The last place Rob was stationed before leaving the Navy was in Norfolk, Virginia. And let me tell you a little secret: when we found out we were being sent to Norfolk, I cried. Out of horror.
At the time, back in 2009, we were living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Hawai’i. I had just graduated with my master’s degree, was performing really cool music all over the place, was an apprentice with Hawai’i Opera Theater, and just had my debut title role with them as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel. Times were good.
I’d loved Hawai’i (it did take me about a year to adjust – a story for another time), and was not ready to leave. The Navy was going to have to drag me away kicking and screaming.
We knew for certain that we would have to leave, since Hawai’i wasn’t even on the slate when Rob’s turn rolled up. The slate is the basically the military term for a list of available jobs. The Navy allows you to go through the slate and list your top choices from 1-10. We thought we would get sent to a place that was on our preference list, since Hawai’i was #3 the last time and that turned out well.
Norfolk was not one of jobs we preferenced. If we were able to submit a “please, do not send us here” list it would have ranked #2. Georgia was #1.
So imagine our shock when the orders came through. We opened the email all excited to see what adventure was in store for us. And what do we see? Norfolk. Norfolk? Are you sh**ing me??
After finding out we were being sent there, I remember calling up a friend who had been stationed there, in a partial panic. He assured me that it would be okay – to just stay clear of the “bad” areas. Comforting.
Now this city had a terrible reputation with the military community and once you looked into the history, you could sympathize. However, Norfolk had actually changed quite a bit, so that reputation wasn’t accurate anymore.
So, when we arrived, I was expecting the worst. The only bonus that kept somewhat of a smile on my face was that most of my extended family lives in Virginia. My parents are from Virginia. I grew up spending the summers in Virginia. Even my middle name is Virginia! I consoled myself thinking, at least we are within driving distance to see family!
I shake my head at myself now at the nonsense of it all. So what ended up happening when we moved to Virginia?
First and most importantly, Rob had a normal 9-5 job that was mostly stress-free. We had time. Together. Priceless.
We discovered Unitarian Universalism and joined a community. Through that community, we received so many precious gifts.
Our spirits were fed. I was able to sing whenever I wanted, almost whatever I wanted at services. I was hired to direct the choir, which was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. And most importantly, we found a solid group of friends. Several other couples around our age, going through the same life changes.
Those friendships grew and once it was time to leave Norfolk, we knew that it wouldn’t, it couldn’t be the end of those friendships.
We maintained contact by messaging each other occasionally and visiting whenever possible. The best thing we’ve done is to have a “getaway” semi-regularly. Our first one was actually when I was about 5 months pregnant with Pookie. We met in Charlottesville, VA.
And this past weekend, over Memorial Day, we all got together again in Buchanan, VA.
Being together is so amazing. Things are different, yet the same. There are more kiddos now, but it’s incredible how we can all just pick up right where we left off.
I miss them a lot when we’re back home, and the community we shared together. I wish I could still see them every Sunday and invite them over for BBQs, but that’s not what life is offering us right now.
Perhaps in the future, but perhaps not. Either way, these friends add so much to our lives, that we must nurture these relationships. I remind myself to reach out, stay in touch, and take those dream getaways.
Thank you Norfolk and the friends we made there. It’s a good reminder that you never know what the future holds for you and you may find gems in the most unlikely places.
Friends forever. <3