Tag Archives: Memoir

Chapter One – Government Property – A Memoir of a Military Wife vs. A Civilian Wife


Chapter One

Government Property

It’s been said that when you join the military, you become government property: they own you. My husband was told that if he got a bad-enough sunburn, he could be court-martialed for destroying government property. There were lots of other things I thought were silly, but as a military dependent, I wasn’t important enough for anything. My role was to make sure that things were right for my husband, back him up, keep my mouth shut, and behave myself by following the rules no matter what I thought of them.

There were a lot of rules that we were expected to obey. He wasn’t allowed to wear his camouflage uniform (cammies, as they were known) in town unless he was in his car. We had to make sure he kept the car filled up, so he wouldn’t run into the problem of having to get gas and not be able to get out of the car to get it because he was in his cammies either on his way to or from work. We had to get out and pump our gas in North Carolina, and that included me. I was glad when we came back to New Jersey, and I didn’t have to pump my gas anymore since it is against the law here. He had to be in civilian clothes to be able to be outside the car in town.

While in uniform, there was no kissing or other public displays of affection allowed, including holding hands. There was even a rule against adultery in some places.

The soldiers were not allowed to put their hands in their pockets, despite having plenty of them. One of the reasons for that was to keep their right hands free for saluting their officers. No wonder, so many of them ended up standing at parade rest. They had no idea what to do with their hands. You could tell a military man by how he stood with his hands behind his back and his feet about ten inches apart.

They had to watch their language. No indecent language was allowed.

Haircuts were expected once a week, two weeks tops. Heaven forbid your hair got too long. Andy kept his short anyhow, as he had naturally curly hair, and the longer it was, it started to curl up.

While walking, they couldn’t eat, drink, or talk on their cell phone. There were no cell phones back when Andy was in the military, but that was a new rule when they became commonly used by just about everyone. When out with someone, they had to walk on the right side, so their right arm was free to salute. There was no walking on the grass unless they were training or mowing the lawn.

One rule that affected me was that his cammies had to be properly ironed every day. We couldn’t afford to take them to the cleaners to have them done, so I washed, starched, and ironed them all the time. This is not my ideal job, but as his wife, it was my duty to see that he was properly dressed. Ironing cammies is not easy.

Now, these were just some of the rules. There were many others, and some of them were downright stupid, but those were the ones that I could relate to at that point. We found a lot of them out by accidentally breaking them.

Andrew, known as Andy to most, had originally wanted to join the military and be on a submarine, just like his brother. It had been a dream of his, and this dream was destroyed when they found out we were planning on getting married and soon. We had already booked everything and mailed the invitations.

“You can enlist with us if you postpone your wedding. We need you now, and it’s not negotiable,” the recruiter told us. They could care less if our invitations were already being replied to, and the wedding gifts were starting to arrive.

I knew this was a dream of Andy’s, and I didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t know what he would say or do either. I waited with bated breath and looked first at him and then the recruiter, before sliding my eyes back to Andy.

“We can’t stop the wedding now. We are too far along. The gifts are already coming in. I will have to pass if you can’t make an exception for us.” Andy was calm and polite, but he was determined to keep our wedding date, and for that, I was eternally grateful to him. I knew how hard it was for him to give up that dream of being on a submarine just like his older brother.

 We got married as planned on July 10, 1976. We were only nineteen years old at the time. It was a medium-sized wedding with a reception right there in the church. We had cake and ice cream, along with chips, pretzels, and punch. We had no choice as my parents could only afford five hundred dollars, and I had to plan and hold the wedding and reception on that budget. We had nothing saved to add to it.

My wedding gown was a simple long white dress, bought two sizes too small so that I would have to lose the extra weight I had gained (which I did). My maid of honor, my sister Debbie, and the bridesmaids, Kathy Bradley, and Gail Anderson, had dresses that came off the clearance rack for twelve dollars each. No changes needed to be made to any of their dresses. I couldn’t believe my luck since the cost of my sister’s dress had to come out of my small budget as well.

