My Normal

03 Jul

As a child, I had a normal life.  Or so I thought.

Every two and a half years, my family would pack up everything we owned and move to a new place.  I’d say goodbye to my old friends, and make new friends at my new school. We went from Vandenberg AFB in California (where I was born) to Florida (where my brother was born), to Alabama to Oklahoma in a matter of 8 years.

Then at the age of 9 we moved to Greece. All this meant to me was that I was packing up my toys and stuffed animals and moving to a new house. Once there, we rented an apartment above a Greek family. I would often play with their daughter, Vasso, on our rooftop.  We would paint our nails and fix our hair.  She would teach me some Greek words and I would teach her English.  I wanted so badly to learn how to write in Greek, as I was so fascinated with their alphabet, but I never mastered it.  My brother would play soccer with the boys in the field across from our house.  We got along very well with them, despite the language barrier, but there was one thing we never understood…..

The Greeks disliked cats. We would often find kittens tied up in plastic bags by the trash cans, sometimes still alive.  We’d see the kids swinging older cats by the tails and flinging them across the fields. We’d try to save all of them that we could, but it was almost a hopeless cause.  My parents were kind enough to help us build homes for them in our backyard.  We’d take them out during the day and play with them, and then put them back in their safe house at night.

We did plenty of sight-seeing while we lived in Athens.  My parents understood the magnitude of living in that country.  I did not.  I must have walked up the millions of torturous steps to the Parthenon 5 or 6 different times. It was always so hot, and my scrawny legs would be on fire after the long trip up.  I remember thinking to myself, “Why are we doing this again?”  My parents would drag me to many other places as well… the Delphi Theater, Mykonos,  the monasteries… yawn.

We’d often go to the beach, however.  It was a treat to eat the twist donuts they sold there, or dig into the freshly caught shrimp stored in barrels. I did hate that we always had to wear a hat, and that we could only go out into the water up to our belly buttons, although sometimes it would seem like we could go miles out into the ocean before the water came up to our belly buttons. I was a little worried about the jelly fish that would swim around us, but we had no trouble playing with the clear dead ones that washed up on the beach.

We visited Flea markets quite often, and I remember vividly the smells of the leather that was so often sold at the market.  I always admired the flowing, colorful sundresses, and the beautiful stone jewelry.  Every time we went, I would beg my mom for some “worry beads”.   And the food.  Holy moly.  I loved the lamb gyros, and the Greek salads with fresh tomato, cucumber, green olives and feta.  And I could eat the Tzatziki sauce with a spoon. I’ve yet to come across an authentic Greek restaurant in the U.S. that serves the food they way I remember it over there.

From there we moved to Wiesbaden, Germany.  I was 12 by this time, so I was comprehending the significance of living in another country a little more.  Again we traveled to many places while there… The Berlin Wall (where I signed “I love Chris”), Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, snow skiing in Austria, the Black Forest…  All very interesting.  I collected souvenirs from every new place.  I loved the ‘magic boxes’ (wooden puzzle boxes where you had to know the puzzle in order to get the box open), and I loved the wooden jewelry boxes that played music when you lifted the lids.  My parents were into the wooden clocks, so we had tons of cuckoo clocks and a big Grandfather Clock as well.  I secretly loved the chimes and cuckoos heard throughout the house on every hour, and sometimes every quarter hour.

For my 8th grade trip, I went with the class to Paris.  It was interesting, I guess, but we were typical 13 year olds traveling on a train without parents and only a few chaperones, so the Eiffel Tower wasn’t necessarily high on our lists of things to do.  It was more fun to hang out in the hotel with just the girls.  Our next school trip was to London.  This was a little more interesting.  I actually enjoyed seeing Big Ben, watching The Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, seeing Pirates of the Penzance in the theater, and riding the Tube.  We crossed the English Channel on a ferry, where I became so sea sick I ended up sleeping through the whole trip.  We saw the Thames River and I related it to the novelist Agatha Christie, who I was familiar with because my mom had tons of her books.  My final Jr. High trip was a week of horseback riding somewhere in England.  I felt lucky to have gotten the horse named Snowball.  I learned he’d been in a movie, although the name escapes me now, but it must have been pretty well known – at least in those parts.  During that trip, we all were responsible for our own horses.  Feeding them, grooming them, saddling them…  I remember my legs being so sore after riding that first day, that I wasn’t sure I could keep going.  But it was an incredibly fun trip!

