Left Behind

The next few days will be sad, teary-eyed ones for me. Why? Because it’s summer time and I live in a transient area filled with military and state department families who are constantly on the move. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. suburbs since seventh grade. You would have thought by now I’d be used to the moving, and in a way I am. I’ve gotten used to every year a friend here or there will move away. However, this year is hitting me hard, due to the fact I’m experiencing the biggest loss of friends, as are my children. Four families we are close to are moving away. Two are heading to the “left coast” i.e. California, one is going as far flung as Japan, and the fourth is heading south about three hours away.  My oldest and youngest are each losing two friends. In addition to losing good friends that I call upon for last minute favors, to pick up my kid, or grab a coffee with, my husband and I are also losing two favored baby sitters. For those of you with kids, you know how difficult it can be to find a new sitter. All the families are in different services, and two own homes here and feel they may return in three to four years. So, there is hope we will see them again and pick up where we left off.

Due to the location I live, this cycle will continue. My child’s elementary school announced last year that it had the most military families of any school in the county. Making it difficult for the administration to plan from year to year since it usually isn’t until September, when school begins, that they know how many children will be in each classroom; sometimes leading to overcrowded or too few students in classrooms. On my street of about a dozen houses three are rental units owned by military and generally rented to military. One family a few doors down is retiring from the military this year and, to my relief, plan to stay in their home.

As stressful and difficult as it is to move, (trust me I understand, I’d rather gnaw off my left arm than move) sometimes I think it’s worse being left behind. Military and State Department folks get the adventure of learning a new place, making new friends, and experiencing new cultures. Military wives living on base tend to form support networks, so it can be easier to fit in to a new situation. Whereas, those of us left behind have no new adventures, we just search to fill the void. Those voids are often never fully filled if the friends that have left were close ones. My sadness is compounded as I watch my children realize their good buddies will not be here over the summer to play at the pool, or join at the local bounce house, or have a simple play date. They too search to fill the void, although I know, come fall, there will be new classmates and friendships will blossom. As I’m not in school, new chums will not be as easy to come by.

A girlfriend of mine, let’s call her Kay, lived a few doors up the street. She once told me about an abrupt conversation she had at a cocktail party. Kay was introduced to the woman who lived directly – I mean DIRECTLY – across the street. Once the across the street neighbor found out her husband was military she told Kay they couldn’t be friends because she’d be moving away soon. Kay and I laughed over the slight a number of times. Indeed the neighbor simply ignored Kay, no courteous waves from the car or acknowledgments from the yard. The short-sighted neighbor missed out on five years of good times with Kay, who has moved away but still returns to the area almost quarterly.goodbye On the other hand, I understand where the abrupt neighbor was coming from. My heart sinks a little every time I fall into a friendship with a military wife, knowing, down the road, I will be feeling as I do today – sad and a bit weepy having to say good-bye to another good family as they load up the minivan and trundle on to their next adventure.

10 Responses to Left Behind

  1. You are right. It is much harder to be left behind than to leave. I felt a sting when Erin said she was moving and we were most certainly not going to move again (little did I know)… it was going to be our third summer left behind and I thought we were done moving. It really was the shoe on the other foot to how it felt to be the ones left. It almost made me pull back a little with everyone I knew because I didn’t want to go through that again. While I may have for a bit (and probably such a short time no one noticed), I thought how dim life would be without the spectrum of poignant feelings. It hurts a lot to leave great friends….to have to make your way through a new place and guard yourself and not have any true girlfriends till you’re about ready to go, but on the opposite side, there are always the incredible memories. Memories of polka dotted outfits with pool cues, of waiting for the next morning you can FINALLY all get together without someone’s kid being sick, of just stopping by and sitting for a few hours while chaos is around. Is it interesting to have a medium bland life where there is no extreme happiness and on the other side extreme unhappiness? I do think it is quite sad for someone to just not make friends with military families just because they are military. I can almost understand it. Except then there wouldn’t be plans for Vegas in the future….if you gave up your military friends. ;) <3 Miss you already! And I'll SEE YOU AT THE END OF JULY!

    • See you in July! At least you won’t be going so far away. And we will have to make plans for Vegas!

  2. I’ll miss you too friend. :(

  3. Jennifer Cote

    Great piece Ellen! As I am one of the ones who moved away I can say that I miss all of the people I left in Virginia. I experienced this feeling of left behind in Manila when people would leave. It seemed even harder when I felt left in a foreign country. I am gonna share this with some of my friends because there are many people I know who feel like this! Yet, every time I have moved I now have even more great people around the world that I know and I am sure more friends enter your life as well. I have been “home” now in CA for 1 1/2 years and the kids and i are just getting to the point where we have play date friends etc. and that loss of time is painful on the kids. I know many people don’t like to do Facebook, but for me it’s my one connection to my friends!

    • Love Facebook for keeping up with those of you who have moved away. Especially love seeing the photos of the kids as they grow! Glad you’re doing well in CA.

    • Is this Jennifer with the triplets? It IS! HEY THERE! Interestingly enough, Ellen, I met Jennifer my first year here when Joe and her son became good buddies. I had her kids over during their last week at home to make gingerbread houses. My daughter, Evie, age 3 then, kept on asking when the fun girls were coming back. I was so sad that I wouldn’t have time to watch our friendship grow. I knew we’d have been good friends if she’d have stayed. I loved getting the updates from Manila during your time there. :)

      • Wow, I didn’t know you knew Jen. Alex was in preschool with the triplets for 2 years. It was great, he had an entire play group in one family. It was sad when they left.

  4. Very poignant. We’ve all experienced this, but it sounds like you’re really in the zone for military families. We’re so lucky to have these great people doing their vitally important work, but we don’t often stop to think about the disruption visited upon not only them, but those who come to love them in local communities.

  5. You know, Ellen, I’ve never thought about how that would effect an area with a lot of military families. I just know that it is always sad to lose a neighbor you like. Thank goodness the world has become a smaller place and you can still keep in touch. But it’s just not the same as being near someone. I still miss coffee with a good friend who moved to Ohio. :-( Your posts reminds me I need to give her a call.
    Hope you make some new friends when those homes get filled.

    • Thanks for stopping by Sharon. You’re right, Facebook, email and texting makes staying in touch so much easier. Give your friend a call, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you!