Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dirty Laundry & New Beginnings

by Maggie Dove

In the spring of 1981, my husband, a Captain in the Marine Corps, decided to leave the Marines to practice law in Florida. We met soon afterwards on a blind date in June and married six months later. During our first year of marriage, we lived in a condo by the beach and he worked as a lawyer for the State Attorney’s office. I was a very happy newlywed living in the same town that I had grown up in surrounded by family and friends.

Eight months into our marriage, my husband received a letter from The United States Marine Corps., offering him the opportunity to come back for three years of active duty to practice law and live in the base at Quantico, Virginia. My husband told me that he missed the Marine Corps., and that he would love to return to service. I was horrified. I pictured myself as Private Benjamin, leaving my beautiful loft apartment near the beach and trading it in, as well as my family and friends, for a marine barracks in the cold with strangers.

I really did not want to go, but my husband uttered the magic words. “Everything is paid for…you don’t have to work.” I had been working for ten straight years in a beautiful Florida hotel and was a bit exhausted. The idea of becoming a stay home wife was a very convincing notion. I was even looking forward to watching soaps and having coffee with newfound friends ala 1950’s sitcoms where housewives were just that and Lucy and Ethel had nothing better to do than relax and think up ways to drive their husbands nuts! I longed for peace and quiet. Without further hesitation, I packed my bags and three months later, we said goodbye to our loved ones and headed off for Quantico, Virginia.

It took about 2 days for me to fall completely in love with the base. My “barracks” was a beautiful 3 story brownstone with French doors and polished wooden floors located on the top of a gorgeous hill near the General’s quarters and the Officer’s Club. The building, surrounded by luscious woods, was part of a group of redbrick brownstones called the Letter Apartments. Each building consisted of 3 floors occupied by 6 couples (2 couples to a floor.) My husband and I lived on the first floor. My building was Building A. I spoke with my mother-in-law my first week at Quantico and she asked me how I was doing my laundry. I told her that my husband was right and that everything on the base was, indeed, free! Apart from food and clothing, there were no bills to pay. Unlike my apartment in Florida where coins were needed to use the machines in the laundry room, I was thrilled to tell her that the basement of my Quantico brownstone was filled with washers and dryers and it did not cost a penny to do laundry.

After living in Quantico for two months, Building A had its first “Building Good Neighbor’s Meeting.” My husband and I were invited for coffee and doughnuts at our neighbors’ apartment upstairs where we discussed pertinent issues and the distribution of duties such as the raking of the leaves, shoveling snow, cleaning the stairwells, etc. Everything was going well until I decided to be a “good neighbor” and ask very politely about the protocol for doing laundry. Raising my hand, I said, “I hope that you all don’t mind, but I really do not have all day and when I go down to the basement, I find that you have taken all the machines. Sometimes I have to go down more than once to check and see if you have finished your laundry. Some of you leave the clothes in there all day. Again, I hope that you don’t mind, but I find myself having to take your clothes out (sometimes wet) so that I can use the machines.” I left out that this was taking time out of my soap opera watching and that, although, I actually did have all day to do laundry, I thought this was extremely rude and discourteous of them!

The couples stared at me funny and looked amongst themselves as though they did not comprehend a word I had said. “Are you talking about the laundry machines in the basement?” asked a neighbor. Smiling politely, I repeated, “Yes. I hope that you don’t mind but since you leave your clothes in the machines all day long, I find myself having to remove them in order to do my laundry.”

Judy, who later became my best friend on base, finally spoke. “Maggie, we own our machines, but you are more than welcome to use them.”
“Yes,” they all agreed. “Use them whenever and for as long as you need.”

Those were the most embarrassing 2 seconds of my life, sitting on the sofa with all eyes on me…the fool who, for two whole months, had been using their washers and dryers, taking their clothes out to use the machines, and on top of that having the nerve to complain to them that they were taking too long to do laundry!

Needless to say, the very next day, my mortified husband and I paid a visit to the appliance department at Sears! My three years at Quantico were one of the most enjoyable of my life. I met so many friends and to this date, I keep in contact with them. We laugh recalling the many zany episodes I shared with them as a Marine Corps. wife. Lucille Ball could have taken pointers!

I remember the night when I was taking a writing class on base and I got snowed in and had to abandon my car at the school. I slid down a huge hill, and, to my husband’s horror, four hours later came home with the military police! And the day when I went to visit a friend (next door) and while watching a movie, there was an ice storm. Living in Florida, I had no idea how to handle the Quantico weather. It was 11 o’clock at night and I couldn’t get home because I kept slipping on the pavement. Kneeling on all fours, I crawled back to my neighbor’s house and I called my husband and told him that I had to stay at my neighbor’s for the night because I had tried and tried, but there was no way I could make it home. I didn’t want to fall and crack my scull. Ten minutes later, my husband (dressed in a coat that hid his pajamas) had to come drag me home…by taking my hand and simply walking me from the pavement on to the grass…which was right there! There was also the time when instead of walking to the Officers’ Club three buildings away, I forced my husband to take me in our car because there was also a lot of ice. After he parked the car, it slid down the hill! And there was the time….

