Everyone deals with the inevitable separations of military life in their own ways, and though there is no replacement for our service member, the little things can be a big help.
My husband and I spent the first half of our marriage apart more than together (not a rare story for military couples). I wanted to crawl into every dufflebag that deployed with him but quickly realized that was not realistic or good for either of us in general. Before the days of Pinterest or viral Facebook ideas, I got creative and made him what I named, “Me in a Box”. (Please note: I also invented this before J.T. made a certain SNL skit popular; moving on…)
The concept was easy – buy a small box, small enough to fit discreetly in a footlocker or dufflebag, and fill it with miniature items that symbolized me and our relationship. I found a 4 in. x 4 in. box on clearance at Michaels, decoupaged a few stickers and a little framed picture of myself on the lid. I found small things around the house that had memories or purchased small items that would remind him of me: wooden ladybug, small glass figurine of a dog, coins from a recent trip to Italy, a piece of lace, a pin from our college alma mater, a mini vial of Givenchy perfume, and so on. When I set out on this project, I found myself absorbed and focused on how good it was making me feel and how much he would love it. I was totally unaware of the special moment it would create outside of what I was expecting.
Most of the items for the box were easily found, but I really wanted a small sample vial of a Givenchy perfume. My sister and I visited about 4 department stores and no one had any. I was pretty bummed, but we had one last stop at a Macy’s in Raleigh, N.C. A graceful, older woman in her seventies was working the counter and apologetically told me the same news – they had no samples. Sitting there on the counter was a very cool collector set of 7 miniature Givenchy bottles for holiday purchases, but I didn’t have $100 to spend.
The sales woman struck up conversation and asked, why I was interested in just a sample bottle if I knew I liked it so much? I explained my project to her and then grew quickly concerned as her head dropped and her eyes filled with tears. She could barely control the shake in her voice as she turned her back to me, picked up a phone, and talked for a few moments. She turned to me and said, “I’ve checked with the manager and I’d like you to have this without a purchase.”
She was GIVING me the entire collector set of little bottles?! I hesitantly replied with a confused thank you and asked why? She said, “I lost my young husband in Vietnam and would have wanted him to have every piece of me that he could carry with him too.” She then thanked me for my dedication as a young military spouse and our sacrifices as a young couple.
So in the spirit of military relationships, love, and the upcoming Valentine’s Day – take a moment to find/make something special for the one you love. There are some suggestions below to get you inspired, whether you’re missing a friend, sibling, child, parent, or significant other. You never know how the energy and good intentions will affect those around you!
Ideas for boxing up those feelings:
*Local postcards and pictures
*A puzzle piece from one the kids like to complete
*A personalized Road ID for them to wear when they go out for a run
*An earring or hair accessory
*Personalized or photo bookmark
*A piece from a board game you played together
*A special ornament from the Christmas tree
*A favorite coffee mug from home or design-your-own
*A clean wrapper or take-out receipt from a favorite food/restaurant
*A dryer sheet or freshly-laundered pillowcase
P.S. Don’t forget about yourself and your kids, if you have them. Try a Hero Doll or Daddy Doll! Please share your ideas with us. Feel free to post in the comments below or post on our Call Dibs Facebook Page.
Call Dibs, Brand Manager
*Proud Army Spouse*