I liked the food in Germany, but not as much as in Greece.  The pomme frittes that were sold at the pools were my absolute favorite reason for going swimming.  They were so buttery, salty and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  I think this is where my love of fries came from.  I try to avoid them now, but any time we go to a new restaurant, I make my hubby or kids order fries so I can have a few.  I also like the roasted chicken we would order when going out.  It would come as a half chicken, again very crisp on the outside, leaving moist chicken meat on the inside.  I never liked the goulash soup, although I kept trying to because my mom raved about it, and I was just “ok” with the schnitzel.

I grew up not having much TV or even Radio.  In Greece, my brother and I could only watch two shows – The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  If there were others that were PG, I was not aware. We looked forward to watching them on Sunday nights, but didn’t miss the TV during the week.  I, however, missed music.  Once a week, we would get the Top 40 Countdown and I would glue my ear to the radio.  We had a full station of TV in Germany, so we were able to watch a few extra shows.  My favorites included General Hospital and Ryan’s Hope.  We also had a radio station, so I could listen to the radio every day if I wanted.  We were limited to whatever was on the top 40 charts, however. My hubby makes fun of me because there are quite a few songs that I heard for the first time after meeting him.

Coming back to the states after living overseas for 5 years was bittersweet.  I was anxious to get back to a place where everyone spoke English, and I couldn’t wait to see commercials on TV. But I remember feeling sad when our plane landed in Florida.  We lived with my Grandma for a little while, before making the trip to Scott AFB, IL.  I was 14 at the time and entering my Sophomore year in High School.  This time around I found it a little more difficult to make friends, mainly because I was an adolescent, and concerned about what everyone thought of me.  It helped that there were girls there that I went to school with in Germany.  We weren’t necessarily friends over there, but now that we had a commonality, we found it easy to talk with each other.  I ended up making some very close friends while participating in the flag corps in the marching band.

I’ve been living in Illinois ever since.  We transferred here in 1984.  28 years later and I’m STILL here.  After years of moving around I looked forward to settling down in one place and raising a family.

So why now, am I looking back on that decision and wondering if it was the right one?

I’ll save the answer to that question for another day….

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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Everyday Living, Family


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21 responses to “My Normal

  1. The Thin Lady Inside

    July 3, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I soooooooooooooooo loved this post shadow! WOW! What an amazing adventure… probably people get worried about too many changes for a child… but when you have a loving family by you… that’s all the stability you need! Your experiences…. so rich! Not that it’s easy to go through so many changes…. My parents moved quite often (in the same city) as I grew up… in 20 yrs. we moved about 24 times!!! I felt like a gypsy! LOL! But it was fun too and my family is very close so… it wasn’t really a “dramatic experience” 🙂 I’ll probably share more about that soon 🙂 Thanks for sharing all this!

    • shadowrun300

      July 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      I think children adapt much more quickly than adults do. Like I said, this was normal for me. I was shocked when I found out other people stayed in one place. Of course I regret not having appreciated Greece while living there. Going back is on my bucket list…. and I can’t wait!

