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Posts Tagged ‘Pat Conroy’

I read an article recently about Pat Conroy, one of my favorite depressed Southern authors.  I jotted down this quote he gave about growing up as a child in a military household: “We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there.”

My father was a Marine, so I moved a lot as a child.  I was perpetually the “new kid” so I had to learn to land on my feet again and again and again.  I mastered how to quickly assess the dynamics in a room – who has power?  Who is a pariah?  Who should be avoided and who needs to be befriended?  I became good at making friends, although not very adept at staying in touch with them for the long haul.  There was a rhythm to our lives that involved moving in May and starting a new school in September.  Except when we had to move and start a new school in October or April during the middle of a school year.

I don’t like it when people ask me where I’m from.  I’m not from anywhere.  I don’t like it when people say it must have been “such a great experience” to see so much of the world as a child and I must be so “outgoing.”  That’s like saying that being poor must have really taught you to be resourceful about finding enough to eat – what a blessing!

The Marine Corps was the source of a lot of tension in my family, and my nomadic childhood was just collateral damage.  My parents made choices for me that I would not have made for myself.  They volunteered me to make sacrifices that I would not require of my own  children.  For instance, I would not ask my children to attend 6 different schools in 4 years in a row during middle school, which everyone knows is like Lord of the Flies under the best of circumstances.

My brother joined the Marine Corps when I was in college during the war in Iraq.  I had known about the sacrifices that powerless children make when their parents serve their country.  During those years I learned about the sacrifices that adults make when their loved ones go to war.  I learned about a different kind of helplessness, and that love can hold you hostage to the choices another person makes every bit as much as childhood does.  Being an adult is still better.

I don’t know what it is to be a Marine, but I see those invisible children who have been drafted into serving their country, and I won’t do that to my children.

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