Many years ago, a good friend told me that if I paid attention, I would see my life come full circle. When I turned fifty a few years ago, I saw exactly what my friend had described to me.
I was born on the island of Puerto Rico, where my parents met and married. I was an Army brat who spoke Spanish and French by the age of four, and when I turned thirteen, I’d lived in three countries--the United States, France, and Greece, and then we moved back to Puerto Rico when my father left for his tour in Vietnam. I graduated from my mother’s alma mater, a private all-girl high school in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and I graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia where my parents had retired.
I worked at the Pentagon for seven years where I met my future husband, an Army Major and West Point graduate. I was a twenty-six year old wife when we left the Washington, DC area for his next duty station where he would command a battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
My mother was thrilled I would follow in her footsteps as an Army wife--I’d travel extensively, most likely raise children abroad, and have life experiences most people only dream of. She was right. All that came to pass--my children were born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Mountain View, California, and from there, we were sent to Vienna, Austria. I was thirty-year old mother of two young children when we landed in Vienna with a nutty Cocker Spaniel named Chelsea. It should have been easy for me to adapt since I’d lived abroad as a child, but now I was a young mother who didn’t speak German, and we had one car. I had to find my way around a new city, figure out the public transportation system, and do that with two children in an old pram that didn’t close easily. The first three years were tough for me, but I persevered with the help of my mother who visited us every six months, and stayed a month. I learned to speak cocktail party German, as I called it, and came to love Vienna and Austria in our last year.
My husband’s next assignment was back at the Pentagon, where we settled in Springfield, Virginia, close to my parent’s home. I continued to be stay home with my children, and then my mother died at fifty-seven. In our grief, we decided on one last tour in Europe, and ended up in Brussels, Belgium, where we lived for the next thirteen years while he worked at NATO. That was the longest I’d lived anywhere, and we loved it. Our children graduated from a tiny Department of Defense high school, and both kids returned to the United States for university. I separated from my husband, and moved back to the US a year later where we divorced.
The reason I say life comes full circle is that I ended back in the DC area where I’d lived as a single woman, but it wasn’t to end there—a new cycle of travel, new adventures and experiences were to begin for me at age fifty. Four years later, I bought a great old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia, a state I knew nothing about, and had only visited once. I enjoy my adopted state, and I still travel to visit friends in the US and abroad.
This December, my daughter will graduate with her Master’s degree in counseling from Marymount University, my alma mater, and she wants to work at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. After graduating from college, and seven years of working in the DC area, my son is currently living and working remotely with a British company in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Two chips off the old block. I’m very proud of my children, the lives they’ve chosen, and am excited to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with them before my son heads to Amsterdam for a new work assignment.
Today, I travel in my mind’s eye and imagination sitting at a Belgian writing desk, bringing up my thoughts, feelings, and life experiences as a very well-traveled child and adult. That, to me, is coming full circle. I’ve lived a rich, rewarding, beautiful life with many blessings, and I’m not through with traveling yet. West Virginia isn’t my forever home, despite being a nice, soft place to land after divorce. I don’t know where my third culture kids will end up, and who knows where this third culture kid, me, might end up! We all have gypsy blood in us, all military kids do, and that’s a great thing.
To find out more about Eleanor, her travels and her debut novel...