Ah yes, children put down deep roots! For a time back when I was 11, I was ready to dig in, find my roots, climb in with them, and pull the sod over me. My family had moved from one neighborhood in New York City to another, where I’d had to fight –one-by-one – every kid in the new neighborhood until we all agreed who could knock the stuffing out of whom. That took about three months, after which, having healed, spent part of the summer out of town, and gone a few more rounds just to make sure no one had made a mistake the first time around, I was just starting to relax when Mom dropped a clanger on me.
“Oh, don’t worry. We’re moving up to Connecticut.”
Thanks, Mom! Not only did that mean we were moving, but it meant we were going to whole new city in a whole new state! I was going to have to do it all over again!
Happily, I was spared all that. It seems the kids, and the people, up in New London, Conn., were happy to leave the question of who could beat whose head in to a later time, some moment when matters between two people came to a point where it had to be decided. That was fine with me. As far as I was concerned the whole NYC thing was a waste of time and energy. Why do you have to know whether or not you can beat up someone – or vice versa? What if you liked someone? Couldn’t that happen? Sheesh!
I’ve never forgotten those two moves we made though. I’m not kidding when I tell you that having to leave the only place you have known for your entire 10 years of life is no fun. We humans, God bless us, have a lot of love in us. And though kids rarely express that love, they feel it. A kid’s world is not the street he lives on, not the school, not the town; it’s people, family, neighbors – and most of all, friends.
That being the case, it may be a good thing that I was yanked up twice, tossed onto unknown soil, and left to take root again. It probably saved me from making some mistakes with my own family, ones that would have been too easy to make.
As you probably know, I spent 21 years in the Air Force, and traveled all over the world doing it. As a result, Lolly and I and our two offspring lived in – let’s see – four countries and eight states. That gave Lolly and I a lot of chances to overlook a very important part of a family equation – bringing the kids into a move so they are comfortable with it.
Our first move, thirteen thousand miles by air, train, and car from Karachi, Pakistan, to Travis AFB, California, was the easiest one as far as our kids were concerned. We only had David then, and he was barely six months old. Our second move, about a year later to Utah, was also easy. David, who was still too young to relate to anything much except his crib, his playpen, and the living room rug, never noticed the move. And even when time came for our third move, this time to Okinawa, David was still too young to be playing outside and making friends, and Francis was barely nine months old, so once again the whole process was easy.
But from then on things changed. When we left Okinawa in 1966 David was five and Francis three. Lolly and I took them aside and explained that Daddy was in the Air Force, and that meant that he had to go wherever the Air Force sent him. We told them that we would be moving from a place in a foreign country to a place in their own country, and that they would love it when they saw what the United States was like. And we made sure that they knew that we were going to pack up all of their toys and clothes, and that everything would be there when they got to their new home.
And so it went, move after move. We always let the kids know at least six months in advance that we would be moving. We always told them why we were moving. We made sure they knew that all their things would be there in our new home. And we made sure they had a proper chance to say goodbye to friends, always with a going away party, and that they got addresses so they could write if they wanted to.
It made a difference to them, Johnny. A big one, I think.
If you ever have to move you might think about that.