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My Five Senses of Moving

Remember learning about the five senses in kindergarten? If not, then let this serve as a brief reminder that they are the different ways in which we experience things: sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Over my fifteen years as a military kid, I have realized that my senses have been so important in remembering all the places I have lived, or even just stopped by in. It’s weird to say that I wouldn’t be anywhere without my senses, because I wouldn’t in terms of actually living, but I’ll just say that it’s important now than ever before to reflect upon them.


I mean, let’s just get the so-called "obvious" one out of the way, even if I think it’s got more depth. I believe that most military kids, including myself, have seen enough pale yellow to last a lifetime. The color scheme of most bases, posts, etc., seems to be a reddish-brown, a very pale yellow, and some brick if you’re lucky. If I see those colors together, the only thing that I can think of is being on base. If I see purple and yellow together, my association isn’t immediately to LSU, it’s to the house that I lived in in Virginia, with yellow, purple, orange, and brick all within the same one hundred square feet.


Looking back on some of this stuff, I don’t know how it is or was normal. To all military kids, 5:00 means something, and hearing those speakers play the short clip of warning music immediately activates my flight response. I remember rushing to see if I can get into a house before the National Anthem starts (if I’m outside, I promise I will stand and wait patiently, don’t worry). From the imprint bases I’ve lived on that have schools, Reveille is a reminder that, if I’m awake already, it’s too early for this. Taps always make me smile, staying up past bedtime to stay outside for a game of cops and robbers. The sound of planes overhead always calms me down, though I’m sure my mom got tired of the sound of me yelling, “plane!” every time I saw one during our 2 year-long stays on a pilot training base. Sounds like these calm me down, except Reveille, which I think has become a worse trigger for me than the default iPhone alarm.


This is where things start to get a little weird. Even as a military brat, I can still feel concrete and remember how many times I’ve fallen down onto it after a long game of tag. I can feel the metal of the brown (of course) lamp posts on my street and remember how many times I’ve run into it headfirst while playing Bench with the rest of the kids on my street while in Arkansas. I can feel the texture of a trampoline and remember playing “Dead Man” on one when I lived in Alabama. Military brats, though we tend to move around quite a bit, still have very similar experiences to the rest of our generation. Where our sense of touch starts to differ is in less common but memorable scenarios. I put away the flag on our front porch and remember *almost* dropping it while folding it during a flag ceremony in Germany. I lie down in the grass and remember rolling in it with one of my best friends. Touch serves as both a reminder that I still can make connections with those around me and as a reminder that I have made memories that are not to be forgotten.


Oh, this one’s a good one. A subjective one, but without a doubt a good one. Taste immediately takes me back to the most memorable time that I’ve eaten something. I taste schnitzel and immediately I am back to the Hofbrauhaus in the Ramstein Exchange, which is weird because I’ve been to the actual Hofbrauhaus. One bite of good old sheet cake and I’m thinking of all the different photos that have been on top of them during ceremonies. Contrary to the popular belief about military kids, I’ve only eaten MREs twice, meaning they don’t really create any effect. Regardless, taste is one of the best ways for me to “teleport” into a different time.


Ah, my favorite. Without a doubt, smell is my strongest sense in terms of remembering moves and experiences. I can’t even begin to describe it, but I can recognize the smell of the Little Rock Air Force Base TLF (only the first floor). Walking in 8 years after the last time I had stayed there sent a flood of memories back to me, like selling a bunch of random (and not super incredible) paper snowflakes. I smell cinnamon and nutmeg, I’m right back in A.C. Moore looking for craft supplies. The smell of chlorine and I’m comfortable. Smell, for me, calms me down and takes me back to places that I have happy memories of.

I know that my senses are always individually there to ground me if I feel confused or lost. I rely on them to keep me level-headed throughout the day. Military brats tend to be more connected to their environment through their senses, recognizing certain smells or tastes more than that of another teenager. How do your senses help you remember certain situations?


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