  2. agg79

    July 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

    What a great story. From the miles you’ve traveled and places you’ve visited, you’ve developed a fascinating look at life. From my stint in the Army, I realized that moving can be very traumatic on families, especially the kids, but I think you handled it well, for all the times you moved. With only 5 years, I only had 3 posts to call home – 2 temporary (Kentucky, South Carolina) and one permanent (Boeblingen, Germany). I spent most of my tour in southern Germany, so we tried to maximize our time and explore as much as possible when not in the field. Your tails of life abroad remind me of some of our time overseas, especially in Germany. We did get to see some exotic sites, tour some castles, go up in the Eiffel Tower, go to the Eagle’s Nest, spent a few weekends in the Black Forest, bought a Grandfather Clock. Was a great time, but it did put us far from home and family. We missed the “normal” things – tv shows, football games, stores open 24 hours, but we grew accustomed to life in Germany. I know it was hard on you growing up in gypsy mode, packing up your stuff every 2-3 years to move to a new Air Base but I like how you learned to adapt to where ever you landed. (Improvise, Adapt & Overcome). Living in all those places does give you a totally unique view on life – all the different cultures, lifestyles, people, and, most importantly, the food. BTW – I really developed my craving for pommes frites with ketchup while there. And I do loves a good schnitzel. Thanks for bringing back some

    • shadowrun300

      July 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I think it would be more of an adjustment as an adult. After all, you KNEW about all the normal things like TV, and 24 hour stores, and English speaking people. Being so young, I guess I knew this stuff, but not well enough to really miss it. However, I was too young to appreciate where I was. I’m dying to get back to Greece, especially. I have no doubt I’ll get back again someday. I was older in Germany so I remember the experiences quite well. (We did so much more there than I even wrote about – so much history!)
      This was so fun for me to write. Looking for pics on the internet brought back so many memories. My parents have all our pics on slides, so I rarely get to look back on our lives. I’m sure there are quite a few things that I don’t even remember…. and I have a feeling my parents’ view of life in Europe differ greatly from mine. 🙂

      • agg79

        July 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

        Going back to the old stomping grounds can really be great, especially if you remember a lot of the old places/experiences. I had the opportunity to go back to Germany last summer (if you have nothing better to do, go look on my blog around the early July 2011 time frame) and it was a great trip. Got a chance to see some of the old Germany I remember and even went by my old post. It wasn’t a long trip, but I did get to cover a lot of ground. Even got in some good food, great sites, two volksmarches, and, of course, some excellent German bier. The one nice thing about my trip was that, this time, I wasn’t as budget constrained as we were when we lived there with the Army. Of course, learning to live abroad with Army pay, made for more interesting trips. We got to see more of the economy/local flavor and that may be what made it so memorable. I really hope you do get a chance to go back to Europe, definitely worth the cost/effort.

      • shadowrun300

        July 5, 2012 at 2:01 am

        If When I get back to Greece, I plan to talk with my parents about where we lived exactly and the beaches we frequented the most and where my favorite restaurant was, so that I can at least get back to those areas. My guess is it has all changed, but I’m still hoping to spark some memories. The base my dad was stationed at is closed down, although I wonder if the hotel we first stayed in is still open. Since the base closed down I assume our elementary school is closed down as well. 😦
        I’ve visited some of your earlier blogs, but I don’t remember your Germany trip. I’ll definitely be checking it out!
        And btw, still waitin’ for The Changing of the Guard Airstream. 😉

  3. Erin

    July 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

    What a great story to be able to share…I’m both jealous and intrigued (especially about your time in Greece).

    • shadowrun300

      July 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      As I mentioned earlier, I REALLY want to go back to Greece. I was younger then, so I didn’t appreciate where I was, and I would love to go back and see it as an adult. Besides that, I really miss the food! 🙂

  4. Abby

    July 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Wow, what an adventurous childhood! Since I live in such a “military town”, I hear similar stories, but don’t get a lot of the details like you’ve shared here (people move before I get the whole stories!). It’s so different from my own childhood where I grew up in a small town and graduated hs with many of the same kids I went to kindergarten with.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’m wanting to travel and see other cultures. For now, I get by on PBS, but what is UP with those Greeks and cats?!?

