I’ve lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle for the last fifteen years or so. I guess anyone who would marry a military man has to have a little adventure in their blood. But I didn’t realize you needed a little gypsy in there too. When I married John, I didn’t think about all that. I saw a great guy with a good heart who looked pretty hot in his uniform, and that was all I needed to know. If you were in college when “Top Gun” came out, you can remember the appeal of a man in a flight suit. It didn’t occur to me until after the wedding that military people don’t stay put. Especially not pilots. Their job is to go! Their entire career is based upon the premise of leaving home….and where home is changes every couple of years. We used to have a plaque hanging in our home that said, “Home is where the Air Force sends you.” It came with six little plaques that hung beneath it for you to engrave with each place you moved to. I ran out of plaques a few years ago. We’ve lived in seven different places, in ten different homes (plus two stays in furnished apartments while we waited on housing) in the short time we’ve been married.
I guess it is a badge of honor to have survived so many moves and still have mental health intact….but I am a stay-putter, I have discovered. When we were younger, it was sort of exciting to see where we might be stationed next. Just when I would tire of decorating one house, I’d start daydreaming about what my next house might be like. I’d get the itch after a year or so to be in a new spot. But then I started to notice the pitfalls. We could never buy any furniture or curtains that were not completely versatile, since you never knew if they would fit in the next house. We would go from little houses to nice big ones and then back again to a small one. We once had a base house that we generously referred to as the “double-wide”. It was in California, and had no air-conditioning or garage, and was so full of lead and mold we received a warning from our housing department when we moved in. But it also came with some of the kindest neighbors we have ever had. Everyone on that base had such awful houses that it was fun to compare horror stories or see what you could possibly do to fix up such an abode. One of the fun things about base living was that there were only about four different house plans. Most people would walk into our home and say, “Oh! That’s where you put your TV? We have it on the opposite wall.” It was always a hoot to see how someone else would decorate a house that was exactly like ours. We stayed there the longest…three years. Then we were moving on.
Now I long to stay in one spot. To plant a garden or do landscaping and actually see it grow and mature! I remember in the first three years of our marriage, after we had already lived in three different houses, I whined to John, “I just want to plant some bulbs and get to see them bloom!” I long to make friends that I don’t have to say goodbye to, or make plans that aren’t hinged on whether we are staying or going. We have four children and they have reached the ages where they mourn the loss of their friends, their school, their home. For years we told our kids, “We will get a nice swing set, just as soon as we can stay settled in one place for a while.” They had a little fund they were saving for one…but they got tired of hearing, “Not this year. Not this house.” I look around my house and I think, “Man! I would love to do this or do that. But it’s no use putting too much money into a home we may sell soon.” Or I will see something that I would really love to buy, but my husband will remark, “Nooooo…we are already too close to our weight allowance. We can’t afford the extra weight.” When I think about things like these, I start to get very disappointed with the moving lifestyle. I wonder how much longer it will go on and where we will ever settle down…and my heart gets discouraged and resentful. It’s not a healthy thing for me to dwell on.
My husband once told me that the wife of one of his colleagues said that she loved moving. She thought it was a great adventure! I told him she was lying. I said no one loves moving this much. Or perhaps she was delusional. But now that I consider my attitude and how it affects my family (“the mother sets the tone of the home”, I hear ringing in my ears), I’ve decided maybe she wasn’t so delusional. Maybe it does help to see it as a big adventure. After all, we have never lived anywhere that we haven’t been sad to leave. We’ve often lived in places we never expected we’d travel to, much less live in. Upon moving there, we were sometimes sad to arrive, or even cried when we saw it (Have you SEEN Altus, Oklahoma? Blink and you’ll miss it!)….but when it was time to go on, we said nearly every time, “But I not ready to leave! I love it here!” We’ve made friends we would have never met otherwise and have grown to love. We’ve been able to whittle down our life to the material things that can hold in a moving van (under our weight allowance, of course)…the things that we really cherish and need. We don’t have a lot of clutter in our lives…it can’t travel easily and it may not fit in the next home! And we have learned to say goodbye and hello to new adventures, new friends, new experiences each time. Maybe moving does give you the opportunity to simplify your life and make the most of the time you have with your friends and family while they are around you…it keeps you in the present, since the future is so uncertain. Maybe it is a great adventure.
I don’t know if it helps to see it that way. But I am going to try and adopt the attitude. It can’t hurt, right? Besides, I don’t want to take any negative baggage along with me on my next move. I can’t afford the extra weight.
PS I just let my kids put up a swingset. It’s too heavy and will probably be left behind in our next move, but you have to seize the moment and live in the present, right? Carpe Diem!