Under The Summer Stars

Under The Summer Stars

The rusted swing set was already in the back yard when we moved in four
years ago. Dad said he was going to get rid of it as soon as we settled in,
but my sisters and I begged and pleaded and got our way. Being new, we were
pretty much ignored by the other neighborhood kids, so we put all our
energy that first summer into making the swing set something of our very
own. We managed to build and decorate a shabby little playhouse against one
end, dad put up two old tires where the broken plastic swings used to be
and we painted it bright green. The fact that we had more paint on
ourselves than the swing set made it even better. Dad grumbled every time
he had to mow around our masterpiece, but we all sat together out there in
the summer evenings, drinking sweet tea, looking up at the stars and
swatting the mosquitoes that thrived in the North Carolina heat.

It was from the top of dad’s yard work headache that I met my first friend
here. I sat perched as high as I could go, feeling angry, lost and alone,
just like I had all the other times we were dragged to the next military
base and away from the places and friends that we had learned to love. She
came out from the back of the house next door, smiled shyly and waved. I
waved back, and that was all it took to begin a great friendship. There’s
no way I could add up all the hours Anna and I spent out in my back yard,
sleeping in the playhouse, spinning in the tire swings, making plans and
sharing our dreams as the stars moved above us in those wonderful, long
summer evenings.

Those were just some of the things I was remembering that night when I got
the news. I should have known when dad came home with that look on his
face, but he had promised we would never move again, so it had to be
something else. We were going to retire here, or so he said. Four years is
a long time for a military family to be at one place, and it was heaven for
me to actually feel like I belonged. Dad broke the silence with his well
rehearsed and over used speech about what a great opportunity this job will
be out in…wherever. This time it was California. I would be the terrified
‘new girl’ starting all over again.

My mom and sisters just nodded and began to clear away the table. I threw
open the screen door and ran to the swing set. The tire swing was always
the place I could go to sort things out. The air was stale and heavy, to
match my mood. I began to spin around and around, just like my thoughts.
The stars became streaks of light. How could he do this to us again…he had
promised! We loved it here. Didn’t that ever count for anything? Why do we
have to keep throwing away the lives that we know for the sake of some
stupid job? Doesn’t he care what we think or how much it hurts to say
goodbye? I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I knew it.

When you’re in the military, it isn’t just a job. There’s a bigger
purpose. I’m proud of my dad and what he does, and I wouldn’t ask him to be
anything less. It’s not easy for anyone in the family to leave, but I was
the only one being selfish and not handling it well. In the starlight I
could see dust dancing in the air around the swing set with no particular
place to go, and that was just how I felt in those last weeks of summer.

We’re driving through the night, as we always do when we’re heading to the
next duty station. The warm, humid air whistles through the open windows.
There’s a constant squeak as the suitcases rub against each other. Dad is
trying to find a radio station that will come in clearly. Despite all the
noise, my mom and sisters have managed to fall asleep. My head hurts and my
eyes are swollen from crying. When we left, I couldn’t bear to say goodbye
to Anna, so I just waved to her from the top of the swing set like I had
all those years ago. Only now the wave was an end and not a beginning.

As the miles go by, I can see the stars out the window, unchanging, just as
they looked from the tire swing. Even as I drift off to sleep, wishing that
my life could be as constant as those stars, my mind tries to picture our
next house. I can’t help but hope there’s a rusted swing set in the back

Written by Erin Wiedower
contributed by Diana Wiedower [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.] Erin's
Mother and Marine Corps Wife of 17+ years