The Coast Guard Family and the adaptation process
“a true chameleon experience”
As we past the huge gate that reads, “Hamilton Field” the emotions that we have endured for months start to escape. Due to our exhaustion from the cross country trip, finally reaching our destination seems to be more of a numb feeling. Almost six months of planning for this move has left each of us longing to feel nothing more than just, “peace.”
It all started with just a hint of the possibility that we may be transferring. Then it slowly plays into focus much like that of a distant island in the ocean. It first seems so far away and in an instant you are standing in front of your house waiting on the moving trucks. Your only comfort is knowing that you are not alone.
While driving past the Coast Guard housing, we all take a quick glimpse of our new surroundings. Our trip has been as normal as most military families while traveling across country with two teenagers, a dog, and a cat that is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Being in the middle of transfer season, the area is packed with huge moving vans, campers, and boxes placed on the lawns. My only thought as we past our fellow “Coasties” is, “I feel your pain and get me to the guest house!”.
As we stop to check-in at Coast Guard guest housing services, I scan past our collection of snack wrappers and soda cans to get a glimpse at the expressions of my teenagers. I hope to find them feeling more agreeable to the fact that they have left everything they feel is important back in Florida. I am hoping that maybe once settled they will suddenly appreciate starting a new school, finding new friends, and learning to adapt again. However, I only get the blank stares as they move their heads to the beat of the music coming from their head phones. As a true optimist, I see this as an improvement.
Not knowing how long we must reside in temporary housing, we decide to unpack our ten bags of clothes of which seven of them belong to our teenage daughter. Of course, the dog and the cat are feeling a little confused to say the least. In most temporary housing pets are not allowed. We were able to reserve the one unit that allows pets-lucky us. Most families have to find boarding for their pets which can add up to be very costly. I find myself wondering about the behavior of pets compared to children . . . but I’m not the one that makes the rules!
Our weeks turn into months, finally nearing the beginning of the third month we get notice that we can move into our house. We are now feeling hopeful and excited, until we are faced with the grim reality of now having to re pack and move. It really is amazing how much you can accumulate in just a few months. We now need more boxes!
Though it’s only a half mile away to our new house getting our stuff back together, cleaning the guest house, and finding the cat has dampened our spirits a bit. As we open the door to our new house and start the adaptation process, we are faced with yet another challenge. Our household goods will not be available for delivery for a few weeks. So for now we will camp in our house. What fun!
We cling to hope that our life will eventually become less complicated and we will soon close this chapter of our life. We circle the living room with our air mattresses, small boom box, and a portable CD player. This lifestyle used to be adventurous with our then younger children. Yet, our now teenagers refuse to see the benefits of this type of family togetherness. The dog is happy because our sleeping on the floor has upgraded his position in the family. The cat is “MIA” until nighttime approaches and she can pounce on us under the protection of darkness.
As the morning approaches or we just give up and get up, It doesn’t take long before our lawn is full of other teenagers. All seem to surround each other with hope as they share their survival stories of Coast Guard life. To much of my son’s dismay, I make every effort to take part in their conversations. I have learned to survive the eye rolls. I listen to my daughter tell them all of the different places that we have lived and about the trip here. They talk about how long they plan to stay and which places they have enjoyed the most. They discuss this as if they have had a choice in the matter.
As I listen to their stories, my feeling of remorse for their constant upheaval disappears. I am soon indulged in the fact that these teens are an inspiration and are truly remarkable adults in the making. Through the long bangs and slouching posture, I watched my teenagers reach out and grasp at a hopeful new beginning. The real challenge is when they try to succeed in a new school district, but that is another article in the making.
I soon realized that they were more likely to adapt to their new surroundings than I gave them credit for….but my real feeling was that of a new focus, “What about me?. Once the moving truck came and went and things started to be sorted out, or at least down to two boxes per room to unpack. I started to feel a little uncertain about my adaptation skills. Now was my time for finding new friends, new employment, and trying to adapt.
Being at the end of thirty something and having spent 18 years as a Coast Guard Spouse, the starting over has become somewhat mechanical. However, with each move the one thing I didn’t account for was that “the civilian workforce is not always appreciative of the military lifestyle”. That statement is said with respect for both views in mind. I have to admit as I update my resume, if I were an employer I would consider NOT hiring me! But as a Coast Guard spouse my broken resume is a trophy of survival. Our confusing “this and that” resumes reflect family unity and devotion and in our own way a service to our Country.
So here we are, one Coastie Family surrounded by many. With the summer transfer season around the corner, Hamilton Field’s Coast Guard Community will again rearrange and shift. The moving trucks will appear and disappear with the belongings of families devoted to each other and their country. The Civilian life that surrounds us will probably not notice the slight change in faces. The School Districts will again be flooded with Coastie Jr’s that have dealt with and survived more changes in their young lifetime than most seasoned faculty. And all the Veterinarians will be introduced to a new population of over stressed cats. The adaptation process is never ending…….Coasties are like chameleons…always changing colors to survive.