The ceremony was held in the Lutheran church in Wenonah, New Jersey, and my biggest problem with having it there was that they didn’t have pews, only metal chairs. To me, that wasn’t a church. I couldn’t change churches as my favorite pastor was there, and I wanted him to perform the ceremony.

I was now Mrs. Andrew Smeigh. No one can pronounce or spell it. I should have kept my maiden name of Dean. It wasn’t as common back then for the wife to keep her maiden name, and I am old-fashioned anyway and would have taken my husband’s name no matter what it was. Just like I would follow him anywhere, and not too long after that I followed him to North Carolina when another recruiter from a different branch called and said he could enlist with them even though he was already married.

My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I drove down to South Carolina for the graduation from boot camp. I had lost a lot of weight, but he had too, plus he was bald due to having to shave his head for boot camp. I didn’t recognize him at first. I know he was surprised when he saw me as well because I looked good. While he was gone, I’d had no money except for what my part-time job paid me because the military messed up my allotment, and I didn’t get it for the thirteen weeks he was gone. Not much food and exercising by running around the long block had made me drop all the weight I had gained after we got married.

After he had graduated from the thirteen-week boot camp with a meritorious promotion to Private First Class, we went home directly from the graduation and packed all our belongings into boxes, and we were ready to load the car for our trip to North Carolina for his training. All the boxes I had packed did not fit in the car, and finally, in exasperation, Andy ripped them open and just dumped all the contents into the trunk and back seat, and we left behind what didn’t fit. We had a long car trip from New Jersey to North Carolina, and we needed to get started. He had been given ten days of leave till he needed to be at his duty station for training, plus one day for traveling.

After a very long drive, we arrived late that night at the building on the base where Andy was supposed to report for training. Since we were already married when he enlisted, it never crossed our minds that they would have a problem with him bringing me along after boot camp.

It was dark, and we were later than we should have been, but we’d had no idea where we were going. Finally getting out of the car at the designated building, he went first and stood at attention. I slumped in behind him.

Looking at the faces of those soldiers was not a pleasant experience. Not only were we late, but he’d also arrived with someone they were not expecting.

“Who is that?” one of the men asked, and we could see that none of them were amused.

“My wife, sir!” I wished I could disappear at this point.

“What did you plan to do with her?”

“Sir, we have money saved, since they never started the allotment to her during boot camp, so we were going to get a place to live in town.”

They talked among themselves. The recruiter knew we were married, and we had expected rejection since his first choice had already turned him down. But the recruiter said it was not a problem, so Andy had signed up and gone to boot camp. These guys were uninformed of the fact that he was married and it seemed that they had not been in this position before. They went back to the conversation about what to do about me.

I don’t know how Andy felt, but I wanted to cry. I was tired because of all the packing and repacking. Add in the long trip and being in a place I didn’t know, and the only person I knew was my husband. We waited with bated breath.

They finally made a decision. There were specific rules since Andy wouldn’t be living in the barracks like the other recruits, but we could live with them. I had to drive him onto the base to the barracks very early every morning, and then pick him up every night once training was over for the day. He was required to take his turn doing guard duty at the barracks, called Fire Watch, and on those nights, he had to stay overnight. On the days they had a field day, which was a deep cleaning of the whole barracks, he had to participate in that as well.

We found a mobile home park just a short way off the base. It was called Yopps Mobile Home Park in Sneads Ferry, NC, and every day I drove him to the barracks and back home. It wasn’t far at all. I kept myself occupied driving the other wives around during the day shopping, doctor appointments, etc. That was until the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

Chapter Two of my Book “Government Property – Memoir of a Military Wife vs. a Civilian Wife”


This is Chapter Two. If you missed Chapter One click here and go back and read it first.

