There are definitely some very worthwhile benefits to being an Air Force kid: a vastly expanded worldview at an early age, the opportunity to eat a variety of interesting foods from a variety of interesting places well before college, and meeting/making friends in places you absolutely never would have been otherwise. I am the only person in this family who can't claim "Air Force kid" on her resumé; Matt moved something like 13 times before he settled into four years of high school, all in the same place. Bridget will attend her first four years of elementary school in four different elementary schools.
There are definitely some very worthwhile benefits to not being an Air Force kid, too. Knowing where in the world to look for many of my childhood friends is a big one. There is something to be said for still being in touch with the only person who attended every single school that you did—all the way from kindergarten to college. There is even more to be said for friendships that span more than 40 years. I played along with #TBT today, which got me thinking about some of my earliest friends:
I remember so clearly when this picture was taken; where we were standing in the driveway behind the house, and how mad we were that our moms made us put on our jackets before the picture, which ruined the perfect twinsie thing we had going on. Oh, 1970s Carter's clothes! You were the best.
Nancy and I have been friends since I was eight months old, which is the age I was when she was born. Because our mamas were friends, we were automatically friends, too—this doesn't always work out in the long run, but in our case, well, we're carting our families to Disney World together this summer, so there you go. Her house was the one I liked best of my friends' homes growing up; there was always something interesting going on there, to include a lack of central heating (by choice!) well into middle school (I think), a grandma with her own apartment connected to the house, lots and lots of old family photos on the walls, and pianos and guitars and singing, always.
Kenna was my older next-door-neighbor who always had a plan, and I was the younger next-door-neighbor who always wanted to go along with it. We spent a lot of time working on our baton twirling skills, and I lived in fear for years of the dead people she told me were behind the wood paneling in our partially finished basement. [Note: she does not remember telling me this, though she admits that it sounds like something she might have done.] My first record (Shaun Cassidy) was a party favor from one of her birthday parties. I once broke into her house at her mom's request after she locked herself out. She moved away somewhere when I was in elementary school, though someone must have been keeping us in touch because Matt and I went to her wedding while we were in college (a beautiful, snowy December wedding in Ohio!).
I don't have a photo of our early childhood friendship days, sadly... but we were friends from around the age of 2 or 3; she lived down and across the street a few houses from where I'm standing with Kenna. She cut my hair once for me when we were 3 (ha) and I don't remember much else about playing together, though I do remember visiting her house when they moved to a different neighborhood because we spent the entire time trying to learn how to blow bubbles with our gum under the instruction of her older brother, Joel. She moved away-away for a few years and we shyly met back up in 7th grade when her family moved back, and were pretty inseparable through middle and high school. She was the matron-of-honor in our wedding.
Shannon lived a few streets behind mine in our neighborhood, and we must have met on the first day of kindergarten. We walked to school together most days, and I remember being allowed to walk to her house and back, which I can still do very clearly in my mind. Her backyard was part of a terrible drainage catastrophe that stretched through many backyards and worked in our favor each winter when it iced over and turned into a first-class ice rink; it was also the only backyard I had ever seen with a full basketball court, built for her brothers. She is the one who called me on the phone to ask if I would sign up to play softball on the same team the summer after second grade (my primary sport through high school). I attended the tragic funeral for one of her older brothers when I was in 9th grade, and attended a number of college basketball games that her younger brother played in at Miami.
Everything in life is a trade-off: because of this, not that. It comes down to one thing: all you can do is celebrate your own experience and not dwell too much on the "thats" that you missed, because they aren't yours. I am wildly thankful that my early limited worldview and narrow Ohio palate afforded me the opportunity to develop friendships at an early age that exist on a continuum, just as I am wildly thankful for the opportunities the girls have had to live near mountains, rodeo, national monuments, and really good donuts. They've made some dear friends along the way, and it would be crazy to imagine a life that fails to include any of them.