The Dandelion – considered by most a noxious weed, but is indeed a flower, with some varieties being very beneficial and have many diverse uses. Who knew? Those annoying yellow flowers that pop up unwanted in your beautiful green lawn of grass, only to mature and turn into that white, fuzzy, ugly ball that release their seeds into the air, dispersing themselves over long distances. They tend to survive and establish new roots wherever they land, even in some tough conditions. Through many years of history, children have had that uncontrollable urge to pull them from the ground to blow on them for entertainment, watching the seeds blow in the wind.
Military families are much like the Dandelion. It’s no wonder the flower has been named the official flower of the Military Brat. Members of these families have been sent and scattered all over the world, forced to learn to put down their roots anywhere they land and adapt to their surroundings.
I grew up in one of these military families, as my father was in the Navy. I was born at a naval base in Illinois, and by the time I was a toddler, we were sent over to the east coast. We lived in Virginia and Maryland until just before I was 10 years old. Then came the big news…we were going to Italy. What an adjustment that would be! I was only nine years old – I hadn’t yet learned about all of the countries foreign to us in school. We packed up, said our goodbyes to our friends that we had made, and got on the plane. That part was nothing new to me in my nine years, as I had already gotten used to leaving school and my friends for a new location more than once, making a new start. When I got on that plane to Italy, I wasn’t fully aware that I was going to a place that was so different, where no one spoke English, where things weren’t the same as the places I had already lived. I somehow thought things would be just like before. No big deal, right? I was in for a shock!
I was in a different world! What was this place? What are people saying? Why are they yelling and waving their hands so much? How do I open this door? What am I eating? Before long, though, I knew the answers to these questions, and so much more. Life in Italy was an adventure, and adaptation was easy. There was so much to learn and explore. The roots had been planted, so to speak.
Because we were military, I went to a Department of Defense school, with the other kids like me. Similar to being in the United States, our friends came and went rather quickly, as their parents got called back to the States. I was lucky enough to stay in one place for 6 ½ years. That isn’t too common in the military, especially back then. I made so many friends, and created lasting bonds with them, even though our time together seemed too short.
We all learned that our true roots aren’t where we currently live, they are in our hearts, and remain as a bond with all of the places that we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the friends that we’ve acquired along the way. Those bonds of friendship are stronger than any and last a lifetime.
We are the Dandelions. We grow, we change, we get uprooted and spread, we adapt, we reestablish, we overcome, we rise above life’s challenges. I wouldn’t have it any other way.