Maggie Dove


Diane Scott Lewis said...

Maggie, your story made me laugh. I too came from a warm climate (California) to Virginia. On my way to work after an ice storm, I heard the base at Dahlgren had closed. So I left the main road to a side street to visit a friend, and ended up in someone's front yard...slid right off the road. A tow truck had to haul me out. They told me never leave the main road in conditions like this.

Maggie Dove said...

For me, it was more like, never leave your home in conditions like this!
Thanks for stopping by, Diane. And congrats on your new release! It sounds like a must read!

Trent Kinsey said...


You'd know I'd show up and at least say something...Quantico lol. I feel for ya girl! I spent my entire life in southern Louisiana until I was stationed at RS Charleston where I had to learn driving in the snow and ice after only being there for two weeks. Ugh...It's why they say Marine Wife is the toughest job in the Corps :D

Angela Daniels said...

Hey Maggie, thanks for sharing your stories! I wonder if your neighbors wondering who the hell was moving their laundry before you spoke at the meeting!? Sounds like fun times!

Anonymous said...

You have such a way of telling stories...these are awesome stories, thanks for sharing with us.

ani said...

Maggie, what a funny story. I can just imagine the looks on the faces of the other wives....what nerve!!....after you told them about their laundry being taken out!!! Memories are a wonderful thing and its great fun when we can laugh at ourselves from things we did in the past! Keep coming up with stories.....they're wonderful reading. And thanks for the laugh!

Tabitha Shay said...

Ah, Maggie,
How funny...You have such wonderful tales, thanks for sharing...I have to add that, having once moved to Florida from Oklahoma, we had to learn to drive in the sand, kind of like driving on ice if you have no clue and can bury a car just as deep in the sand as snow if you aren't careful...however, I have also slid down a few icy hills in Oklahoma...Hugs....Tabs

Maggie Dove said...

Thanks, Trent, Angela, Ani, Brigit and Tabs for stopping by and telling me your stories!

Anonymous said...

I almost slid out of my chair after I read that bit about moving the laundry from THEIR washers! Thanks for sharing this sweetie!

Author Mary C said...

Wow, Maggie, talk about adventures. I'm still giggling. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Maggie, I bet that a lot of people cant believe that those stories arent true. But they are!
Next time you could tell them about the air-conditioner I refused to buy because summers in Virginia were so cool and... .

Maggie Dove said...

Thank you, Mary, Candace and Raul for stopping by! Indeed, Raul, my certainly know that the stories are all true! You lived them with me almost 28 years ago. What is unbelievable is that even after driving you insane for so many years...we are still together!

Cate Masters said...

Great post, Maggie! I can imagine it well, having lived in a city with a war college and barracks. My kids made good friends with kids on post, who had their own movie theater and bowling alley, among other things. The downside was when they had to move away after a few years.
But how nice you had so much free time to write!

Anonymous said...

Maggie, you are hilarious! I laughed so hard and had to read your stories to my 18 year old daughter. She then had to call a friend and read her your stories which then call a friend and on and on...My favorite story is you crawling down the icy side walk... I can't stop laughing. You have a great sense of humor and a brilliant story teller. I wish you were my neighbor.

Maggie Dove said...

Thank you, Cate! I really loved living in Quantico. They were the really the best years of my life! Thanks for stopping by!

Maggie Dove said...

Thank you, Anonymous! Really glad that you stopped by and that you found my stories amusing. My military friends and I still laugh about them when we speak!

Maryann Miller said...

What a delightful post. I laughed outloud at the faux pas with the washing machines. Glad to see that I am not the only one who has done something so utterly embarrassing.

Maggie Dove said...

Thank you, Ginger, for having me here today on your wonderful blog!

Ginger Simpson said...

Thank you for being my guest today, Maggie. You generated some interest, which isn't at all surprising given the great success of your book. Come back anytime. :)

Anonymous said...

Maggie, Thanks so much for the laughs!! The only part of the story I didn't like...the end. Your stories were so entertaining I wanted to read more of them. Keep writing and I'll keep reading!!


Paige Ryter said...

Oh my gosh...this is absolutely hysterical! Thank you so much for sharing! Your stories are a hoot!!!

kanishk said...

congrats on your new release! It sounds like a must read!

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