posted Sat, 21 May 2005
There is an immediate kinship between military brats. We understand each other in ways that civilian kids, who go to school with the same friends and live in the same houses from kindergarten to 12th grade, never can.
I remember the shock of recognition I felt when I read the opening scene to The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy, himself a military brat. The book is sort of autobiographical. It was the first time I had ever read a scene in a book that described my life. The dad is a Marine. He gets everyone up at 4:00 a.m. to get an early start for a trip, then, a few hours later, turns the driving over to the mom.
That is exactly how it worked at my house! (Except my dad didn’t beat us.) For any trip – vacation, moving, a day fishing – my dad would get up really early, make potato pancakes or scrambled eggs, put the Sousa marches on the record player at high volume, and get us going. After an hour of driving, he’d tell my mother he was tired and ask her to drive.
Last night, I took a cooking class – Tapas and Sangria – a Christmas present from my brother. (Greg always picks the best, most creative presents.) The more another student, Kathy, and I spoke to each other, the more we clicked. Finally, we discovered we were both military brats, which I think explains a lot of the connection. (That and the fact that we are both smart, well traveled and witty, if I do say so myself.)
Kathy’s dad was a Navy fighter pilot (now retired). (Are Navy fighter pilots just coming out of the walls these days or what?) She was asking me about boot camp, telling me that she had pulled out all her old fitness tapes – Kathy Austin, Jane Fonda. “Does your dad know you have a Jane Fonda tape?” I interrupted curiously, remembering how my dad reacted when my mom brought home a Jane Fonda exercise book.
“Oh no!” she said, shaking her head. “It was in a box in the attic before. He never saw it.”
Civilian kids never get it when I say anything about Jane Fonda.