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I was eight years old. It was probably a sunny day, I lived in Florida, after all. I came home from school and ran to my room like always and started the treacherous homework all second graders were cursed with. It wasn't long until I was called to the living room by my BFF of a Mom and my Air Force uniform clad Dad.
Whatever this was about, it was serious. I could see it on their faces. Before I drop the bomb, let me just back up for a second...
I had been a military kid from the moment I was conceived. Yep, I was a lifer, as most military kids are. We weren't the "normal" Air Force family, because we didn't move around all the time. My parents had been in my Mom's Florida hometown for fifteen years. Meanwhile, my dad was trekking all over the world fixing planes and making stuff happen with special ops.
But on this day, at eight-years-old, my life changed forever.
My parents told me that Dad had been given orders to Guam. They had to show me where that tiny little thing was on my globe. He would be on this island for 18 months. We would be separated for 18 months straight. Or, mom and I could tagalong and we would spend two years there together. No deployments. Just us as a family.
I was sold.
We packed up our lives and everything I had known for my eight years. It was boxed up, zipped up, packed up and gone. Then, one very early morning, we went to the airport, said the most tearful goodbyes I've ever said, and POOF. We were gone.
Two years in Guam.
Four years in Los Angeles.
One year in North Dakota.
Five years in Iowa.
I'd grown so accustomed to saying 'hello' and 'goodbye' in the same breath that I lived in every place with one foot out the door.
We moved to Iowa for my dad's after-the-military job and it was supposed to be home. I said it was home. I went to college and tried to put down roots, but they would never go deep enough.
I spent day after day after day thinking about where I could go next. Nobody understood why I couldn't settle down. I didn't understand why I couldn't settle down.
Isn't that what I had been craving for twelve years?
I just couldn't find it.
That was until May of 2017 when my grandmother said goodbye to this world and my family came rushing back to where it all began.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
I took my first breath of salty air and I knew.
This was home.
Middle-of-the-night Whataburger runs.
Saturday morning samples at Sam's Club.
Long drives by the beach.
Fresh Gulf seafood.
Murder, She Wrote reruns at 2am.
Foam rocket launches in the house.
That little yellow house at the end of the street.
That world I made my own from day one.
That was where my memories grew. It was where my heart felt safe and secure. It was where I could fully be myself with no judgement. It was where I laughed and cried and ate the most delicious food.
It was where my family was.
It's where I am and it's where I belong.
Home truly is where your heart is, and mine will always be in Florida.