The Adventure of Change

The Adventure of Change

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

The Adventure of Change

Change always comes bearing gifts.

~Price Pritchett

I’m a military brat. When my father was a marine officer, we moved twelve times in fourteen years. When people hear this, they say, “That must have been hard on you.”

I disagree. Each move was an adventure, an opportunity that contributed to who I am as an adult.

At family meetings, my parents would announce, “We’re being transferred.” Then the map would come out and we’d go into a huddle.

“This is where we are. This is where we are going.” My father’s fingers landed on our current home state and with the other hand, he pinpointed our next home.

I might have been sad to leave behind a favorite hiding place but I looked forward to finding a new one at the next place. I was exposed to the different seasons when we moved from the East to the West Coast. In school I learned the history of more than one state, something I wouldn’t have been exposed to if we hadn’t moved. My brothers and I got to visit many amusement parks and museums across the country as we traveled. These experiences were only some of the common threads among military families.

As my family ticked off the trip miles, my mother engaged us in a plethora of games, including my favorite — listing state license plates we saw. I was fascinated to see the variety. I’d wonder where the other families were headed. Were they moving too? Were they headed to Grandma’s house or were they out for a local trip?

If we hadn’t moved across this great country, I wouldn’t have spotted a Kaibab squirrel, admired the petroglyphs of Zion National Park, or wondered at the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. I wouldn’t have giggled as we dipped deep in the water on a river float, screeched as I reeled in a trout from a babbling creek, or gazed in wonder at the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Although I love my Tex-Mex, the taste of true Cajun food and fresh seafood gave me a desire for a variety of cuisines. I doubt I would have tried chicken shawarma if I hadn’t tried an assortment of dishes as a child.

Although the distances seemed vast when my dad would show us the map, some of my fondest memories involved the miles we covered. Our longest trek? From North Carolina to California in the summer of 1970. My parents broke each trip into segments. As an adult, I surmised it was easier on them to shoo four kids out of the car to run off energy at frequent stops. But as children, we delighted in the adventure of each break.

My parents scoped out the national and state parks along the route, and researched the hotel and camping options. Camping usually won out. With six of us, I suspect it was the cheaper solution. This led to memories such as crawling into a tent on a clear evening in the Rocky Mountains and waking up to more than eight inches of pristine snow blanketing our tents, the ground and picnic tables. When we opened the flaps of our tents, we stared in wonder at the crystal white of the landscape and then huddled back into cozy, flannel sleeping bags for a late start that morning.

Breakfast over a Coleman gas grill always tasted better than a meal cooked on a kitchen stove. Camping meant more effort for my parents than for my brothers and me. We’d clamor out of the car, help unload a few things, and leave our parents to do the real camp setup. For my brothers and me there were critters to chase and a half-hearted attempt to gather kindling for a fire. With the smell of pine needles in the Rockies, or the squish of sand between our toes on a beach, we’d be off and return as mealtime approached.

As Dad announced, “Just a little farther,” we always became antsy. Would it be a big house? Would it have a bedroom for each of us? Would the back yard have enough room to toss a ball? When we pulled into our new home’s driveway, I remember the excitement of solving those mysteries. My brothers and I ran from one bedroom to the next, discussing which room belonged to whom. I don’t remember any arguments. It seemed as if each house was made just for our family and specific bedrooms fit our needs and personalities. Once we’d staked our claims, we’d run out the back door to see what was there. Each varied environment influenced me.

One of my favorite homes in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, gave me a tremendous love of nature. I remember gasping when I went out the back door. Woods! Not twenty feet from the back porch, a forest of pine, beech and ash served as the property line. It didn’t take the four of us long to disappear into the trees with the promise to stick together and not go too far. We spent many afternoons discovering birds, lizards and other critters among the leaves of that forest floor. By the time we’d moved away a year later, we could each explore without getting lost.

From the stops along the route to the mysteries awaiting us at the end of our journey, our military life provided opportunities that serve me well as an adult. I’m never bored, always curious to learn, and usually look at any change as an opportunity to grow. Military brats can’t say, “I’ve lived in this house for twenty years,” but we can brag about the different states we’ve explored and the friends and adventures we’ve experienced.

~Gail Molsbee Morris

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