Mayflies

Long-tailed Mayflies (Palingenia longicauda) hatching in the Tisza River -- Solvin Zankl/Visuals Unlimited,Inc. ©

Long-tailed Mayflies (Palingenia longicauda) hatching in the Tisza River — Solvin Zankl/Visuals Unlimited,Inc. ©

In 1963 Greg went to junior high—the eighth grade—in a Department of Defense “Dependents School” in Hanau, Germany. Of course, back then, we simply called it the “Army School.” He recalls that year fondly, remembering good teachers, amiable classmates, and (at least it seemed so to a 13-year old), a good education. For an Army brat who had spent most of his life moving from military base to military base (he once calculated he had lived 21 places in 18 years), the three-year period of relative stability in Hanau seemed remarkable.

Although he had lived the first of those three years “on the economy” (e.g., in German towns in rented housing) before moving into base housing at Fliegerhorst Kaserne outside of Hanau, he had still gone to the same military school all three years. That had never happened to him before. More typical was his experience in first grade where he went to school at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Bliss in Texas, and a two-room schoolhouse in Adolph, West Virginia. From then on, it was a different school every year until Hanau. That may have had a lot to do with why he hadn’t yet learned to read by the second grade.

The last year in Germany, 1963, seemed golden in retrospect. Never one to make friends easily (never having learned how, as a result of the constant moving), he finally had a few. Although many of the names have faded from memory over the years, there are a few that remain. Ginger, the colonel’s daughter, and Michelle, about whom he remembers very little except that she was half-French and  he was more than a little smitten. He had male friends of course, but can’t recall their names. (We are sure that says something profound about him, but we are not sure what!)

Greg remembers an end-of-school party in 1964. Or maybe it was a party to say goodbye to those who were leaving at the end of the year (a constant of the military life, someone was always leaving). We were young, not quite fourteen. Maybe we were all a little bit ready to be in love or be loved. There was a game, fondly recalled, played with oranges, and faces close together, daring and exciting in the flush of early adolescence.

But, of course, these friendships couldn’t last. We were mayflies caught up in a brief and brilliant springtime. It was a much too brief hiatus between childhood and adolescence. We couldn’t withstand the transitory nature of the military dependent’s life.  Although he didn’t quite realize it then, these were not people Greg would ever see again. We would never grow up together, go to high school together, or see one another over the summers between college semesters.  We were once friends, we were young friends, but we would never be old friends.

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