Andy and I at approximately 16 years old and me in one of the short shorts I made a lot of and a short top I wore similar to those I always wore. Ah, to be young and thin!

Teresa Dean at age 16 in my bikini. I was a born flirt.

Teresa Dean at age 17 in my hip huggers. In winter I lived in these types of hip-huggers.

Teresa Dean Smeigh at age 19, just 6 months after we got married. Andy was in boot camp and I had to send a picture of me in my bathing suit to be hung on the board. He was the only one married there, but he put me on the board anyhow. He was proud of me.

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Chapter Two

Eyes Left

I was an exhibitionist and a born flirt from my preteen years to my mid-adult years. In real life, men were always attracted to me even when I gained the extra weight, and I  couldn’t help myself when it came to flirting. I remember one year, my mom watched me, and she turned to my sister and said, “She still has it.” I had been flirting for something I wanted. Men just naturally gave me things for free. Later on, my husband started to send me into the auto parts stores because there was a good chance the man working the counter would give me the item.

My self-esteem rose when I knew a man was excited by me. I dressed very skimpily whenever I could. I needed proof that I was somebody, be it hot, sexy, pretty, whatever. I just felt like I was nothing all of my life.

My first real job was as a salesgirl for Wanamakers in the mall in Deptford, NJ. The mall was still in the process of being built, but several stores, including Wanamakers, were already open. I never thought about there being a dress code; after all, I was just a teenager. On my first day, I arrived at work in my usual attire of a micro-mini skirt and a tight top that barely covered my stomach.

My boss took one look at me and said, “I won’t send you home right now because we need you, but you need to lower your skirts to your knees or wear pants. And all tops must cover your stomach.”

That wouldn’t be easy as my wardrobe didn’t contain many of those. I spent the next couple of days sewing suits – pants, skirts, and a matching jacket, and I got some shirts to wear with the jacket. More sewing than I usually did since most things I made didn’t take more than a half a yard of material. A suit with a pair of pants and a skirt with a jacket took a lot of work. I made a couple, and each could make two outfits, and I worked part-time, so I had enough for the week. The pants I usually wore weren’t acceptable either because I wore hip huggers since my waist was about 16 to 18 inches tops. I had an hourglass figure and had to buy the pants to fit my hips.

At that point, I weighed 86 pounds and had a large chest. I loved it when men gawked at me. Even better was when traffic would stop as men stared at me, almost causing a few traffic accidents. Those days it would make me feel so good about myself. I was a teenager and didn’t know any better. Like I mentioned earlier, I would make my clothes and would make lots of short shorts, short tops and halters and of course micro-mini skirts. I had a sexy body, and I knew it. I loved to show it off. If a man was around, he was usually attracted to me and stared. Nowadays, there would probably be just as many women openly admiring me as men since everyone is coming out of the closet.

Now that I was married and in North Carolina with my husband, I resumed my behavior after an incident that happened one day while I was taking him lunch on base. Our mobile home park was close enough that I could drop him off in the morning and return at lunchtime with his food, so he didn’t have to eat just sandwiches. I could cook him something hot and bring it just as easy.

So every day I made his lunch and drove it to him on base. On the first day, I found the parking lot where he could locate me and sat in my car with the door open, and I sat sideways in my seat with my legs out and on the ground. I was nervous. It was hot, and I wore short shorts and a halter.

Then I could hear a group of men coming as they were marching to a military cadence. It was fascinating to watch them marching in unison and repeating the rhythm their leader was shouting. It was mesmerizing.

What I wasn’t ready for was as they came abreast of my car was the leader shouting, “Eyes left!” The platoon, as a whole, turned to face my car and took in the sight of me sitting there skimpily dressed.

