It’s been about a year since Joe’s contract term ended, releasing him from the reserves and letting us move on in life without worrying about someone else owning him. There’s a lot to be said for civilian life, but sometimes, I still think of things I miss about being a military wife. One of the great memories from our first year of marriage highlights one of them: Mandatory fun days.
Now, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that sticking the words “mandatory” and “fun” together means the the day is going to be anything but fun. For a lot of people, my husband included, “mandatory fun” meant “stuck in one place with a lot of people I don’t want to see and not having any fun at all.” It’s some sort of weird, magical happening, where you put the two words together and it automatically sucks all the fun right out of it.
Then there’s me.
This mandatory fun day in particular sent us and a ton of other Marines and their families to the beach. It was a really hot day and the Marines pretty much stood around looking sullen and glum, all because they had to be there. Joe was no exception, sulking on the sand with his arms crossed, scowling out at the Atlantic while I frolicked in the surf.
I loved it.
I jumped around in the water, ran on the beach, built sandcastles, hunted for sea shells. I was having a blast. Then while I was looking for shells, one of the other Marines came wandering up the beach, looking at the sand. He paused to ask if I’d found anything interesting and I showed him the shells and one sand dollar I’d scrounged up.
“I’m looking for shark teeth,” he said. “My sister found one on this beach while she was visiting last year. I’ve been looking ever since, but I haven’t found one yet. She just looked down and there it was!”
I glanced down. “Like this one?” I asked, bending over and picking up a black shark tooth from the sand.
He was mad. He didn’t curse (which surprised me) but he clenched his fists and shouted, kicked the sand and threw rocks at the sea.
I laughed. Joe laughed. And after that, mandatory fun suddenly became a lot of regular fun. We scoured the beach for more shark teeth. We found teeth in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some still quite sharp, all of them varying shades of black and gray. When it was time to go, we didn’t pack up right away, still scouting the surf for treasure. We ended up finding quite a few, putting them in my bucket with the shells we took home to keep.
I often miss the ocean, but because of memories like these, I definitely miss mandatory fun.