The Traveling Child

teddy bear in suitcase

If you grew up the child of a military member, you’ll understand how life was for me.

My life revolved around moves on base and off, from as early as two years old to seventeen.

Since my birth in the state of Maine, my family moved from there to Taiwan, Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama, Germany, Illinois, Virginia, and Colorado.

While in Germany, my mom took my sister and I with her to Greece each summer so that we could spent it with our yiayia (grandmother), aunt (thía), and our two cousins. We spent three summers in Greece, and the memories are fantastic.

Most of the time, we spent our days at the beach, playing mini golf, eating ice cream and watermelon, and tramping around the suburbs of Athens.

One time, my mom took my sister and I to a disco. It was fun dancing to the BeeGees on colored tiled floors produced by strobe lights and a disco ball dangling from the noisy room’s ceiling.

And the outdoor theaters were awesome–four walls without a roof, surrounded by beautiful flowers with the huge screen on the wall across from us.

My dad retired in Colorado, and I finished up my last year of high school in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Although attending my senior year at a completely unfamiliar and friendless high school was both challenging and incredibly abysmal, the fact that I fell in love with the light, arid, sunny climate and gorgeous mountainous scenery of Colorado helped lessen that year’s lows, and it only got better after I graduated, seeing how I hated high school.

When I was growing up, I was painfully shy, and it took me several months to get to know other kids. Nevertheless, I did each place we moved, and in some cases, I wrote to those I became friends with for many years, until most of them stopped writing.

Writing letters was a normal way of communicating in my day, youngsters out there reading this. 🙂 And writing letters and receiving them in the mail was akin to getting a surprise gift every time my mom would bring in the mail.

One friend, who became my best friend, I met while my family was stationed at Rhein Main Air Base, is still in contact with me today. We’ve literally kept in contact, visited with each other a few times, for the last approximately forty years.

Relationships like that are so special and cherished. In fact, I’ve talked to her recently, and she is planning to come visit me in a few weeks, depending on the COVID rules here in Colorado.

Childhood memories of getting in and out of airplanes, unpacking our things, starting at new schools, are embedded in my mind. Riding my bike with my friends, playing Barbies, going to the roller skating rink to glide around the circular floor and do the hokey-pokey with the lights off and colorful spotlights dancing around the huge space bring a smile to my face.

So many children were in the neighborhoods in which I grew up. You’d encounter them on your street or in their front yards, and soon, you were talking, playing–friends.

There was such freedom in the days of my childhood. You hear that often from older folks like me. But it is so true. Life was full of imagination, wonder, and riding your bike or skating around your neighborhood and beyond with no fear and little limits/boundaries, especially if you lived on base.

I wish it were still like that today. My sons didn’t grow up with the same freedoms I did.

All those moves exposed me to different cultures and different people, and I feel blessed to have had those experiences.

I bring all this up because not only am I reminiscing, but also because ideas of writing about the military brat’s life, using some of my own experiences to create a work of fiction has been swirling around in my head the past few days.

Perhaps this new idea will land on my mind’s runway, and a story will be written. I’m hoping so.

Were you a military brat? What childhood memories do you hold dear?

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

Pick up your copy of Passage of Promise  via Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

Me with PofP final print copy April 27 2020

Most Popular Christmas Gifts Over the Past 70 Years

retro toys

Do you remember what you desperately wanted for Christmas when you were a child? Were they toys that were the “In” thing?

For fun, I put together some data on popular toys kids wanted for Christmas through the decades.

Let’s start with the 1950s.

Children then seemed eager for such toys as that ol’ rubber guy, Gumby, the bouncy Pogo Stick, and the timeless Play-Doh. And what kid could go without the corn popper? I think many didn’t!

Gumby            pogo stick

corn popper toy

I actually had all of those, except Gumby, but I had them later on in my childhood era. 🙂

 

1960s

Little girls were gaga over the Chatty Cathy doll and the amazing Easy-Bake Oven.

chatty cathy doll     easy bake oven toy

While boys found an interest in GI Joe action figures and Hot Wheels. Well…I would say both sexes were interested in these and other toys throughout these eras.

