Echoes of the Past
In my heart lives a wanderlust spirit that longs to explore, to travel. It started when I was born into a military family where with each move, acceptance and change was just part of life. I truly believe the experiences we have echo back into our lives leaving a mark and add to who and what we are to become.
Born in Alaska, my three brothers and I endured cold winters but it was in the basement of our base housing that my imagination was sparked. Oh, the stories that we, as children, made up are now pass on to my children and grandchildren. Hotsy Potsy, Upside down Dutchy, Hunky Dory, Pepper, and Fatty were the characters that filled our day with antics that kept us warm and laughing.
Imagine a family of seven being dropped off into a small fishing village in Japan where poverty was rampant. We were the only American’s crowded into a minka with mat flooring and bedrooms with a mattress on the floor. The dining table was on the floor so we all ate on our knees. But the part I will carry with me is the place where I learned to dance. One afternoon, my Mom could not find me. Our maid, Akiko, found me at a dance studio where I was accepted and was introduced as Debbie “San” at a dance recital in Tokyo. Adding “San” to the end of a name is a sign of respect in Japanese culture.
My memory of this time period is kinda sketchy but I still recall how unsanitary the surroundings were and the horrible stench that permeated our nostrils. The strange language was hard to grasp as we found it hard to really fit in. I do remember the colorful kimino’s and bound feet of the women and the amazing gardens and unusual architecture. The scary part for me was every Saturday stray dogs were electrocuted in public.
Thankfully, our last year in Japan, we lived on base at Momote Village near Camp Drake. As strange as this time was, I think that it taught me to be accepting of any situation that you have no control over.
When I was seven, we all hopped a plane to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii where the sun shined everyday and we had the most carefree childhood ever. We had full run of the base – movie theatre’s, recreation centers, swimming pools, free wheeling bike rides, and of course we enjoyed the many amenities that came with living on an island surrounded by the ocean and endless beaches. We all learned to make lei’s, perform the hula, make straw hats, attempt surfing, and formed short lived friendships.
The excursions allowed us to explore paradise and soak up many cultural aspects. Traditional Polynesian dancers dressed in hula skirts with colorful lei’s surrounded us at luau’s as we were attired in wild Mum Mum’s and tropical shirts. Classic Hawaiian cuisine included smoked pig, grilled pineapple, poi made from taro root, and the eye popping moment when we were presented coconuts that a bare foot, bronze native presented to us after climbing a palm tree. We never tired of exploring the tropical terrain, the treasures on the beaches, or scary volcanoes.
Part of our regiment as a military family was on Sunday. We all gathered at the base chapel. There were no denominations, just a church chaplain that guided all of us, teaching tolerance and respect for all.
At the age of ten, I planted my heart in Texas. My prideful Dad jumped off the military train into the civilian world, drastically altering the course of his life and instilling in all of his children the lesson of hard work and the willingness to embrace change.
I believe my formative years introduced my family to very diverse cultures, allowing me to respect societal differences and build on our similarities. It has shaped who I am today, and I am grateful for the opportunity to satisfy the wanderlust deep within me, envisioning a life of travel and adventure, echoing the uniqueness of the human spirit!