I was born to a newspaper pressman and a bank teller, and as far as small towns go, they were doing quite well financially. We had 2 acres out in the country with a big barn, a nice garden, a dog named Mac, a dogwood tree, and (my personal favorite) a white birch tree.
And then God intervened. And, as God often does, life changed dramatically. We moved from our large farmhouse on 2 acres to a single wide trailer when I was 8 years old. It was parked in a trailer park, surrounded by many other single wide trailers, and there were more neighbors in the surrounding quarter mile than may have existed in all of my rural surrounding community. Those four years were the start of my journey into realizing I could conquer new lifestyles and succeed fairly well through them.
The five of us were cramped in that 1,000 square foot living space. But, it never stopped my parents from having abnormal amounts of people visit us. My favorite visitor was probably the body builder (translation to an eleven year old girl: DROP.DEAD.GORGEOUS) that would cook us a dinner (chicken kiev is still a favorite of mine, thanks to Thom), laugh in a way that lit up his whole face, and let us climb all over him. In those four years of really uncomfortable living in an environment that was so unlike normal for my small-town-parents, they still managed to figure it out and make it the adventure of a lifetime for us.
This trailer park, with all of its people and mailbox lined streets, is where I learned to ride a bike for the first time. And eventually I rode my bike all throughout that community, but not before I crashed into several of those mailboxes … several times. At the end of our street, the park manager finally put a basketball hoop in – a necessity to all kids growing up in Indiana – and that became the destination of my bike rides almost every day. (Except, of course, for the days I would sneak out of the trailer park down to the local McDonald’s for a vanilla ice cream cone. But, don’t worry Mom – I really can only remember doing this once, as it scared me so much to ride on that “big city street”.)
We drew houses onto our small aluminum-car-port-covered concrete patio, and played for hours. Well, I drew them, and the other girls played in them. I had a bike to ride and ball to play. We used the soybeans from the farmer’s field behind us and the needles from the pine trees as “money” for … whatever it is that we pretended to “buy”. We would walk 5 trailers down to visit Karen and Kimi (Oh, I think those were their names!) and listen to music my parents might not otherwise let us get away with (which is where my love of Def Leppard came from). We played outside until the streetlights came on, and then ended the night with our parents in front of the very small antenna-driven television, eating popcorn and drinking kool-aid, but never daring to bring the cup we were all three sharing into the living room.
I learned to shave my legs in my parents bathroom, with my dad’s razor and shaving cream, and I’ll never forget the day he came home from work and found my sister and I doing so.
We left the whole family in our small town to make a new start for ourselves, and I expected it to be a gigantic disaster, but instead, it turned out to be just one more step in learning that I can, indeed, accomplish the stranger aspects of a mobile lifestyle.
And that’s what struck me this morning as I was thinking back through my past four years as a Marine wife. I’m missing my dearest Marine Wife friends these days, and wishing that I somehow would meet other Marine Wives in this duty station that might make the next few months go more quickly. Marine wives, Marine wives, Marine wives…. I didn’t meet some people who were transplanted to that trailer park when they were 8 years old from a farmhouse that set on 2 acres, and then become happy because I knew others like me. I figured it out as I went along. I changed my life. I drew on sidewalk with chalk, because there was no dog to run down the hill to chase a stick anymore. I figured it out, moment by moment, and stopped wishing for what had been, and found new joy and peace in a different life.
Now, I’m not going to be able to let go of the desire to have some Grunt Wives friends. There’s nothing more amazing than having someone who completely understands where you’re coming from. But, I’m just going to pretend this townhouse complex is the trailer park and these people who surround me are my new adventure, which makes them only different from (not better nor worse than) what I was used to before. And, I think I’ll start using that sidewalk chalk.
Thanks for the knock on the head this morning, God.