The Army Brat Itch

“I now live in Atlanta Georgia and I’m married to a guy who’s had basically 2 major moves in his life. We live in a small 2-bedroom bungalow and we’ve been discussing upgrading to a larger house. Suits me just fine. Or does it?”

I’ve always called it my “army brat itch”—that feeling I get that is almost like suffocating. It’s the feeling I get to stir things up, maybe create a tiny little crisis or dream about moving to another house locally. Psychologically, I know now it’s from moving, let’s see, 23 times or so I believe.

I now live in Atlanta Georgia and I’m married to a guy who’s had basically 2 major moves in his life. We live in a small 2-bedroom bungalow and we’ve been discussing upgrading to a larger house. Suits me just fine. Or does it? As we look for houses I am able to see potential in them all.

As I view the moldy kitchen the peeling wallpaper and the 70s air conditioning units, I tell my husband, “Bob, oh we can fix this up. I see a lot of potential.” This is getting real old for him. He’s much pickier than I. He says if we get a fixer-upper we need to live in it “till we croak.” These are his words not mine.

Then the old suffocation feeling sets in. “Gee, I already married this guy. We’ve had one child so far. I’ve lived in Atlanta for almost 10 years. I’ve had some of the same friends for more than the 2 years I had growing up. How much more commitment  can a girl take?”

I’m lucky I suppose. He knows now just to listen to me venting. He patiently listens until I finish. While he doesn’t understand, he does.

I’m not sure where we’ll buy our new house in the city. But I know it will never feel as much of a home to me as the three bedroom apartment in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, that squeezed together 2 parents, five children, including three teenagers, two babies and a bird dog. Or the little three-bedroom bungalow in Ft. Campbell, Tennessee, where we lived for two years.

This year, though, the itch has begun to subside. Relief came in the form of a phone call from an old Germany high school classmate. Through dogged persistence, she’s locate me and many others. We’re getting together in Las Vegas next August. As I exchange calls and e-mails and letters with my old friends, I find healing. They do understand. I’ve never felt like a civilian and sometimes the civilian way of life still baffles me.

Civilians get to know each other gradually, we brats bonded quickly and unbonded even more quickly when we moved again and had to get on with making yet more friends. But as I rehash memories, such as running wild in Germany in high school because we couldn’t drive, or the the day a girlfriend and I played hooky and went down to the Schwimmbad and ate pomme frites with mayonaise, or the longing we had to go back to the states and get a good tan, I’ve recaptured a piece of myself.

We army brats aren’t good at keeping in touch. In retrospect I see how much keeping in touch is integral to feeling at home. Home wasn’t one place growing up, it was more a feeling, or a state of being. Being an army brat is perhaps more integral to my self as being Irish, or German, or Catholic, or the eldest child–maybe more. And I value this “sense” of home even more.

 

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Military Brats Online, in 1997.

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