TAMPA, Fla. — Waiting for Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf when he comes home from the Gulf War will be a big bowl of ice cream, his tennis racket and a Christmas tree, his wife said Wednesday.
"We have a little tree that is still standing with lights," Brenda Schwarzkopf said at MacDill Air Force Base in a trophy room outside her husband's office. "It will be as much a Christmas as possible that he's used to."
The Schwarzkopfs celebrated the holiday half a world apart, shipping each other little gifts, but the big ones remain under wraps for the homecoming.
"He sent some gifts and he had a sheet of instructions exactly how to give them out--A B C D," she said. "He always plays Santa Claus and he is the person who gives out the gifts. I guess he wanted us to follow the order."
In a freewheeling news conference, Brenda Schwarzkopf, 49, answered questions about her fears and joys, life at home for her and their three children with and without the general, a glimpse into his personal side and his pending retirement after 35 years in the military.
And what's her reaction to the nickname "Stormin' Norman?"
"I'm kind of getting used to it," she laughed.
The most worrisome time was when she came home, flipped on the television to learn Scud missiles were launched at Saudi Arabia, where her husband is commander of the U.S. forces.
"I was standing there in a real panic, and the phone rang," she said. It was her husband, and she desperately wanted to warn him.
" 'Norm, there are five missiles heading your way.' I'm screaming over the telephone like he's going to run somewhere and get out of the way.
"There was a calm voice. 'Brenda, it's all right. Everything is OK.' . . . He just wanted us to all love one another and take care of one another and our favorite family expression--just hang in there."
Brenda Schwarzkopf said she and the children, Cynthia, 20; Jessica, 18, and Christian, 13, have been taking it "one day at a time," waiting anxiously for his return to Florida--whenever it comes.
Meanwhile, calls and letters--probably 20 pieces of mail a day--come to them offering congratulations.
For his return, she'll probably fix a favorite dinner of duck, pork fried rice and a big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Retirement will be an emotional time for the close-knit family, she said.
"I think not being able to put a uniform on when he gets up in the morning is, for a while, going to seem a little strange to us all. But we're looking forward to having some family time."