GI Joe toy        hot wheels 1968

 

1970s

In this decade, kids were fascinated with the first foam Nerf ball, and the flexibility and durability of Stretch Armstrong. I remember the latter very well. A few of my friends had this elasticized dude, and it was wildly fun pulling him yards apart and watching him slide back into a normal-sized guy once we tired of torturing him. Haha.

nerf ball        stretch armstrong

And the cool Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle was all the roar in the early 1970s.

Evil Knievel stunt cycle

Also, a huge invention: the Atari video game system came out in this decade. The first game, I remember, was Pong. Haha. But later on, we enjoyed Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Astroids, Centipede, Pit Fall, and others!

The View Master was big then too. I had several slides from the Scooby-Doo show when I was a kid. Christmas was complete when kids got these fun toys in the 1970s.

view master

 

1980s

How could anyone around that time forget about the fights on Black Fridays over the Cabbage Patch Kids? Goodness. The scrambling across the slippery toy stores, and the unbelievable tug-o-war over the last couple of dolls was both astonishing and insane. Those certainly were a HUGE want for lots of children in the 1980s.

cabbage patch kids 1

Then, for the more nerdy kids, the Rubik’s Cube came out and teased and worked kids’ brains in a good way. I mean, who didn’t have a Rubik’s Cube then? We were all cool nerds! What fun that was!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

This was also the decade when the Nintendo video game system came out! My sons are loyal Nintendo fans.

 

1990s

Goodness. Do you remember all the hubbub over the Tickle Me Elmo doll? I do. Although I was in my twenties then, I still remember the craze over his giggling. And then there was the bizarre-looking Furby dolls. Many parents scrambled for these dolls during Christmastime.

tickle me elmo        Furby doll

And don’t forget the Beanie Babies! Believe it or not, they started off in McDonalds’ Happy Meals but caught on like wildfire, becoming one of the most wanted and collected items in the decade.

beanie babies

 

2000s

Looks like Zhu Zhu Pets came out in this time period, as well as those ugly…er, I mean, nice dolls, the Bratz. My sons actually each had a Zhu Zhu Pet. They were hamsters. The Razor Scooter was a biggie in the early 2000s.

zhu zhu pets               razor scooter

 

My Christmas toy memories

Some of the most awesome toys I got for Christmas in the late 1970s and 1980s were the Barbie Dream House and several of the Muppets characters. They were puppets where you stuck your hand in and could move their mouths, but in the case of the character, Animal, I could move his eyebrows too. What fun those were!

barbie dream house    Muppets

 

What were special gifts you loved when you were growing up?

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

 

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall Fell: A Personal Childhood Experience of Visiting East and West Berlin and the Wall

fall of berlin wall 1989

(An edited repost)

For the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), I am posting a short piece I wrote three years ago in my creative writing class that is a true story about my experiences at age 10 or 11, to the best of my recollection, in West and East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie.

allied checkpoint charlie

Our tour bus rumbled to a stop at Checkpoint Charlie. It was a bitter cold day, and the gray sky promised an outpouring of heavy snow.

Just beyond the checkpoint and its red and white striped arm stood a white guard tower occupied by East German soldiers with machine guns. Behind us, the museum on one side of the road and the pizza parlor on the other emitted liveliness and the typical aura of a well-visited venue for tourists — the West Side of Berlin.

As my family sat waiting in our seats on the bus, a man in a military uniform climbed into the vehicle with a scowl on his face. “Passports! Passports!” he shouted.

The man’s crimson face and bulky, rigid figure frightened me.

 I was sitting next to my mother, closest to the window. My dad and sister sat in front of us. Mom clutched our passports, waiting for the man to get to our row. I slid down the seat, hoping to disappear. He then stood over my mother. She quickly showed him our documentation. He continued down the narrow aisle, his boots punching the floor.

Finally, he left, and the bus chugged through into East Berlin.

As dreary as the pewter sky were the drab brown buildings on either side of us. Few people walked the sidewalks. Our bus passed one person sitting on a lone bench, bundled up in a coat that seemed to mesh into his surroundings.

This childhood experience of East Berlin made a lasting impression on me that I can still see clearly to this day, over thirty years later.

berlin wall piece at RR Pres. Library
(A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library)