When I came to Okinawa thanks to the Marine Corps, I remember feeling complete misery at leaving my family and friends back home for what seemed like forever. Three years is a long time to be away from those that you love, my heart was heavy and I had a pit in my stomach. Then I met someone who would become one of my best friends, in comes my neighbor, a fiery southern belle that over the last couple of years helped me to get out of my new mom rut and helped me to laugh again. She is always the type of friend that was there when my husband did things like forget an anniversary because he was gone on training and “didn’t have time”. In she came with a bottle of wine and an evening of talking under the influence, distracting me from feeling sorry for myself.
In Okinawa, service members were not allowed to go off base and drink. We took matters into our own hands and last year. With our husbands we both took on a project and decided to host wine nights every other week alternating houses to learn about wine with friends. Together we learned a lot and some of the most memorable times I had on this island were those nights where we would all bring a wine from a shop somewhere on the island learn about it and after the third bottle or so, we would start drawing inappropriate pictures on our tasting sheets. After the fourth bottle no one could be held accountable for how they described the taste of the wine. It was the only regular adult time I had out here. I will always remember how much we laughed. I’ll miss those nights.
I don’t have any extended family in Okinawa, she filled that void. I will miss our daily text messages saying “good morning” to each other. A daily reminder that we weren’t alone on this island. My son has become old enough now to protest when she leaves the room, she became a surrogate aunt for him. And when he protests he mirrors how I feel now, upset that she is leaving. But being an adult, I understand that this is life for people in the military. We meet people that touch our hearts, make us laugh and feel like family ignoring the fact that we will eventually part ways and set off on a new adventure. And if we’re lucky we’ll touch more hearts and laugh more along the way. All the way becoming better people for even the short time we had together.
Today she leaves Okinawa and I will say Sayonara to her and it takes me back to that feeling of having a heavy heart and a pit in my stomach when I came here and left my family a few years ago. It shows me how close we have grown as friends. I’ll remember all of the fun times we shared and I am grateful for having met her and want to wish her the best of luck in her new life back in the states. Someday when we are settled and cross paths again (bottle of wine in hand) I know we will think back on this time and smile. And while living on this miserable little island sucks sometimes and it pains me to say bye, I wouldn’t have traded any of it.