Image of The Meat and Potatoes of Life

(The Meat and Potatoes of Life)

“You’re headed to the commissary? Can you pick me up a gallon of milk?” my military spouse friend asked through my flip phone. The request wasn’t unreasonable, but this friend was an infamous favor-asker. To her, getting friends to do tasks or errands meant she was smart and resourceful.

“Sure,” I mumbled, slapping my Motorola shut, disgusted with myself.

After the bagger loaded my groceries into my minivan at the commissary, I headed to the elementary school for pickups. On the way, I called my friend about her milk. “I’ll give it to you when I see you at school pickups today,” I told her, feeling weak and defeated.

“Oh yeah, I wanted to ask if you could pick up my daughter along with your kids today. Just keep her at your place for a while. I’m sure you don’t have anything going on, right? I’m finishing up a mani-pedi at the salon, so I’ll just swing by your house when my nails are done. Easy peasy!” she said, as if she was doing me the favor.

An hour later, I gritted my teeth, watching my friend’s daughter poke at the water dispenser button on our refrigerator, rapid streams of liquid shooting onto our hardwood kitchen floors. “I told you, we don’t do that in this house,” I tried to cope with her defiant behavior without losing my mind. She stared right at me, smirking, and poked again.

My friend eventually collected her daughter, and her milk, flashing her shiny nails while I swabbed puddles of water mixed with half-eaten Goldfish crackers and gummy bears from our kitchen floor like a scullery maid.

My friend wasn’t a bad person, she simply asked too much of friends. She was perfectly willing to return favors, should anyone ask. But no one ever did, for fear of the paybacks they’d suffer in return.

The final straw happened one summer, while my husband was deployed in the Mediterranean.

“Hey Lisa,” my friend called while I was vacationing with family in North Carolina, “our car’s in the shop. Would you mind if we used Francis’ Saturn since he’s gone?” My husband’s car had been sitting idle in the garage for weeks, so why not? I gave her our garage code, and told her where to find the keys.

A few nights later, I was watching a movie with my family in the rental beach house, when the sliding glass door suddenly opened. It was Francis! We all jumped up, wondering why he was there in his cammies.

“Surprise!” he whooped, explaining that a schedule change allowed him to come home for early for R&R. We hugged, kissed and toasted to celebrate.

After swapping several stories, Francis remembered something. “Oh yeah, you’re never gonna believe this.” He told us that, after his flight to Norfolk, he’d taken a taxi to our house to pick up his Saturn and drive to North Carolina to surprise us. “So, I’m backing the Saturn out of our garage, but at the bottom of the driveway, the engine sputters and dies.”

“What?! Is something wrong with the car?” I said, confused, “How’d you get here?”

“Oh no,” he continued, “the car’s fine. Just out of gas. I had to walk three miles to the gas station and back to get it running again.”

It took me a moment to process. “But it had plenty of gas,” I muttered, trying to understand. And then, slowly, it hit me. “Are you kidding me? She returned the car on empty?!”

Now Francis was confused. I explained that my favor-asking friend had borrowed his Saturn while we were on vacation. “I should’ve known!” Francis’ lightbulb flashed on, because he knew my friend’s reputation well.

I learned that military spouses can’t do everything, so there’s no shame in asking for help. However, it’s important to be as self-sufficient as possible — create a list of babysitters, yard workers, repair people, etc., to pay when needed. Then, tap your military spouse friends for emotional support, companionship and fun.

I forgave my friend for all those favors she never returned. But I’ve never forgotten the lessons I learned … and the $2.78 she still owes me for that gallon of milk.


Read more at the website and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com

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