Saturday, October 13, 2012

Growing Up Brat


I was talking with my Dad the other night and was reminded of just how different my childhood was.  It makes me a little sad that my kids won’t have that same experience.  For those of you that don’t know me, my father was Air Force and I grew up in Germany.  The story we were talking about in particular, that best illustrates the uniqueness of my childhood was the time I was in Odyssey of the Mind and got to go to Baltimore for a competition.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competition centered on creative problem solving.  Our problem was we had to build a vehicle from scratch that would be able to make a few laps around track.  We won our local competition and therefore got to go to the finals in Baltimore.  Don’t be too impressed.   The thing about Department of Defense schools is that they are generally pretty small so there’s never a lot of competition.  We were one of two teams and the other team’s vehicle fell apart before it could complete a lap.

While we were in Baltimore, we got to go to Washington D.C. and we toured the White House.  While we were waiting in line, a lady in front of me struck up a conversation.
“Where are you from?”
“Germany”
“Really!  You don’t have an accent.”
“I’m half American.  My dad’s in the Air Force.”
“Wow, that’s neat.  So you go to a German school?”
“No, I go to school in the Netherlands.”
“But you live in Germany?”
“Yes.”
“So…you fly to school?”
“No, I take a bus.”
“Like a regular school bus?”
“It’s more like a city bus.   Our buses are Mercedes.”
Ok, I admit it.  At this point I was just being an asshole.  They actually were made my Mercedes, but they were just regular looking buses.  I just thought this sounded pretty cool.

There were things about growing up overseas that were pretty damn cool though.  Like my best friend Ann lived in the gatehouse of a castle.  Seriously.  When they moved in they still had the original enormous skeleton keys.  At her sixteenth birthday she actually said the words, “Oh no! I just dropped my glasses in the moat.”

When we first got the Internet, we once went into a chat room and told everyone that she lived in a castle.  The response was “yeah right, and I have a flying car.”
Incidentally, I’m starting to wonder if the term military brat refers, in part, about our tendency to brag about our experiences.

I am thankful for the experience though.  I got to live a stone’s throw away from some of the most amazing cities.  I was driving distance from Brussels, Paris, and Amsterdam just to name a few.  I could get to three different countries within 30 minutes.   The only down side to this is if you have a bad sense of direction it is quite possible to start the day in Germany, try to get to a town in the Netherlands to go shopping, and accidentally end up in Belgium…almost out of gas…with the wrong currency.  For French class, I got to go to France.  For History, I got to go to the beaches of Normandy.  Oh, and I got to buy beer for the first time when I was 16.

Even more than these, the best thing about being a military brat is that it taught me the beauty of diversity and acceptance.  My friends were from all different nationalities, religions, and skin colors but to us it didn’t matter.  We were a group that were used to feeling like the outsider.  In Europe I felt American.  In America I was European.  The disgusted Arby’s clerk that watched me eat my fries with mayonnaise shortly after I moved to the states for college would agree with that last statement. (The poor Wal-mart clerk that I tried to show my ID to every time for that first year would think I was schizophrenic.)  Ask a military brat their hometown and you will be met with a confused stare.  So for a group used to not belonging, we made each other feel like we belonged.  And for that I will be eternally grateful to my fellow military brats.

3 comments:

  1. Good stuff Sabine! We were stationed at GK for over seven years. The start in Germany, trying to get to a place in the Netherlands, wind up in Belgium thing? Yeah, we did that, first weekend we had a car. All three kids went to AFCENT, son graduated from same. (Back when it was AFCENT.)

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    1. I also graduated back when it was AFCENT. Maybe we were there at the same time. I'm happy to hear that I'm not the only one to have done that.

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