Where this thought came from, I don’t know. A few nights ago I remembered a childhood friend and it dawned on me that I never got to see her grow up. I lost track of her. This is one view of growing up as a child of a father who was enlisted in the US Army, the difficulties, but let’s talk about the glorious ventures that a “military brat” can tell.
I started my life in Alaska. I do not remember any of it. My parents were very young, mom was in her upper teen years, and I was their first. They later showed me several color photographs of patches of lake ice that never melted. Dad told stories about their trips to the grocery store. While they were shopping the sun rose and set. It was dark when they went in and dark when they came out. He said that became depressing, to seldom see daylight during that season.
I was a toddler the first time we arrived in Indiana, and often when dad received a new assignment, we were stationed back in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Lawrence, Indiana, which is a town (suburb) of Indianapolis. We moved a total of five times within that same base in my first five years of life.
My father then received orders for France. I wrote a blog post about that adventure. It was amazing. Even though those two years in France were more than fifty years ago, I still have many fond memories. I remember my friends, the village that we lived in, the taste and smell of French food, the culture, gypsies in wagons, the architecture, and the beautiful countryside. School field trips to chateaus, surrounded by moats and garden mazes. Imagine unwrapped loaves of French bread displayed in cylinder shaped wire baskets on store floors. Locals rode their bicycles to the store, and left with a loaf of bread tucked under their arm as they cycled home.
We were then relocated back to Fort Harrison. We moved twice within the village, and then my parents rented a small mobile home on the fort for us to reside in while my father did a couple of years in Korea.
Living on an Army base was pretty cool. It was safe. Summer break was amazing. I think I lived in the huge concrete pool. I loved the forests in which we roamed and played. These were deep woods filled with stunning beauty and adventure. This particular area is now a state park. It is difficult for me to grasp that the broad area where I roamed is now a paid-to-enter state park.
My parents decided to purchase a home in Indianapolis and then my father was sent to Viet Nam, which became three difficult years of our lives. On one hand, my brother and I happily grew roots with the neighborhood kids, but there was a feeling of dark clouds and worry over our home. Dad was in a place so far away, and he was always in danger. Mom was pregnant with my baby sister, and times were tough.
After several years, we were sent to Baltimore, Maryland, which was a great adventure for me. I enjoyed the culture of the east coast. I made many friends, yet, I knew it would be a short-lived two years, and it was. I believe I can still smell those Chesapeake Bay crabs. Crab feast anyone? Baltimore tunnel, rush hour traffic?
We trekked back to Indianapolis, to our home that had been rented out in our absence.
I feel blessed in the respect that I got to see many areas of the world that others have not seen. I was taught to speak French in kindergarten and 1st grade. We attended day school, no half days, and we had lunch in the mess hall. Mess hall food was fantastic. I later discovered a rosemary lemon chicken recipe in a book authored by Julia Child, that mirrored one of our mess hall lunches. It was that good. I enjoyed a full life on the Army bases – movies, swimming, bowling, Girl Scouts, and I absorbed Sunday School once a week. I was active, busy, and I loved my activities.
Forming long-term relationships was difficult and that bit into me. Yet, it made me strong. I think this is a good thing, that we learn resilience and agility, and I feel – for me – this was God’s plan. We lived in diverse places, lived in close quarters with people from all over the United States and the world. I clearly remember an evening on the fort when I smelled Chinese food wafting from one door, and two doors down came the aroma of Italian, mingled with the scent of a German dinner from another few doors down.
I cannot imagine living in the same house, on the same street, for an entire childhood. Yet, sometimes I wonder just how that would be. So, this is your place and turn, tell me how you perceive it. If you were a child and had a choice, would you have formed deep roots in one place, or would you have preferred travelling? What was your experience?