Yep, I was an Army Brat.
This means that my younger years were unlike anything most people experience. When I look back on my childhood I sometimes feel like I missed out on some of those things that make up those typical early memories. I don’t have a house that I grew up in. The one that had the tree house outside and those little hiding places you found under loose floorboards or vents. You know, the house with the kid your age that lived right next door. The kid that became your life long friend and is about as close as any brother could have been. The house that was a few blocks from the elementary school you walked to every day. The house that was just down the road a bit from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. That house that your parents still live in and you visit and relive all those memories whenever there. Nope, I didn’t have that.
We grew up away from our extended family. We had 14 cousins that all lived in the same city that my parents were from in Central Illinois. All of those kids grew up with each other and to this day are the best of friends. But going back every couple of years to visit as a kid didn’t develop the strongest of bonds with the rest of the family. Sure, when we were there we were the center of attention and we loved to head back and visit. But, at least for me, it always felt like exactly what it was: a visit. It always felt great to visit the Grandparents but it was never the home that it was for the rest of the family.
And we moved around a lot. Because of this, we made some good friends and then they moved away or we did. And this was back before the internet and mobile communications made the world so much smaller so once they weren’t around they were gone for good. With no Facebook, Twitter, Skype, texting, and emails there was really only one way to keep in touch and that was through writing letters. You could use the phone, I guess, but this was back in the days when you would have had to take out a loan to pay for that long distance bill if you tried that. I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember writing a single letter to a friend that was no longer around. Looking back on it now, it was kind of shitty of me…but then again, I don’t remember ever receiving any letters either. Once they were gone…they were just gone for good.
So, yeah, there were some crappy negative aspects of growing up an Army Brat. Some of those probably left some emotional scars that affect my relationships with other people as an adult. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade growing up on the move like that for anything because, as far as I’m concerned, the positive aspects rocked. And here are just a few of the reasons why:
-Was born in a Castle. Well, not really. I was born in a town called Kassel in Germany.
-We traveled A LOT!! This meant long car rides. But they were long car rides to kick-ass destinations…sometimes while sitting amidst a bunch of cantaloupes (which is why, to this day I still can barely stomach the smell of them)
-Lived in a city that was completely surrounded by the Cold-War enemies, West Berlin. I remember the bleakness that was the Berlin Wall. But I also remember that this is where I was when Star Wars was released. I don’t think any other book or movie was as big a part of my childhood or really my whole life. It’s what, 35-36 years later and I am still obsessed with pretty much all things Star Wars.
-Went though Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin for day trips. Was pretty crazy different on the other side of that wall.
-Went to a real Kris Kindel Market (and have one of the most embarrassing pictures on the planet to prove it…check out the clothes and my Pop’s porn ‘stache)
-Spent a night sitting next to my Pop in our van as we raced through East Germany to make it back to West Germany.
-We were racing time because I needed to catch a bus for a week long Outdoor Adventure Course at Hinterbrand Lodge. This was a lodge down in the mountains in Bavaria that was once used as a mountain retreat for the Nazi Party. It was a week away from school for my little group of friends just hanging out in the Alps.
-Lived in the home of Oktoberfest, Munich.
-Spent a few years in one of the most beautiful places on earth: Monterey, California.
-Lived right next door to these big buildings that had lots of cute furry animals that we could walk over and pet in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Which when I was a kid was some really cool shit…but when I grew up and found out that these animals were all being used for testing all kinds of nasty stuff I am surprised that I don’t have the tumor the size of a fucking football sticking out of my neck right now. Thanks Mom and Dad.
-Visited Disneyland and stood under the shadow of the iconic Disney Castle.
-Better than that, I visited the castle that the crappy fiberglass one at Disneyland was inspired by: Neuschwanstein.
-And that wasn’t the only castle we visited while in Europe. Visited them all up and down the Rhine. And visiting castles as a young boy = FUCKING AWESOME!
-Had Thanksgiving Pizza in London.
-Had “Strawberries and Cream” in Paris.
-Shot a guy in Reno just to watch him die. (ok not really…but we did go to Circus Circus while passing through)
-Spent 4 years in a gorgeous little river valley town in Germany called Bad Kreuznach that I still miss from time to time.
-During my high school years in Germany, I got to play sports where away games meant overnight trips
-And I could hang out in bars when I was 15 too. Was quite a culture shock when moving back to the states.
And those are just a few of the highlights. While most of my extended family have spent their entire lives living within a 100 mile radius of where they were born I was able to travel the world and travel to sometimes live in places that I would never have been able to had my father not been a member of the Armed Forces.
And thanks to all the Dads and Moms out there that are serving or have served their country.
Happy Veterans Day!