I grew up as an east coast girl, living in the same house in Pennsylvania for 18 years until I moved away for college. Summer meant hot afternoons swimming in the pond, and watching thunderstorms roll in while sitting on our front porch swing. In fall, we heard the combines harvesting corn in the fields, and prepared costumes that would keep us warm on a chilly Halloween night. In winter, we had a favorite sledding hill and spread salt or ashes on our icy driveway. And in spring, I loved to wander through the apple orchard, listening to the drone of the bees among the bright pink blossoms.
All the sights, sounds, and routines of the seasons were ingrained in me as a steady and predictable part of life — until I married a military man. For the past 15 years as a military spouse, I’ve lived at six different duty stations. None of them had corn harvests, regular snowstorms or apple blossoms. Instead, I experienced a range of new seasonal experiences:
- Summers in California meant endless beach days, but also dealing with droughts and watching for wildfires.
- Fall in Mississippi was rarely chilly, and the leaves didn’t change color. But it was also the peak of hurricane season, with a constant threat of evacuation.
- Winter in North Carolina was mild, so we rarely worried about icy roads, and we could wear light jackets to look at Christmas lights.
- Springtime in Spain meant endless festivals, with polka-dot dresses, talented horses and late-night dinners and dancing!
The seasons have looked different for us at each duty station, and I expect you have experienced some of these changes too. Sometimes, it’s fun to be in a new and different climate, especially if it is something you never got to experience as a child. Other times, the lack of your favorite seasonal experiences can leave you feeling empty and homesick.
Military families adapt to new and frustrating seasonal challenges, wherever they are stationed. If you are missing some of the sights, sounds and smells of your hometown during this time of year, don’t be ashamed! Many military spouses don’t realize how important these unofficial seasonal celebrations are until they are stationed somewhere with a different climate. Here are some ways to adapt, which may help you to “bloom where you are planted.”
Celebrate your own traditions, wherever you are.
I didn’t know how much I loved the fall until we were stationed in Spain, where there are no pumpkins, no American football, few falling leaves and no Thanksgiving holiday. September and October were lovely beach weather, but it just didn’t feel “right” to me. So, we got pumpkins from the commissary, invited some Spanish friends over for Thanksgiving dinner, and stayed up past midnight to watch American football games on the military Armed Forces Network channels. It wasn’t the same, but it helped us honor our own seasonal traditions.
What are the seasonal traditions that are important to your family? Would you feel empty or disappointed if you went the whole summer without a trip to the beach? Would you miss the camaraderie of gathering neighbors around a fire pit in the fall? Do you have holiday celebrations that are tied to each season of the year? Think about ways you can honor these or recreate them in a unique way at your current location. Even a sliver of a familiar ritual can make you feel less homesick when you are stationed far from family.
Prepare yourself for unusual seasons.
This could be seasonal weather that is new to you — like hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires. Or maybe you don’t know the first thing about shoveling snow. So, when you move to a new duty station, do your research, prepare your family for common local challenges, and make a plan for natural disasters that happen in your new region. If it’s something you haven’t experienced before, then talk to other families who have been through it. Ask them for ideas about emergency preparedness plans, evacuation routes or essential supplies to keep on hand.
Finally, make the most of your current “season” of military life. As military families, we never know what crazy changes are waiting for us just ahead. Whether you are in an unpredictable season of PCSing, a challenging season of deployment, or a lonely season of saying “see you later” to friends, there is always a way to grow through this season you are in. Whether it is bright and sunny, or cold and grey, always look for new opportunities and unique adventures at your current location. You never know — you may not go through the same season at this location next year!