When I was 11, living in my 7th home, 3rd state, and attending my 4th elementary school I was envious of the children who had been best friends since before kindergarten. They lived in the same house, in the same neighborhood with the same bedroom since they were born. I yearned for that kind of connection to a neighborhood and to a friend. My family was tight but I wished for a friend my age to play with at recess and to count on for after school playtime hours. I didn’t begrudge those who could claim that kind of friendship, I just understood that it would take a few months before I would begin to feel warm connections.
As a military wife, married 14 years, currently living in our . . . let me count them . . . in our 11th home, I have seen a pattern develop. This is the pattern for me. The first three months in an area are kind of exciting, with lots of promise for the 1-3 years we anticipate living in that home. I spend my time setting up the house and reaching out to make new friends.
From the 3 month mark to the 6 month mark I find myself tired of extending myself, and craving familiarity instead of excitement. I sometimes find myself very down. I have learned that it isn’t uncommon to experience a sort of grieving process when you lose something special. Moving across the country, regardless of the promise of the new area, can definitely be a loss to grieve. A loss of nearness to friends who know you, a loss of order in your home, a loss of favorite hiking trails, an upsetting of knowing your place in a community, and the necessity of learning where the olives are in the local grocery store, all these can leave one feeling isolated and exhausted.
For me, the 6-12 month time frame offers promising friendships and a steadying of my place in the community.
When I have lived somewhere for a year I feel like I can call the place home.
When I have lived somewhere for two years I feel like the area is “mine.”
At about the 2.5 year mark I start getting “itchy gypsy feet,” (thank you, Erin) and anticipate the next move. By this time, in a highly transient area, the people who became your close friends may be getting ready to move as well and there are so many new people that the idea of extending yourself like you had in the first 6 months may feel like a lost cause. About 3 months before you move you (hopefully) have orders to a new area. You begin studying the new area and phasing out, emotionally, from the current area.
The process then begins again.
These are in no way rules to live by, but I wonder how similar this pattern is to other military families.
After living in our current home in San Antonio, TX, for a mere 8 months, we just received notification of our next assignment. We (supposedly) will be living in El Paso, TX this summer. We have had orders to El Paso before. The orders to El Paso changed to South Korea and then to upstate New York last time. I have put some effort into researching the housing at Fort Bliss, El Paso, but I haven’t emotionally invested in the idea yet. Once bitten, twice shy.
So, back to my point . . . my life, it seems, has been a series of new friendships. I started wondering if it was just my plight to make history with people only to say goodbye and never see them again except on Face Book.
Last night I sat in the home of our dear friends. We shared dinner, our children played, and my soul rested. We have finally made the rounds enough in military life to begin running in to old friends. When we were each newlywed couples, husbands entrenched in language school and military demands, we were casual friends. When our next duty station landed us in the same town our little families started to grow as well as our friendship. In the incubator of motherhood and military family life we trudged through the hardships together. She in her home, me in mine, we formed a friendship of support through our encounters at the park or on group lunch dates. Those were some intense, formative years in my life.
As we sat in their home, nearly a decade since the last time that happened, I was known. Sure, they were sketchy on the last 10 years of our lives, but they knew me. I didn’t have to start from scratch or worry about first impressions. We had history, finally.
I have concluded that “history” between friends cannot be fully appreciated until the two parties have been apart for some time.
Here’s your lost cause for the week:
If you find yourself in the ever-circling pattern of new friendships and craving familiarity – fear not – each of those friendships, however old or new when you left them, can feel like home when you find each other again.
To all my friends in Monterey, California – San Antonio, Texas – Eagle River, Alaska – Rexburg, Idaho – Boise, Idaho, Adrian, Oregon – Provo, Utah – Meridian, Idaho – Fort Drum, New York and the thousands of places so many of us have scattered to throughout the years, I look forward to crossing paths with you again and hugging you, and feeling the peace of home, the peace of being known without any effort.
It Takes Time to Make History