Friday, September 5, 2014

Its Complicated

Recently I was standing in a line making small talk with a fellow American tourist when I was asked where I was from. For me, and other military families, this is such a loaded question that I didn't even know where to begin with my answer. Is it where I live at the moment (Belgium)? But then some people think I'm Belgian. America? Is a generic "America" good enough or do people want more specifics? Is it where I grew up (Maine), where I first lived as an adult (Massachusetts) or where we first lived as a family (Virginia)? At one point Sidney was so confused that when posed with the "where are you from" question at the playground, he answered Albania. I quickly jumped in and corrected him but this led to his asking me where he was from since, up to that point, his only memories were of living in Albania. And the question is all the more confusing when we are together as a family. Glenn grew up in Maryland and went to college in New York before joining the Navy and spending time on both Coasts. And the tender age of 4 1/2 Sidney was born in one state, lived in two others (I'm cheating a bit and counting Washington D.C. as a state since we did live there for over one year) and has now lived in two European countries. So what is home anyway?

So how did I answer my fellow tourist? I took a deep breath and told him I lived in Belgium. He looked at me knowingly and asked if I was military. When I nodded in agreement he quickly added that he was retired from the Navy and listed several of the places he had once called home (including Virginia and Belgium). Here was someone who understood how loaded the question really is. It was like finding an unlikely soulmate in a sea of foreigners. But finding that type of understanding outside of our military community is rare.

Some days I look longingly at friends who are settled. From my perspective their living in a house they have owned for years, their children attending the same school with the same children for each grade and their ability to lay down permanent roots looks so comforting. They don't face the regular uncertainty of where they will end up next, whether the schools and the job will be acceptable and more importantly, what their new house and neighborhood will be like. On the flip side, I've had civilian friends comment about how exciting and even glamourous my life must be. From the inside, living this life certainly doesn't feel that way. Yes, with mobility comes opportunities and we take full advantage of them as they arise. But that doesn't negate the desire to not have to always be on the move. I'd love to not be continually packing and unpacking boxes, trying to make new friends and finding my way around a new community. Someday, someday.....

So where are we from? For the time being we live in the moment and home is where ever the Navy sends us. And at at the moment, that happens to be Belgium.

1 comment:

  1. I very much enjoy your musings about life and your experiences as a military family stationed overseas.
    As for "where are you from?" Unless it is a mapquest type question, you are not "from" Belgium, you live in Belgium, before that Albania, before that....... How you define where would depend on who is asking: American tourist, someone associated with US govt, or a local. I think people are just wondering who you are and what you might have in common or what you might know that they don't; -- As for the intrepid and very intelligent Sydney-- he is from where ever you tell him he is from. It's a linguistics lesson for him to learn what "where are you from" means in this case. You took him "home" for the summer to gain similar childhood experiences that you remember. He is in an American in a military family. I would say he is an American, now living in Belgium, he just hasn't spent very much time "where he is from" yet. It depends on who is asking and perhpaps its all part of the linguistics lesson.
    You have my admiration for your adventurousness. (I hope things work out for soccer).
    Dee from Oregon