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. 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.