Absence Makes the Home Grow Fonder

by Morgan deBoer Feb 23, 2010
Photos by author
Morgan Leahy discusses the value of creating a home and staying in one place while her husband serves in the Navy.

When I got home from work today, my husband Justin told me he would be away all the following week at a training course in New Mexico. That means next week I will be home alone. Again.

Justin is in the Navy, so he goes on a lot of this sort of business trip. He was away for almost 8 months in 2009. This year, while he probably won’t deploy, I’m sure I’ll find myself on my own a lot and stuck in the house by myself.

Before I met him, I could never have imagined that I would want to stay in one place for any amount of time. Justin and I both felt the same way. Our first few dates, we tacitly impressed each other by talking about all the wild things we wanted to do one day, and our shared wanderlust made it easy for us to pack his car two summers ago and move out West.


We lived in San Diego for almost a year before he deployed, and all of a sudden, I found myself located an entire country away from family and friends and an entire world away from the man I loved.

Until then, I thought not having a home was more important than having one, but when I found myself fending for myself, forging a life without my partner, suddenly developing a solid home base became a priority. I manned the fort and turned the apartment – one that had only been ours a short time — into a home.

In my spare time, –and I had a lot of it — I began to create the perfect space for us. I placed Justin’s Bahraini rug, the one a friend brought back for him a few years ago, in the living room. It takes up half the room, but it’s neat. I like it. I collected candles and tried really hard not to let his cactus die. I moved furniture around. I bought decorative knobs for our dresser, and when the Anthropologie catalog arrives in the mail, I flip directly to the home décor section.

What exactly was I doing here? And who was this person I had become? I thought we were a couple who lived for adventure and defined ourselves by the desire to be free, not to be tied down. The summer Justin was deployed, though, that old definition of myself no longer mattered. Being with Justin is being at home. I couldn’t be with Justin, but turning our shared home into a place that reminded me of him and gave me the stability I was missing.


Many in my situation moved back home, but that wasn’t for me. It was a good experience to spend seven months in a totally new environment. I learned to be independent. Justin and I improved our communication skills while juggling time zones and work schedules which in turn strengthened our relationship.

When he leaves the Navy, things will return to normal. There won’t be jobs or mortgages holding us back. No threat of court martial looms should we choose to pick up and move wherever, whenever.

That future time in my life feels so open, and we spend many lovely hours talking about the possibilities.

“Should we do the Peace Corps?”

“Yes! Should I go to grad school in Manhattan?”

“Of course! Should I try to calculate how long we could live on our savings in an apartment in Mexico City or Paris?”

“Sure, I’ll help. Have you thought about the Appalachian Trail?”


The future holds everything and anything, but right now that’s not what I want.

Right now, I love every day that I come home from work, and he is waiting for me on the couch, legs propped on our coffee table, thumbing through the pages of another book on his reading list. I relish my to-do lists of household chores or schedules or anything that smacks of normalcy. I want to sleep in on Saturdays and play trivia at the bar down the street on Tuesdays. Right now, world travel can wait, because I like being home.

But when I know we’ll no longer be separated for months at a time, when we do take off and go, I’ll have no trouble leaving the candles and catalogues behind.

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