Today is my younger daughter’s birthday. We brought our perfect little baby “home” from St. Joseph’s Hospital to a rented house in Augusta, Georgia, which was the tenth place Bill and I had lived over the seven years we had been married. That included the tiny apartment in Aberdeen, Mississippi where we spent our first six weeks, honeymoon weeks, playing house with beautiful wedding gifts and waiting on Bill’s inevitable draft notice.
The lady at the Draft Board, a friend of the family, called to let Bill’s dad know his “number was up;” she would be putting the induction notice in the mail by the first of January, giving my new husband time to select a branch of service and to sign the papers choosing Army helicopter school, a three year commitment instead of the two year draft.
Decision made. Bill would become an Army pilot with the grade of Chief Warrant Officer and I would be an Army Wife for the next 20 years. We had an exciting plan for our life together. We packed up our lovely china, new linens, pots and pans, and shiny flat wear and prepared to move. Simple as that!
Only it wasn’t so simple after all. The massive machine that is the United States Army pushed and pulled Bill around for almost a full year before settling on a permanent station; his assignment—Company Clerk for a missile detachment in southern Germany. They had taught him to type, file, read orders, peel potatoes, and to do numerous jobs with his college business and military finance background.
Who could have predicted that this would be Bill’s future career in the civilian world. Finance, not peeling potatoes. After two years of walking almost three miles to work through the snow early, early every morning from one of the two apartments we lived in “on the economy,” and finally driving in our little green Volkswagen to and from the centrally heated third floor apartment we were blessed to be given by Bill’s commanding officer (a nice Mississippi alum), we had arrived!
And so had our first daughter. Arrived. We had been married for two years and had a beautiful baby girl, and now Uncle Sam decided it was time to uproot our little family and send Bill back to the States to the Helicopter School he had requested when he first enlisted—two years into his commitment.
Hold on a minute. Something was very wrong with this picture. Not only did this mean leaving a beautiful home with views of the Bavarian Alps in a lovely medieval village, wonderful German food, and dear friends, but there was a hot war going on in a place called Viet Nam and helicopters were being shot out of the skies over rice paddies daily. Their pilots seldom made it home.
Bill told his commanding officer (who was in no hurry to lose a great company clerk…remember Radar?) that he would prefer to “just fly his desk “ for the remainder of his tour of duty. And that is what he did. And it was a grand time. A simple time.
We had no telephone. Not even one of those big, ole black things you see in 1940’s movies. No television. No vacuum. No dishwasher, and sadly, no washer or dryer. Unless you count the basement laundry room with big cement laundry tubs and clothesline’s both inside and outside. And No disposable diapers! Those paper wonders that are choking our landfills today were just way too expensive and not at all comfortable for teeny little 6 pound baby bottoms. I had to cut cloth diapers in half in order to find the perfect fit for our newborn, Kimberly. So I washed them in the tub with an old-fashioned washboard and Bill hauled them down four flights to rinse and hang inside the building where big heated blowers dried the winter laundry. Simple.
We did have big windows that were kept open all Spring and Summer and were used as a means of communication among all the families who lived in that building. Only 14 American families, and we always knew when a chili pot luck or a picnic was happening in the back yard or when couples were heading over to the Gasthaus for a cool summer drink, or when moms were putting babies into prams for a walk down town for a pastry or an “Ice.”
Most of the families, like us, had a big AM/FM radio which kept us current with news and played big band music or the newest rock and roll. I sat on the floor in front of our Philco and wept for hours as the news of President Kennedy’s assassination, its horrible aftermath, and finally the somber time of his lying in state was broadcast over Radio Free Europe. I can still hear the clop, clop, clop of the horses hooves as they pulled the lone black-draped caisson from the Capitol Rotunda to Arlington National Cemetery. The 21 gun salute. The terrible silence.
We spent a second Christmas and another summer there and just before Kim’s first birthday, we sold the few pieces of furniture we had bought—the rocking chair, Danish Modern sofa, and the slat-topped coffee table Bill had built, the big, ole Phico radio, and finally the little pea green Volkswagen with one tiny oval window in the back.
I headed to Hawaii to visit my mom, dad, and siblings and to celebrate Kim’s first birthday. After almost three months later, Kim and I reunited with Bill in Mississippi and began looking for yet another “place to call home.”

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.