Gathered, Not Lost: A Story of Friendship in the Military
Written by Guest Blogger Sarah Gervasio
My mom grew up a “military brat”. She was one of seven children and her father spent numerous yearlong deployments in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
She lived in different places all over the country. Mom was even stationed in Hawaii when it became a state. She often told me how she used to take her shoes off on the way to school in order to fit in with the local islanders. My mom has always been great at fitting in. Because of this (as funny as this sounds), I always take her recommendations for service providers; like hair stylists, nails salons, small shops, etc. Why do I do this? It’s not just because she has great taste. It’s also because I know she has already built a great rapport with them through her enthusiasm and her sincere interest in their lives. I know by the time I get there, I’ll get the royal treatment! “Daughter of Liz,” that’s all I have to say. When you move from place to place in the military, you learn to quickly fit in and fit in well, wherever you go.
While my mom is great at making friends, she is even better at keeping them. How do I know this? I know this because many of her closest, oldest friends were a part of my own adult life. My sister, in fact, is named after one of my mother’s best friends from her military upbringing.
She met her very best friend, Carolyn, in high school. They stayed so close that our families eventually settled only twenty minutes from each other in Georgia. My mom and Carolyn were together almost every day, in good times and in bad; the good days were filled with shopping sprees and shenanigans; the bad were filled with chemotherapy trips and tears shed together after Carolyn was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. They were together until Carolyn passed away. I know they will be together again someday. They really were that close.
She also kept close friends from her time as a military wife. When my parents were stationed in El Torro, California, just before I was born, my mom became very close with her neighbor, Dianne. They kept in touch over the years and when I, myself was living in California, Dianne housed my son and me for several months while I was in a time of transition and needed some help. She took such good care of us; not because of me, but because of her friendship with my mom.
Another one of her close friends from military life was a woman who lived in Switzerland. My mom stayed with her while my dad was afloat on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. My mom became such good friends with Berit that she even told her she was going to name me after her, Emily Berit. Though my mom ended up naming me after her grandmother instead, the story doesn’t end there! As a young adult, I took a trip to Basil, Switzerland as an Au Pair and I got stuck in the Zurich airport coming home. I had nowhere to go. I was 22 and all by myself. My mom gave me Berit’s phone number and when we got on the phone with each other, Berit had a difficult time understanding me. Somehow over the Skype call, I couldn’t explain to her who I was and what I was calling about. Finally, out of desperation, I said, “Emily Berit! This is Emily Berit!” “Oooooh, Emily Berit!,” she exclaimed. She knew at that point exactly who I was. She and her husband picked me up at the train station in the little town of Sachseln, Switzerland. They treated me as if I was their own daughter. She valued my mother that much.
I share all of these stories not just as a tribute to my mom’s amazing prioritization of friendship; I also share them because we live in a world and community that desperately need to do the same. One of the greatest concerns I had for my children growing up in the military lifestyle, i.e. moving every two to three years, was that they would start viewing all friendships as only temporary. They would enjoy who they were around at the time but never develop long, lasting friendships because they would know in the back of their minds, “Well, we will be moving in a few years. [He or she] won’t be in my life forever”.
We have to make a concerted effort for our children and for ourselves to love fully in our friendships and to devote time and effort into maintaining them even after we part ways. No, it isn’t easy, but most things that are worthwhile are not. My children will be taught that though we move away from friends, they are not lost. I want to teach my children that friends are like seashells; they are all unique, they all have their own story of how they came to be in our lives and they are all a part of one big ocean and world, separated only by distance. We gather best friends like we gather the best shells and we keep them to cherish.
I hope that the lessons I learned from my mom will make a difference in how you and your family approach the hardships we often face in the military. Perhaps we can stop seeing them as hardships altogether and instead see them as opportunities to gather and keep amazing friends along the journey.
Six of eight of The MOMBOX co-creators’ (Sarah and Tori’s) kids!
Welcome to The MOMBOX! We’re Tori and Sarah, a couple of stay at home moms with a passion for faith, family, food and fitness. We are each military wives, and moms to 4 amazing little ones! We believe being Strong: Body, Mind and Spirit makes us better moms. Join us along our wellness journey!