A week before Dustin came home for good after being relieved of his last military command, we had a conversation on text that went like this:

Me: I can’t wait until you’re here for all the baseball games.

Him: Me, too.

Me: It’s starting to feel real.

Him: Yes. Help me remember that the moving van arrives the first Wednesday I’m home.

Me: Wait, what? Moving van?

Him: Yes, delivering all my stuff from the apartment.

Me: Stuff ? We’re keeping all that? How many boxes?

Him: Just remember how glad you are that I’m home.

I get very stressed by “stuff.” In fact, in the days before Dustin and I had the above exchange, I had taken 10 bags of “stuff” to the Goodwill and three bags to the dump. In all my countdowns and celebrations regarding Dustin’s return home, I forgot about the “stuff” that would come with him.

Let’s go back for a moment to the winter of 2014. The boys and I were staying at our apartment in Washington, D.C., visiting Dustin while he was working at the Pentagon. One of the boys wanted a yogurt, and I found one in the fridge after peering past stacks of leftover pizza and cans of beer and soda. But I couldn’t find a spoon.

There were takeout salt packets and napkins in a top drawer next to the stove, the first place I’d ever look for a utensil. There were about 400 Styrofoam cups lying on their side in the second drawer next to the stove. But I didn’t find spoons until I looked in a bottom drawer that was not near the stove. Now, I realize I’m picky, but a large and deep bottom drawer would not be my first choice to place a tray of eating utensils.

I scratched my head about this for a long time. Had I not taught my husband anything? And then, as the years and commands passed, things got worse. Utensils showed up in stranger places, and the fridge was filled almost entirely with condiments.

My husband was living like a bachelor.

Now, he was bringing all that “stuff” back home to me.

Before the movers arrived on Wednesday, Dustin put both hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes and said, “I love you. Just remember that. And, please, go easy on me.”

The first boxes were easy. Most of them were filled with clothes that were too small for my husband, but he had packed them anyway. The next set of boxes were more difficult. Remnants of my husband’s quasi-bachelor life began to surface: golf tees, footballs, and a set of knives that he probably bought after seeing them advertised on a late-night infomercial. I told Dustin we already have kitchen knives. He looked uncomfortable as I moved the knives to the “giveaway” pile. He shifted his weight between his feet, and I knew he wanted to assure me that those knives could cut through a shoe if we ever needed to do that sort of thing.

But then, before we could get to the last box, Dustin told me we should go to bed. He seemed panicked. “Let’s stop while we are ahead,” he said. “And while you still love me.”

I opened the box anyway. And when I pulled off the protective sheet of crumpled packing paper on top, I gasped out loud. Coffee mugs. My husband had brought home coffee mugs.

Through the years, I have written at least three columns about my husband’s affinity for coffee mugs and his absolute refusal to throw any away. One time, he followed garage sale shoppers around our front yard and “rescued” coffee mugs from their possession, telling them “these aren’t for sale.” He’s tried to convince our sons that coffee mugs make great catchalls for pens and coins, and he’s stashed in their rooms mugs that I have turned away.

I never saw all these mugs in our apartments in D.C. and Rhode Island. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. If we use the spoons as an example, the mugs could have been in a bottom cabinet in the laundry room. But now they were sitting on the kitchen counter in our home, and I was losing my mind.

Dustin tried to distract me by bringing out old pictures of our boys from the bottom of the box. He pulled out a copy of one of our wedding photos and told me what a beautiful bride I was. He was awfully cute as he did this. And he had let me sleep in three days in a row while he got the kids to school. And, well, it’s pretty great having him home.

So I’ll overlook at least one-quarter of the mugs. The others will “find new homes” when Dustin isn’t looking. And I won’t feel bad about it at all.


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