It's the middle of September, and it feels like something is missing. Some of us are pulling on boots and cardigans and sipping hot lattes at the bus stop. Others are rocking a messy bun and yoga pants while acting as tech support and tutor at home.
But one thing that usually brings us all together is missing this year: the military ball.
Not everyone loves ball season. Even those of us who enjoy the event don't love the buildup and the stress. But there's just something about seeing your service member in their fancy uniform and enjoying a night out that makes all the rest of the mess that happens during the year worth it.
But this year, there is no ball.
I'm not sure about your installation, but mine hasn't had a ball all year. We were going to have one in February; I'm not sure why it was canceled. Our unit ball in March was a no-go for obvious reasons, and no others even made the calendar.
For a while, I held out hope that a holiday event might be possible, but we can't even get the kids back in school five days a week -- never mind a gathering of more than a few families.
There are many positive things about a ball -- things that I genuinely look forward to every year -- that I'll miss this year.
- I'll miss meeting my spouse's coworkers. There aren't many opportunities for me to meet them, especially this year. But I hear his stories and their voices on the conference calls he takes in the living room, which often makes me feel like I know them. So when I get to put the face with the name at the ball -- and meet their significant other -- I feel like it completes the circle.
- I'll miss the traditions. I'm a sucker for Army tradition. From the receiving line to the toasts, I love it all. I like seeing retired service members come to life when they share their stories, and I like seeing the brand-new lieutenants and privates realize this Army thing is bigger than they thought. I love it all.
- I'll miss being on his arm. I'm not a girly girl; I spend most of my time in gym clothes. But I do love getting dressed up and watching my husband introduce me to people. There's something about how he looks at me, appreciating the extra effort I put in and admiring the fact that I'm willing to meet new people and talk to strangers all night long. We're a team, and he makes me feel like it.
- I'll miss making a fuss over him in his uniform. There aren't many occasions when the mess dress comes out of the closet, but I swoon every time. There's just something about that uniform. I know he takes pride in putting it together, making sure everything is placed just right and reliving some of the memories from the almost 20 years he's worn it.
- I'll miss the memories we make. Sometimes, the ball is the only date night we get. Sometimes, we attend with friends, and sometimes we make new friends. Sometimes, we close down the event and others we sneak out early. Whatever we do on ball night is special. We take photos, we exchange smiles, we make new memories.
So this year, there's no built-in date night with a ball gown and mess dress. There's no excuse to get my hair done or a pedicure. There will be no dancing with friends while we try to forget we aren't in college anymore. And, my kids would agree this is the worst part, no cake.
Instead, I think we'll take a walk down memory lane. We'll look at the years of ball photos we've taken, remember some of the memories we've made and agree to attend every single ball we can next year.
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