It was very disconcerting at first having all those eyes fastened on me. I eventually got used to it happening and provided visual entertainment for the troops most days. My exhibitionism was back in full swing. I didn’t know it then, but there was a dress code for both military and dependents, and I was in violation of it in those clothes while on base. Since I didn’t get out of the car, it wasn’t a big deal, but it meant not getting out to spend time with my husband while I insisted on dressing like that and for that matter, it was frowned upon if you kissed in public. They had a rule against public displays of affection so we couldn’t even kiss goodbye when I left. They certainly had a lot of rules. It eventually became I drove up, waited, he came to me, and I handed him his lunch, and without a kiss, he headed out to eat.

As fall approached and the temperatures were cooling down, I had to change my wardrobe anyhow and start to wear maternity clothes. I was quite large, and you couldn’t miss that baby, and so people stared at me for that. Strangers would come up and touch or rub my belly. There’s something about a pregnant woman, especially a tiny one with a large belly. I was still under 100 pounds at the beginning. Sorry to say I never saw that number again after the first child. Each child caused an increase in my weight, which I have never been able to get rid of to this day.

Writing about the Military is not going to work very well.


I did some research and there is a large list of words and I mean just words that are trademarked and require permission to use. Believe it or not Just simply the word Marine if it pertains to the military is trademarked and requires a license to use.

Using it occasionally here and there is not going to be an issue I would think, but writing a book and using all those words and such could be big trouble. I found the military wives website and it uses that quote I used in the book name and chapter one. It talks about copyrights and such. It seems like it is going to be more problems than it is worth. I don’t want to get in trouble legally and it is such an important part of my book. I don’t know how I am going to rewrite this to be what I wanted it to be. I had a specific plan in mind and now I find all this stuff is trademarked and needs licensing to use.

I am glad that I got the inclination to look it up. The thought popped into my mind. The government in any form is something I don’t want to get involved with.

And chapter 2 about the skimpy dressing on base is against the dress code which I completely forgot about. I should have remembered. My ex-husband couldn’t get out of his car on the way to the base if he was in his camouflage. They were not allowed to be worn off base. I don’t know if I knew the dress code when I was dressing like that, but I didn’t get out of the car for the most part anyhow.

This really sucks. My whole project has come to a halt.

Tessa

Advocate for mental health and invisible illnesses, also a devout Christian

Author – http://www.finallyawriter.com (this blog contains my old work mostly although occasionally I do add something new here), new work is mainly on this blog http://www.tessacandoit.com

Memoir Emerging


I am really surprised that I have been able to stay focused on learning how to write memoir while starting to write as well. I have already written many non-fiction pieces and so the bones are there, it is a matter of embellishing them enough to either be a chapter on their own or find similar stories that can be combined into a chapter and in some cases breaking them down into separate chapters. The more I write, the more I remember.

It is hard picking a specific time of life and basing it on that period of time with some flashbacks or glimpses into the future. I don’t want it to be a book of non-stop complaining about the cards life dealt me and some things other people might take exception to finding themselves portrayed in a bad way. And I wouldn’t blame them.

I still don’t know if I will ever get to the point of publishing it or not, but it is a good project for the family at least. And it will be the answer to the pull to write a book most people have. I am, even if it doesn’t make it to publication, I am writing one.

All this writing has been cutting into my reading time for the book group. I didn’t finish my last one I was supposed to read as I was reading research books on writing memoir and writing memoir as well as still doing the prompt writing.

And we can’t forget the extra sleep I have been doing instead of reading or writing. I am fighting some depression some and that means I will take to my bed and try to forget the world and fall asleep.

Now that I am in two writing groups I have certain writing I must do for that. Some are reworked pieces from the blog. I am still revamping my blogs too, just another project to keep me busy and to recycle pieces for the 2 writing groups. Plus some pieces I just don’t like. They were my first pieces or prompt writing that didn’t quite make the grade for me as my writing improves with time.

Tessa

Advocate for mental health and invisible illnesses, also a devout Christian

Author – http://www.finallyawriter.com (this blog contains my old work mostly although occasionally I do add something new here), new work is mainly on this blog http://www.tessacandoit.com