Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflections Of My Childhood

My birth certificates (yes, I have more than one) declare me as "An American Child Born Abroad To American Parents"…in both English and German. I was born in Germany into a military family with roots in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky, USA. I was the middle child of three girls. Hence, my quirkiness is not unfounded. Middle child. Military brat. Good grief. I didn’t stand a chance of being normal!!

When people ask me how I feel about being raised by a military family and moving from place to place, I've always have to say there were many advantages as well as disadvantages. I think the biggest advantage was likely the education. I attended school in some of the best school districts in the country. I finished off my elementary school education in West Point, New York at West Point Elementary School. West Point of United States Military Academy fame. It was an on-post school and afforded a level of education that would rival any private school. I attended there from the middle of my fourth grade year until I graduated from the eighth grade. I am thankful for that solid foundation for my education.

I think one of the biggest disadvantages to being raised in a military family was moving around so much. Granted, the moving was also responsible for one of the *advantages* to being military, which is being able to experience and see parts of the world I would probably have never been able, had it not been for the moving...but that is another paragraph. The moving around probably caused a lot of the oddities in my personality. I have a hard time establishing deep relationships. I have few friends that I have truly considered confidants with whom I could trust my most inner secrets and feelings. I shy away from intimate relationships on most levels. Not because I don't trust or like people (I actually love people); but because, in my experience, friends are temporary. Just about the time you get to know someone and feel comfortable with them, **BOOM** have to leave. And I mean leave for good....far away. And back then long-distance communication was slow and arduous. Strangely, I *hated* writing letters, so when we moved the relationships died. There are many people I have met in my life that I would love to contact again. It's not likely I will ever find most of them. I hate that part.

Because of all the moving, there wasn't much stability for us. The only stability for us was each other. The family core was the only thing we could depend on. For that reason, we became a close-knit family. We got along, for the most part, very well. I can only speak for myself. My sisters may have a totally different outlook on our family life as we were growing up. All I can convey is my own perspective. My guess is that I have at least one sister (I only have two) that may feel differently about how close we were, but I am glad I felt secure in our relationships. I'm not sure I would have survived without that.

So, we got to see some interesting places. We've lived in places like Germany, Japan, Virginia, Colorado, California, Hawaii, New York and Kentucky. I wish I had been a little older and more able to appreciate what an opportunity it was. I have few memories of most of those places. I remember Hawaii, New York and Kentucky; but the memories of the other places are disjointed and fractional. I only remember certain events or circumstances regarding living there. I seem to recall Colorado a little more than California.

I have recollections of playing in the dirt with toy cars and trucks outside our back door stoop in Denver. I recall having a cat named Pixie. She was a trip. She used to get inside a stuffed ottoman whose cloth under-lining had developed a slit (by cat-design?) and she would slither her way into the snug confines of the ottoman bottom and rest without fear of molestation by loud, obnoxious and taunting youngsters. Of course, once those youngsters had figured out where she was, the tease was on. We would see her curled-up, sleeping self hanging as a rounded circle in the cloth of the ottoman lining and put our hands under her and start gently (or maybe not-so-gently) bouncing her up and down. It only took a couple of times before the crooked length of her front paw would come shooting out of the slit, claws exposed, swatting at whatever was in the way and demanding peace. Poor thing didn't realize there *is* no peace when children are near. When my dad got orders to be stationed in Hawaii we had to give her away because Hawaii has strict rules about bringing in animals. That is the last pet I recall us having until my dad retired from the Army.

I feel very blessed to have had the childhood I remember. If there are false memories associated with it, I hope there is no one out there to spoil them for me. I think I would rather be ignorant. My parents were a solid foundation for us and I do not recall *ever* hearing them fighting or arguing until I was in high school. And never much of it then, either. I'm sure they did it...they were simply very discreet about it. My mother grew up in a totally opposite atmosphere and had vowed very early in life that her children would never witness what she did as a child...and she was true to her word. I love her for that.

I remember a happy childhood. I remember two parents who loved me. I remember two sisters that I loved dearly...even if I did make their lives miserable at times. (I was a brat, I admit that. But I was allowed to be. It was not necessarily what I *wanted* to be.) When I reflect on some of the things that could have happened in my childhood, I am thankful to my parents for the way they raised me. Things could have been absolutely terrible, but life was a fairy tale to me. A good, happy fairy tale. So good, in fact, that I sometimes long for that simplicity in my life again. But you can't go back, so I simply hold I embrace with covetous childhood and the memories within my mind. I will cherish them for as long as I have a functioning mind and the ability to take them out of storage, play them over in my head, and re-live the most magical days of my life. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you.

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