Sometimes you have to be thrown into a difficult situation to realize how strong and resilient you really are. Being a part of a military family comes with its pros and cons (depending how you look at them). We have moved 10 times throughout my husband’s military career. That is not many compared to some of our friends. One of the good things about the military is the community. We get to keep in touch and see very dear friends again when we least expect it. We have had the opportunity to live overseas, travel the world, and make lifelong connections. It is not easy to pick up your whole family, move across the country or the world and expect to settle in. It’s not uncommon to play jigsaw puzzle with your furniture because you had a separate playroom for the kids in the previous house, but not in this new house, there was only a three-bedroom available and no playroom. You make do and figure it out.
We figure it out.
But, one time we lived in a tent.
We were on our tenth move. Maybe it was a coincidence; it was hopefully our last move. We had bought our fixer-upper and lined up a contractor to start work the day after closing. No worries, our house would be mostly finished by the time we had to be out of our rental. But, the contractor backed out. He quit the job before he even started. We had no choice but to start from square one and find another contractor. This also left us with a house that needed major renovations and we didn’t plan on living in a construction zone. We had to scramble to find a temporary living space.
Temporary living space number one: a camper we rented from MWR. We only kept this camper for about 2 weeks. We did the math and it was a little expensive to rent each week and there was not an end date yet for our reno. We had to return it.
Temporary living space number two: a 30-year-old camper that was bought with the intention to be renovated itself. A friend of a friend let us borrow it and we only slept in it. It had no working plumbing or electricity and smelled like grandma’s house. We didn’t want to overstay our welcome, so we returned this camper after about 2 weeks.
Temporary living space number three: our six-person tent. This was hopefully our last move in our yard and eventually, we could move into our house. We first set up the tent to use for storage. As the weeks went on, we had no choice but to sleep in it. Before we had one working bathroom in our house, we would all pile in the car and drive down to the Army base to shower at my husband’s work and to use the laundromat. There is a no bigger feeling of defeat sitting in a lawn chair, outside your tent, in your backyard, watching the contractors do their jobs, hopefully quickly.
After about a month of tent living, we were able to move out of the tent and into the house. We stayed on the one side of the house that was done enough to put down air mattresses and use the guest bathroom. The weather stayed fairly warm, thank goodness, and we were in the house just in time for Thanksgiving.
Thinking back on this memory now, these shared hardships brought us closer together as a family. We laugh now and talk about the funny things that happened, like our then 2-year-old daughter locking me out of the camper and I had no choice but to call a locksmith—all with the electrician laughing at me. I tried to coax her to unlock the door, but she was having a blast being nosy in her sibling’s things and ignoring me on purpose. I also didn’t learn until later that our son had told his third-grade teacher about our living situation. She wrote a note on his report card about how impressed she was that our absurd living situation did not phase him. He got straight A’s.
These little snippets of memories weave together our story and adventures as a family. We can choose to embrace them and take things with a grain of salt or have them ruin our life. Sometimes with the good, comes the bad. That’s life. We can do hard things and we need to hold onto those moments that help us grow together.
-Author Kate Barnett