Keep the Home Fires Burning
Let no tears add to their hardships'Til the boys come home.
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking,
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There's a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
—Ivor Novello & Lena Ford, "Keep the Home-Fires Burning"
Lots of stories are about The Hero and comrades as They Fight Crime. This story focuses on The Hero's lovers, family, and friends back home, often in a Lower Deck Episode, as they try keep normal life together and not go crazy from loneliness and worry. British examples will exhibit lots of Stiff Upper Lip. Romantic partners will find renewed determination that I Will Wait for You or succumb to Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder.
The usual portrayal involves families of the military and other warriors: soldiers are subject to long, distant deployments with little contact back home, and combat situations always involve the fear of injury and death. Families of police officers, sailors, and superheroes can also feel like this.
- Police Officers & Firefighters: They get regular time off, and they're (usually) home for dinner, but the daily risk of death is still present.
- Sailors (non-military): Long deployments in a dangerous profession, but with fewer enemies actively gunning for your sailor's blood. But there's always the suspicion he's got a girl in every port.
- Superheroes: Arguably the most stressful for families of all. Regular combat deployment with little warning or time off, since The Hero is always "on call"; enemies out for blood; and if The Hero's identity is secret, there are few people their loved ones can turn to for support.
Can lead to Unfortunate Implications when the act of waiting is portrayed as passive, the spouse left to endure is Always Female, or the waiting person is put in a negative light if not a perfect, patient Proper Lady—happy to stay home while The Hero wanders afield having adventures. Can also deconstruct the facade of a proud military family by realistically depicting the Stepford Smiler-levels of emotional stress and isolation that My Girl Back Home shoulders with Heroic Resolve, as well as the accepted but implicit pain caused when The Hero chooses Duty First, Love Second.
- Spider-Man: Mary Jane Watson-Parker struggles between her desire to support Peter Parker in his role as Spider-Man and her real fear that this time could be the night she sent her husband out to die. This is notably a factor in the Kraven's Last Hunt storyline when for two weeks MJ doesn't know if Peter is dead.
- The French film A Very Long Engagement is about a woman (played by Audrey Tautou) trying to find out what happened to her fiance who fought in World War I.
- Colonel Moore's wife, Julie, in We Were Soldiers has scenes of this. In one, the taxi driver delivering death notification letters to widows stops at Colonel Moore's house to ask his wife for directions to another house. She initially thinks her husband has died, and is not pleased to find out why she just got the scare of her life.
- You Know When The Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon is a collection of short stories focused mainly on the inner lives of U.S. military families waiting in Fort Hood. Fallon is herself a military wife.
- "Penelope", a short and searing poem by Dorothy Parker, from the perspective of Odysseus's wife.
- The poem "An Ancient Gesture" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, also about Penelope.
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.
- The British World War I patriotic song "Keep the Home-Fires Burning ('Till the Boys Come Home)."
- The video for "This Is Me Missing You" by James House.
- "It Sucks" by pop-punk band The Unlovables is about the downsides of this trope.
And in a way, I wish I was you
Heading cross-country with a dream to pursue
I guess til now I never knew
How much it sucks to be the one who’s left behind
You’re off in the great unknown
When I’m stuck here all alone
- Ask any career military family.
- Or any police officer's family.