I’m a brat and I’m proud of it; because my dad was my hero and he’s the reason I’m a brat. A Navy Brat. That’s what we’re called… kids of active duty Sailors. Kids whose answer to the question, “Where are you from?” is, “The United States.” Kids whose only familiarity is the furniture that transfers with them to a new house in a new town when their parent gets their “orders”. Kids who make new friends and move away to make more new friends. Kids who look around and realize the only people they can say they “grew up with” are their siblings.
Navy life was measured by tours. Tours of duty and tours of our tour of duty. “Perimeter vacations” best describes our ventures out to as far as we could travel within a week’s leave. The long haul tours of our land came with orders to transfer to a new duty station, which meant we would be transferred to the car and a camper for the next month or so. My dad would map out a cross-country trip on a Rand McNally Atlas and we would take in as many sights and experiences as we possibly could. The extra destinations would literally add thousands of miles to our route from one home to the next.
As a result, I reached and crossed three of our country’s borders. I saw our monuments and museums, natural wonders and national parks, capitols and ghost towns, beaches and forests, mountains and deserts… I saw and experienced life as a citizen of the world, limited only by the end of the path.
In 1979 my dad retired and moved our family to Arkansas. I grew up with other Navy Brats in coastal towns. Suddenly I was a high school student in a rural mountain town where everyone had “grown up together”. Just as suddenly, I was immersed into severe culture shock. I hated it and spent every moment looking toward the day I could leave and that is exactly what I did when I graduated from college. I was going to conquer the world; small town girl was not my vibe. My visions of grandeur became a typical series of consequences that led me to an “aha” moment. I needed a simple life; a quiet, safe place; my family… I needed Arkansas. I saw what my dad saw in it and I wanted to go back and make my home next door to my sisters and parents on the property he had bought along the banks of the Arkansas River. And that is how I came full circle… from Navy Brat to River Rat.
In 2001, I settled into my place on the family property that we endearingly refer to as “Piney Compound”. My sisters and I have seen the world and now we welcome the world to us. Our children have grown up together and have known their friends all their lives. Those friends, and friends of friends, and sometimes even traveling strangers have passed through Piney Compound. Our hope is that old friends and new friends will enjoy the tranquility of our river flowing through our backyard and the hospitality that we pass on from the world that welcomed us wherever we went.
My passion is to collect more memories. Memories of and with the people that come our way. Memories of travel and adventure with my own children. Memories of words spoken, shenanigans, experiences, heights and depths, victories, community. Memories of what was planned and what was serendipitous. Memories that will carry me through and beyond my journey from Navy Brat to River Rat.