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Pimping out homecomings.

May 27, 2010

*Cross posted from my personal blog*

I got to thinking… and my thinking got me to formulating a blog post, and this post will likely ruffle some feathers, so my thinking might get me in a spot of trouble. That being said, please don’t be offended dear readers! I’m not speaking specifically to anyone and I’m really just trying to explore this topic and how we share and what we share and where the lines in the sand are for each of us.

So, Pioneer Woman is doing one of her photography assignments, which I love even though she never picks mine (but she did pick one of Brits!). Apparently the ‘happiness’ assignment last week garnered a ton of military homecoming posts, so this week’s assignment is coming home. Specifically, the military kind (though near as I can tell other non-military permutations of the theme are allowed). And oh, are there submissions. Like coming out of the woodwork. (Sort of made me feel like we were a much bigger community than we really are! Crazy!).

Now, even though I’m a MilSpouse and we just had a homecoming and I am a total photography junkie… I don’t have a submission to send in. Are you shocked? Well, I will tell you why. First- practicality. I didn’t know anyone when I PCS’d down here so when Swiss came home shortly thereafter I didn’t have anyone to come with me to photograph it- his family didn’t come down either, so I was flying solo. Second- weather. It was raining and cold and crappy and muddy and the whole shin-dig was outside. This doth not a pretty scene make. Thirdly- and most importantly (to me)- privacy. Plain and simple, that was an epic moment between Swiss and I that I just couldn’t bear to share with anyone else, let alone strangers.

See, I’m VERY protective of that moment. That was the culmination of a suck-tastic year… so much time apart, so much heartache and difficulties, so much worry and fear and the emotional roller coaster… that homecoming ceremony, that moment when we were reunited was something precious we both earned with sweat, tears and 365 days/ 7,000 miles of distance. I sort of feel like sharing that moment with anyone is letting them get all the good of a deployment (at least the feel-good buzz and warm fuzzy feeling) without putting in any of the work. I know that might seem ridiculous to many of you, but there it is. That was, and always will be, OUR moment. Not for public consumption. Not for pimping. Not for awards. Not for blog comments. Not to make anyone else feel good. Not to drive home some point about these wars. Ours. Alone. Because we earned it.

Is that 84 shades of over-dramatic? Some might think so… and of course y’all are entitled to that, without a doubt. But there is just something about seeing all these photos pouring into the blog-o-sphere that makes me cringe. Sure, they are touching and emotional and offer a window into our lifestyle that many don’t get to see. But maybe that is the issue. They don’t get to see the nights waiting by the phone, feverishly checking e-mails, they don’t get to see the panic when a dark sedan rolls past the house a little too slowly for comfort, or the fear when there is a knock at the door. They don’t get to see the nights you lay awake crying because all you want in this whole world is just to feel him close again, smell him, hold him. They don’t get to watch us struggle with managing an entire household, a family alone. Nor do they get to watch us feverishly put together care packages and write letters because it is all you can do and you just have to stay busy or it will consume you. They don’t see the lonely nights alone, the missed holidays, the spectacular crashes so many of us feel after R&Rs. They don’t see all the things that go into that homecoming. They are spectacular because of the year that preceded them and all that the couple endured, together. They are spectacular because they aren’t superfluous, there is weight and meaning behind them, they are spectacular because they were hard-fought, they were earned.

Have you noticed that we don’t share the crappy stuff (except with each other)? When strangers ask, “How do you do it?” we always reply, with a shrug and some easy, practiced comment about how we just do. We rarely ask for help during deployments… we bear that burden -mostly- alone. Camera crews don’t show up to document how hard deployments are on families and no one orders a photo shoot to capture just how sucky that time was. (Can you just imagine? A photographic reminder of all the sad, lonely nights on the couch with the dog and a glass- or 3- of wine? DEPRESSING!) Why won’t we let the public see the crappy stuff, but when they ask for the glorious, hard-earned, emotional, intensely personal homecoming p0rn, we send the photos flying out the door faster than you can say “Cheese!”?

Is it pride? Is it some sort of statement- political or otherwise? Is it just about sharing? Or… is it the attention? The blog numbers bump? The publicity? (Gaw, I’m so cynical!) What is it that makes so many of us share these intensely personal moments, in great detail, with perfect strangers and non-military folks? Just looking at the photos on the flickr page makes me feel a little pervy and like a Peeping Tom. Knowing how I feel about our homecoming, seeing photos of other’s out there leaves me feeling a little dirty, like I saw something I shouldn’t have been privy to. Yet, there they are, on tremendously public sites like flickr or the Pioneer Woman… willingly, enthusiastically put our there for anyone and everyone to see. Like its no big deal. Its almost as if the MilSpouses of the world took this ‘recognition’ from a civilian blogger and were so wanting to be included and made to feel special that they couldn’t toss those personal moments into the ring fast enough. I’m certain that isn’t the case for all of them, but I’d be willing to bet its the case for many.

