accounted for before leaving any place. We continued to argue, blaming one another for leaving the baby, until the doctor’s wife calmly interrupted.
“Would you like to go back to the theatre and get him?”
We headed back to the theatre and there was our four-month old sitting happily in his seat exactly where he was when we left. One of Sailor’s coworkers was standing next to the car seat talking to someone, waiting for us to realize we had forgotten the baby.
We had lived in GTMO for less than a month and we already had gained the reputation of the family that is so big they can’t remember to take all their kids with them.
This was going to be fun.