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Homes Outside the House

I was never one of the kids who could identify a plane during flight, who could name every single squadron, or who could speak of all the honored veterans in their family history. But I was the daughter of a pilot. A daughter who was and still is fascinated by her dad’s job and the people he taught.

A couple of weeks ago, my teacher began class by asking what the strangest place that you call home is. Immediately, my mind was filled with images and smells, along with feelings. My classmates all shared their spaces: parks, peaks, and corners. My places weren’t exactly the same, and they all shared a key thread: planes.

My dad, for the majority of my young life, flew C-130Js for the Air Force. When we moved to Germany for him to take command of the 37th squadron, my interest peaked. He was busy every day of every week, Sundays included. This meant that my mom, brother, and I spent significant time with him at work. And this is where my first home is. I would run up and down the halls with my friends, playing spies and trying to avoid any adults seeing us. I trick-or-treated down the halls, and experienced my first “haunted house”. I watched the planes take off from the runway through the windows. I decorated Easter eggs and ate Christmas cookies. I petted the secretary’s dog. My earliest memories of a community are there. A relatively bland office space, made to feel comfortable with Air Force memorabilia.

Later on, when I moved to Little Rock, my dad became an instructor and group commander. He was now teaching others to fly the plane he had become a master of. That same year, all the mastery that I assumed I had with making friends and fitting in disappeared. I had no true friends and no confidence. My only joy came from running outside with all of my neighbors on the cul-de-sac. We played Bench, Cops and Robbers, and Capture the Flag. We would be outside until our parents gave us our third warning to come in and threatened not to let us eat dinner. There were talks on driveways, drawing competitions, and flips on trampolines. We would sprint inside when we heard the national anthem and wave at the cops when they drove by checking the streets. My home was lying on a hot concrete driveway underneath the stars, with crickets chirping and the waves of the base's lake lapping to the shore. The occasional aircraft takeoff or landing was the reassurance I needed to know I was safe.

My life has seen countless flights, airports, and terminals. My family loves to travel and we take every opportunity that we can to explore new locations. But this means that a significant portion of my life has been spent in airports, which I have grown to love. There is some amusement to sitting and waiting so quietly for your flight, people watching while you charge your phone. There is comfort in the USO lounge and trying to stock up on as much free food as possible. I love watching the sunset; I love watching planes take off. Do I love that my acne gets worse and my hair gets greasy while being there? Absolutely not. But being in an airport garners so much excitement and anticipation, whether that is for somewhere new or returning home. I feel more comfortable in an airport terminal than I could ever be in any other public place.

As I chose my answer in class, I decided to stick with the simple answer of the pool deck, where I spend all of my time during practice. But I still had so many more comfort areas come to mind: the runway, the back of a landed C-130J, and the Ramstein BX. This trend in my safe places forced me to realize how strong my attachment to planes is. My lack of actual knowledge of them does not even slightly compare to the safety they provide me. The amount of love I have for my father has pushed me to have a passion for what he cares about.

Take it from my observation and take the time to consider what your homes truly are. As military brats, we often latch onto places outside of our houses. Our short stints in a house do not match up to the symbolic meanings of other locations. While you dwell on your comfort places, find those threads that reveal your true passions and protections. It means more to find those needs now than one could ever say, granting you the ability to adjust for them in the future.

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