Growing up as a military brat involved a lot of moving, and I attended eleven different schools in thirteen years. As an introvert, it was incredibly difficult for me to deal with always being the new kid. It was particularly hard when I would attend non-military schools, because the locals weren’t always kind to us outsiders. Sometimes I had a problem making friends.
One of the bright spots for me was from 1978 to 1981, when my dad was stationed in Germany. My sister Lori doesn’t have such fond memories of it as I do, she’s a couple of years younger and she was a little traumatized by things like bomb threats, but I thought that was exciting! My sister Brandi doesn’t remember Germany at all, seeing as how she was born in ’78, so it was her birthplace.
I however, spent the ages of nine to twelve there, and I really enjoyed it. We lived in three different places, and I had friends in all of them! The first place we lived was off-base in a small German town, and unlike some of the locals back home, the Germans welcomed us into their neighborhood with open arms. We were the only Americans living there, and I instantly became friends with two German sisters who lived across the street. I still remember their names, Sabina and Leann. Despite the fact that we spoke different languages, we always played together, had sleepovers, and ate dinner at each other’s houses…just like any BFFs would!
When housing opened up on base, we moved to Kaiserslautern, which was similar to living on a base in the U.S., only bigger. We were surrounded by all the comforts of home, and we were with our extended military family. Us kids had free run of the base, and we always felt safe there. Living in K-Town was probably my sister Lori’s favorite part of being in Germany. Even though I had a lot of friends on the base, I actually missed feeling like I was living in another country, so I was secretly happy when our housing time ran out and we had to move off-base again.
The last place we lived was the best of both worlds, because it was a large American apartment building located in a German city. From there my mom would let me take the German bus (with the cool bendy thing in the middle!) back to K-Town to visit my friends on base, and she let me go shopping for her at the German markets near our apartment, which I thought was tremendous fun. Across the street from the American building was a British building, which led to me getting to know a British schoolteacher who had no children of her own. We met at the park one day, and we became fast friends. She would loan me books to read, and I would help her pick vegetables from the small garden on her terrace. That is one of the things I loved the most about Germany, there were gardens everywhere, both practical and beautiful.
I would not trade my nomadic childhood for anything in the world. If I hadn’t been an Army brat, I wouldn’t have been able to meet most of the people, see most of the things, or have most of the experiences that I did. Living in Germany changed me in ways which had a profound and positive impact. Although when I was a child I really hated always moving, and it was sometimes very difficult, it was actually an incredible gift.