I’m always completely in awe of people who grew up in one place. If you want to shock me, tell me that you’ve had the same best friend since kindergarten. Or show me where your mom marked your height on the kitchen wall every year. I think that’s an absolutely incredible way to spend your childhood and when I was younger I wished that I could visit my grandparents every weekend, just like my classmates.
So it’s not surprising that, while driving through every one-stoplight town in the midwest, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it could have been like to grow up next door to my best friend or to pass by the same church on my way to school every morning. Every tiny town made me think that maybe, despite loving growing up military, I really had missed out on something. Maybe a little continuity, a little stability, even a hometown, would have been good for me.
And then we got back to Fort Leavenworth.
A historic picture of our newest house.
I say “got back” because this is the second time that we’ve been stationed here. Fourteen years ago, I was in the first grade and I spent most of my time catching crawfish in our creek and making daisy chains by the park. I loved living in our tiny home in Kansa Village. So when we decided to drive by our old house a couple of weeks ago, I was so excited to see how it had all changed. Being an army brat means that you rarely ever get to see your former homes, but I think Nelson Mandela was onto something… sometimes going back is just as valuable as going forward.
Naturally, our little house looked completely different today than it did fourteen years ago, but something about that tiny quadplex (seriously… I know) made me feel a little nostalgic. So when my mom told me that our old neighbor was passing through town with one of her daughters (a recent West Point grad), it felt like some kind of crazy sign.
A few nights later, we’d be sitting in my new living room with some old friends, trading laughs and swapping stories about other military families. And sitting there, laughing about mundane things like where all of the neighborhood kids ended up going to college, I realized something totally new… I did grow up in a small town. I may not have height markings on my kitchen wall and the scenery may change every year, but we gossip like a small town, take care of each other like a small town, and send out Christmas cards like a small town. Even if the postage to go across the world costs a little bit more!