Friday, February 27, 2009
Friday Five: Fork in the Road
Over at RevGalBlogPals, Singing Owl writes:
"I am at a life-changing juncture. I do not know which way I will go, but I have been thinking about the times, people and events that changed my life (for good or ill) in significant ways. For today's Friday Five, share with us five "fork-in-the-road" events, or persons, or choices. And how did life change after these forks in the road?"
Above right, a lovely scrapbook page someone did with Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...." Unlike the poet, I think many of my fork-in-the-road moments have been either out of my control or that I've made quick decisions with long-lasting consequences. So here goes:
1. Here's one I didn't even know about at the time, probably. My father's National Guard unit had been called up in 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War, Late in 1951, he (I'm sure with input from my mother) decided to switch into the Regular Army, where he then made his career through most of my childhood, retiring in 1965. I can't begin to count the ways this decision changed my life, but I will say to anyone who is contemplating a life that includes moving one's family about the country or even the world, the benefits were many and I think my life has been better for that long-ago decision.
2. For several years in the 50s and 60s, my father ended up working with the National Guard again, in Connecticut. The first four years we lived in a rented duplex in Then-Modest Town on Long Island Sound. Around the beginning of my eighth-grade year, my father was offered quarters on a housing area that had been built for a Nike missile site that never came to pass, in Much Less Modest Town a few miles closer to New York. An extra bedroom, a stand-alone house, and a better school system made the decision. Because of that decision, I had some wonderful teachers and also made some lifelong friends, the same ones I've been getting together with at the beach the past few years.
3. When I was in high school my grandmother gave me a subscription to the Saturday Review of Literature -- ah, what a great magazine, I miss it still. One week there was an article about a college, illustrated with photographs showing Lorraine Hansberry and Eleanor Roosevelt chatting with students. That college, known here as A Host at Last University, became my first choice and I did end up going there. I could have gone to Barnard and explored New York City; among other schools I considered but didn't apply to was the college Onkel Hankie Pants attended, and I've always wondered whether we would have found each other if we'd been in the same place a little earlier in our lives. I'm still not sure I made the "right" choice, but I did graduate. I should have known that, introvert that I am, I was not likely to approach a famous person strolling about campus. But I did get to hear Langston Hughes and Elie Wiesel and learned a lot both in and out of class.
4. After college graduation I wasn't quite sure what to do. Graduate school didn't seem to be an option, and the Boston area was full of recent graduates with better grades and more connections. I worked as an office temp for a few months; the ending of that assignment coincided with the news that our landlord had sold the triple-decker we lived in to a REIT which was raising the rent drastically. I decided to let The Accountant (who wasn't one then) and our other friend find a two-bedroom apartment and go home to Maine to figure out my next move. A couple of months later my sister, who is four years younger and was in a similar situation, asked me to call the Army recruiter to set up an appointment. When he arrived I enquired about OCS, but learned that there wouldn't be an opening for 6 months. However, when I asked about the language school I'd heard of, he said he could get me in for an 11 month Russian course in Monterey, California. So my sister and I enlisted and went through basic training together, and then she went to San Antonio to become a medic and I to Monterey. One thing this gave me was the chance to live in California as a young person with a support system and few responsibilities. Great fun! And more....
5. Having finished the Russian class with flying colors (I even got the Pushkin Award!), one might think an assignment would have been waiting. However, I was the first woman in the school since the Korean War (several had joined me since I arrived, but most were either officers or already assigned to the Army Security Agency). What to do with me? The initial reaction was to send me across the bay to Fort Ord (known as Fort Orc to many at the time) for on-the-job training as a clerk-typist. I think I told this story more fully in June 2007, so let's just say this was where I met Onkel Hankie Pants and then, as I was on my way to a real assignment in Berlin, we decided to marry. That has changed and enriched my life in ways I couldn't even have imagined back then.