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….