Last September I had to go back home to take care of the issues involved with my Mother-in-Law getting older and being diagnosed with senile dementia. You know, it's funny the things you miss when you go from living on base to staying off base for an extended period of time.
The very first problem that reared up for me while staying in her house was that I couldn't sleep. Why, you may ask, could I not sleep? The completely ridiculous answer is that it was just too quiet. I live on an Air Force base, and darn it - I NEED the sound of those planes to lull me to sleep! Seriously! It took me two weeks to figure out that was what I was missing, and I honestly began to consider taking my kids on a field trip to the local airport just so that we could bask in the sounds of jets taking off and landing and our souls would be soothed.
The second problem I had manifested itself in an odd sense of uneasiness that I couldn't put name to until today, months after we returned home and the uneasiness had disappeared. About once a week, the Command Post here tests their emergency loudspeaker system. As the terribly irritating series of truncated notes that tells everyone an announcement is coming played, my youngest daughter told me, "Mom, I like it when the God Voice talks."
The God Voice? Okay, we had to have a short theological discussion. But I can certainly understand where she got that description! The Command Post Announcement System is LOUD. Loud in the way only something located on an AMC base attached to an Army base with an active FOB training area can be. When it plays, it comes from everywhere all at once.
I realized that, yes, I too missed the "God Voice" when it was gone. I like the thought that I get early warning for tornadoes while we're in Texas (Being a born and bred Californian, tornadoes terrify me. Earthquakes, on the other hand, are kind of like unexpected amusement park rides). I like knowing that there is a system in place to warn me ahead of time if I need it. And somehow, the weekly tests make me feel a little connected to everyone else. I may have been having a "jammies day" at home, locked way from everyone else and their judgmental glances at my uncombed and pony-tailed hair as they try to stand upwind from me, but I can still hear that voice checking in on me.
Yet another bit of silliness the kids and I experienced when cut off from our base umbilical cord was feeling lost without the playing of the National Anthem at night. It's funny, when you actually live on base you watch the clock every evening. At 4:59 pm, you scream for all the kids to run in the house. You don't walk out your door until 5:02. Quite a lot of effort goes into avoiding being outside for Retreat/the National Anthem.
Oddly enough, I miss all that when it's gone. By week three, the kids were begging me to put the stereo in front of the door and blast the Star Spangled Banner every evening at five so they knew when to come in the house from playing. But it isn't only that - even though I can't think of any consequences for a non-active duty person who doesn't stand up and show respect at 5 pm on base, it's something that everyone does. They may complain about it, they may try to think of interesting ways to avoid being outside. But if we are caught, we stand still with our hands over our hearts. Two year olds, without being told, know to stand up and show respect. Even my DOG stops everything and stands still listening (this is very cute, by the way). And in the "Promote That Man Immediately!" category, we even had a major when we were stationed at Goodfellow AFB who would run out of his building full speed ahead every day at 5 on the dot to the flagpole just outside his office and stand at attention. EVERY DAY.
I have been wondering about this recently. Exactly why is this one time of day so important to so many of our daily routines? Why did even my children feel uneasy when confronted with an extended period of time sans National Anthem?
I think because it is something that we share with everyone around us. It gives us a connection with the people going through the same things we are at this time in history. We all have it in common. Sure enough, get two or three military brats together and they compare notes on their strategies of avoiding being outside at 5 pm, while also collapsing in giggles at some of the situations they had been caught outside in (my favorite was the girl who was standing at ground zero for a bird bomb at the very start of the music).
Last year, hubby and I had friends visit us for a week. We had a great time seeing all the things this area of the East Coast has to offer, and when our friends left they said this, "It was so interesting to experience how you live!" What they meant was life on base.
I'm still waiting for an anthropologist to come study us, though. That would be great reading.