Whenever someone would ask me where I was from, I gave the standard military brat’s response: “All over.” Although I was born in one state and attended a year or two of school there (but not consecutively), I felt no real connection to the people or area. We had relatives who lived there, but all of the older ones have since passed on and most of the younger ones moved away. I have no real reason to think of it as “home.”
Military bases and communities were more like home to me than when Dad was stationed in obscure billets, like the Naval Training Center in Wilmington (which I’m not certain still exists). In the civilian communities, most of the kids had gone to school together all their lives and I was often the only military-related child in my class—sometimes the school. (Wilmington, however, was great. I made two really good friends, and really loved the area. But we were only there for a year before we moved on.)
In contrast, I loved living on-base. My fellow brats were immediately accepting. And high school was like a warm hug. Especially the school I attended in Japan.
Yo-Hi, which was in Yokohama, was a long morning commute. Since the traffic from my home to school was horrendous, I caught the bus in complete darkness, somewhere around 5-5:30 in the morning. We climbed aboard the girl’s bus and did our make-up, finished our homework and ate our breakfasts on the bus. Our school was old and used in World War II, most likely as a hospital of some sort.
Three stories tall, there was no air conditioning and very little heat. Many of us kept our coats on during really bitter days. There was a room where those who brought sack lunches could dine, although most ate outside when the weather allowed it. Plus, we could walk to the Teen Club or small exchange snack bar for a burger or rice and brown gravy and a coke.
The school was small and the student body was close. We had great teachers. We attended sporting events and every new person who walked through those doors had someone to eat lunch with from day one. Some of my fellow alumni say that the school is really “our home town.”
I’ve lived in Jacksonville for many years and now consider it home. It’s where I married and worked and had children. But I will never forget my high school family. Although I stayed in touch with a couple of people over the years, that all changed in 2000, when a group of my contemporaries began tracking down alumni. Before I knew it, I was on the list of “found alumni.” And in 2001, they held a big reunion where several hundred of us from many different years gathered for a reunion.
Seeing old friends from so long ago was amazing. And, even though we had been apart for decades, we fell right back into our old friendships, forged new bonds with old classmates and began to start having more and more reunions. We have mini-reunions where we get together on an informal basis for weekends and often visit with one another for a meal. And we stay in touch. This is even more important when we note the passing of our friends from school. Our numbers are dwindling.
We often revisit our roots and the people who helped make us the adults we now are. We’re 16 and going to the dance or football game or having crushes on a cute guy or girl. We’re looking at life through our much younger eyes. We’re going back home again.
If you’ve stayed away from your school’s reunions, consider going to one. Time can really help us refocus on what’s important in the long run. And honestly, no one cares how much weight you’ve gained, the hair you’ve lost or your wrinkles. They don’t care what you drive or where you live or what you do for a living. Because when they see you, what they remember is the joy of youth and its limitless expectations.
You can go home again. Even if it’s a reunion held in a place you’ve never been before. Because home really isn’t a place; it’s people and shared experience. And school or unit or employee reunions are wonderful things. Go to one. You may not have another chance.
Carole Moore welcomes email at firstname.lastname@example.org.