    • shadowrun300

      July 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      That is exactly how my hubby grew up – in a town of 300. He escaped and we actually met while he was living in St. Louis, but now we’re back. The town has now grown to 600 people. 🙂
      We love traveling and plan to do a whole lot more of it as the kids grow up and move out. (I don’t sound too anxious, do I?) Greece will be the first European country of my choice.
      I could easily have bored you all with even more details – especially of Germany…and the beer gartens, and the topless swimming pools, and more depressingly, the torture museums, and the concentration camps. We saw tons of stuff now that I think about it!

  5. towardshealthylife

    July 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    This is such a great post! I could easily read lots od similar post so feel free to revisit the subject with details 😉 You had so much great experience as a child(there was probably some downsides as well) but like you said a child doesn’t care for site seeing or culture and only wants friends to play with. I would love to go to Greece, for the food and the rest. Don’t they have a island that is filled with cats? Did you learn to speak German while you were there? Thanks for sharing that part of your life:-)

    • shadowrun300

      July 4, 2012 at 2:08 am

      I hope you get the chance to go to Greece! I’m dying to go back, but I’m sure it’ll be nothing like I remember it. I haven’t heard about the island full of cats. I may have to do some research….
      You know, I lived in Germany for 3 school years, and took 4 years of it in school, and I can’t speak a lick of it. Not sure why I had such a hard time learning it. I think I would have had more fun with Greek! I love the way their alphabet looks. 😉
      It was fun revisiting my childhood. I may go more in depth with some of it – sure wish I had pics to help me relive some of my experiences…. I’ll have to ask Mom or Dad…

      • towardshealthylife

        July 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

        I wish I could go! I agree their alphabet look so cool:-)

  6. meleah rebeccah

    July 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    holy amazing. You’ve certainly had your share of traveling, and I can totally appreciate your desire to stay put for the past 28 years. I’ve never been overseas. One day, I hope to visit HALF of the places where you lived!

    • shadowrun300

      July 4, 2012 at 2:13 am

      I was an experienced traveler for sure….
      But you live in an area where everyone comes to you! I would think you’d have all the different cultures in your backyard. 🙂 Of course, that doesn’t compare to seeing the landscape and architecture in person. I recommend Italy for your first choice, and if you go again, then hit up Greece. 😉

  7. territerri

    July 3, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Wow! Yes, your definition of a “normal” childhood is definitely unique to you. I spent almost all of my childhood in the rambler where my parents lived until just after I’d gotten married. And when Mark and I settled down, it was only about 10 miles from where each of us grew up.

    • shadowrun300

      July 4, 2012 at 2:16 am

      You know, I really never thought about how NOT normal it was until I lived in this small town for so long. Some of these people have never left the state, let alone the country! I definitely have been blessed to visit so many different places, but in a way it saddens me that my children haven’t experienced all of that….. I’ll write more on that later, though.

  8. Janet

    July 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Well I guess there are always to sides to things. From a distance it sounds so great but then again most of us haven’t experienced it from within. Beinge a “foreigner” in a different country can be hard at times. But looking at it without really thinking much, I guess I would have liked to make all the experiences that you made…well, minus the cat abuse!!! I can’t go to Greece then, I think I would seriously go crazy on those terrible habits.
    Well, you certainly have had an interesting life. 😉

    • shadowrun300

      July 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      I think it’s a case of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy moving so often, but I’d never stayed anywhere for any length of time, so I suppose I was ready to try that out. ‘Course now that I have, I’m ready to start moving and traveling again…. I think living in one place for too long has it’s pros and cons as well.

  9. Jules

    July 10, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I think it would be fun to live in another country but I think it would be easier as a child, just because it’s easier to absorb information at that age. I think it’s cool you got to do all that traveling. All I’ve ever known is growing up in the U.S.

    • shadowrun300

      July 10, 2012 at 1:42 am

      You guys really need to go to Italy… Didn’t Mike mention his desire to go there? I strongly recommend it!! 🙂


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