I am sure I offended some of you, and that wasn’t my intention at all. We are, obviously, all free to do whatever we choose and we are allowed to disagree. I’m mostly just trying to understand the whys and wherefores behind sharing these moments. What is it about sharing these photographs that makes you want to do it? What do you get out of it? Are there any of you who have shared them and wished they hadn’t – or vice versa? How do you feel when you see other’s photos of homecomings? I’m tremendously interested in how people choose to share and what they choose to share- it is always a fine line- especially for us bloggers and Facebook users. So, please, tell me what you think about all of this, even if you think I’m nuts!!!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. KittyEnglish permalink
    May 27, 2010 12:12 pm

    You know what? I agree with every word you just wrote there lady! 100%! This is something that’s bugged the hell out of me for ages. You just want to enjoy the moment and for it just to be you and him and NOT have some TWAT with a camera in your face (as happened to me and believe me, I let her know that if she didn’t get lost posthaste, I would be shoving that camera up where the sun didn’t shine!!!)

    Deployment is hell and the homecoming is the sweetest thing ever but it’s private and that doesn’t seem to be respected.

    I kind of found the same with the actual deployment day too. People going around wanting us to pose with our soldiers just before they deployed…AS IF!

  2. Wishful Bohemian permalink
    May 27, 2010 1:26 pm

    Wow. I’m not sure why I never thought of it that way before, but I can certainly see now where you’re coming from. It IS a precious earned moment. As a milspouse AND a photography junkie I want to embrace it all – the privacy and the poetry. But you’re right – there is an imbalance. For me, however, I think that’s going to encourage me to share the not-so-brave-face stuff of our next deployment. I feel like I want to share my experiences, and there’s no reason the tears and the frustration shouldn’t be included, too. Also, I think I’ll be more sensitive to the privacy of homecoming picts. So thanks for this.

  3. michelle permalink
    May 27, 2010 2:11 pm

    I 100% agree! One sappy snapshot can capture the joy we feel but it can’t see behind the joy. There’s so much more. It can’t capture that moment (I know you all know what I mean) that moment when he’s standing in front of you and you just feel it be over. It’s lifted off you and you didn’t even know how much of a burden it was. your husband (or wife) is back home, in one piece, safe and sound, is just beyond words. A picture just shows the joy. But it doesn’t show everything.

    I have wanted to do a daily photo project – 365 days of deployment – to photograph the mundane things that happen to us, from the child home with the flu puking his brains out and you trying to keep up with the laundry, to the 3 glass of wine and netflix nights. To the times when you sit alone at the parent teacher conferences to the times you sit alone in church, or the empty seat at the dinner table. All those photos that make up deployment and THEN the joy that comes at the end.

    These photos on pioneer woman are like are like eating the frosting off some strangers cake you found in the break room at work. Meaningless.

    • May 27, 2010 7:11 pm

      Michelle – if you would want to xpost this on LeftFace, we’d be honoured to host it. seriously – we need to let the rest of the world see the little things that drag us down, that lift us up, and that make our lives what they are. Please. if you do this, let us be a part of it.

  4. May 27, 2010 2:35 pm

    Wow! Y’all made some GREAT points! Thanks for sharing them!

    Michelle- I love you Deployment 365 idea- what a creative way to capture all the STUFF that is behind that homecoming joy- I wish I had thought of that! And BTW- I LOVED your analogy to the photos on PW being like eating the frosting off a strangers cake- PERFECT!!!

    Thanks again Ladies! Keep the comments coming!

  5. sreysaw permalink
    May 27, 2010 3:30 pm

    Michelle – please do the 365 days of deployment piece- keep us updated!

  6. MW Green permalink
    May 28, 2010 10:07 am

    I could not stop nodding with everything you wrote. I’ve seen others post their homecoming pictures on Facebook and always felt odd seeing them, but never could really figure out why until you put it into words. I was glad no one with a camera was around when my husband came home. I just wanted to hug him and soak him in, letting the past months and sadness melt away. I did really like that a picture a day idea, great stuff.

  7. May 28, 2010 11:08 am

    I agree with everything Tucker said, and pretty much all the comments, as well! Homecoming is such a SPECIAL moment for us, because it signifies the end of a very hard time. I am more than happy to let people know (and I have, via my blog and facebook) that he is HOME, safe with me, but thats all they get. I don’t think that people deserve anymore than that.

    Tuck, I had the same thoughts you did when I saw PW’s new photo assignment. My first thought was, “umm .. wow .. I only have ONE photo and its totally a crappy one because I’m crying” and that was quickly followed up with this weird feeling, like I was invading somebody’s privacy. There are so many REAL moments there, that I don’t feel good enough to see. I haven’t been back since day 2 of the assignment.

    Kudos. Good article.

  8. June 30, 2010 1:35 pm

    I’m not offended. I like sharing moments like that with the world (after editing out any identifying info), but that’s how I roll. How you do things is your business.

    Rock on with the keeping your homecomings personal. 🙂

  9. Melissa permalink
    July 15, 2010 2:28 pm

    In all the years that I’ve been participating in homecoming ceremonies with my husband, it never occured to me to think about them in this way. In all honesty, sometimes I actually longed to have a photograph of our homecoming, but never did, and was sad because of it. Finally, after a 15 month tour in Afghanistan, someone attended the welcome home ceremony with me and used my camera to take the photos. After the ceremony was over and we were back in the hotel room (had to drive from Ft. Benning to Ft. Riley to meet the plane), I checked out the photos. I promptly deleted them. Not because I looked fat, or because the light was low, or because my mascara was running, but because NOTHING — no photograph — could ever come close to capturing that moment. It was our moment. Our private moment. And we had earned it. I didn’t need those photos afterall. Thanks.

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