Back in the days of the early 1960’s my family was living in Bedford, Massachusets in the Base’s housing at Hanscomb Field Air Fore Base. The housing area was planned in a rather blunt but real as was implied manner, set out in a most stratified and obvious way, having 3 main streets named (by topological truth and by status of rank)very neatly and graphically laid out ,with the existence of an actual “Low Street”, a “Middle Street”, and a “High Street” to which each family was assigned quarters (housing) according to the father’s level of rank in the service. We first lived in a temporary apartment, then were given a quite lovely two story house, very ‘New England’ in it’s style, and quite nice in it’s placement among rank and file, at the top of a hill surrounded by beautifully wooded natural land. The beautiful natural Forrest enclosure made our base housing seem more like an up-scale neighborhood surrounded by an impressive greenbelt around it’s perimeters. My father was working for the Department of Defense in an important area of National Security at that time. I was a clueless 15 year old, not wanting to be up North, and doing everything I could to express that, as I remember it. This was a number of years ago… (Wow, it was actually about 45 years ago.) nnnnooooooooooway.
We moved to Massachusetts from the coast of central Florida the summer before I was to attend 10th grade, the first year of High School in those days (the big time.) However, the culture and climate were ever so completely different, to the point that I remember thinking the Principal of “Bedford High” was doing a “Kennedy” impression when giving the morning announcements over the school’s intercom. This I found to be quite amusing, something not shared by my peers. Wonder why that was? Also, after we drove from Florida to Massachusetts in August of that year, I discovered the horrendous climate difference right away. It got colder at night in the Summer there, than it ever got in the Winter in our previous station, where we had spent a most unusually long assignment (5 years). That was when my Dad was stationed at Cape Canaveral off the coast of Cocoa Beach Florida, back in the days when it was not so overwhelmingly populous as to seem to be an extension of Disney World, the Space Travel theme section or something of that nature, as it is today.
The public schools were ever so much better, though, there in New England -and that was a remarkable thing. As a High School Sophomore, I and two other weird souls wanted to take “music theory” which, with allot of trouble and schedule shuffling, Bedford High provided. My 10th grade honors English class was more like a college level lecture, the teacher being phenomenally dedicated to spreading his love of words and their power, along with the importance and insistance on following the preferred structured and correctly doccumented written work, which he assigned regularly. He would edit these papers untill we learned this skill and neccesity on our own. He was a remarkable speaker and the Drama coach as well, so I participated in the Drama program there under his guidence as well. There was even a genuine visual art teacher who knew his chops. I had no idea this sort of thing existed in the world, but soaked it in like a sponge- however tempory it was. But for that year, it did exist for me, even if my nose froze and I very regularly slipped on the ice and could barely spell Massachusetts.
Most of the local culture was so firmly evident, having been long ago established with a reverence for academia not found in Florida (for obvious reasons-I mean, who needed that there?…) and the area surrounding Boston was oozing with such superlative displays of all kinds in the arts there, and the ever present excitement that came with living near a big city with such a particularly historical significance-that brought a whole new unexpected bonus with this odd year of transition. That part of our stay made this area sacred to me, even if I was alienated by my status of Military Brat, a tempory, new kid, and obvious suspect. I went to the Club 47 with older friends and was introduced to the budding folk music scene. I remember attending a performance of the Royal Ballet when Margot Fonteyn still danced with the Royal Ballet Company. Although I do not remember a single “Lift Off” of an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile the whole time were stationed there. How odd that seemed at the time. Oh, sure they played around with some “Nike rockets” upon occasion (?) but that hardly compares to intensity of the other experience, as to be so different, so civilized and so strangely smooth ,and so damn cold in the winter as to freeze your eyelids open if you walked into the wind. It was the actual living experience likened to the existence of when” Hell actually done froze over” to me, as it were, and hopefully, we were just visiting, even with all the added excellence in it’s local color. Frankly the local color became blue like the tip of my nose upon occassion.
Although this move and that year spent in the Boston area was one that broadened the perspective of my very naive life experiences, and probably froze away some overly-fashioned conscious brain cells, as the approaching reality of Winter there did not ruin my here-to-fore optimistic idea that my long brown hair was the all occasion head cover for any occasion. It was nearing Christmas before I realized that by covering my head with a very warm scarf or hat, this addition really would make quite a difference, and that there are those times when survival becomes ever so much more important than one’s fashion image at below freezing temperatures, especially when the wind chill is factored with in the equation.
However, when Spring sprung ,up there, it was so overwhelmingly relieving ,and wonderfully, shockingly different, as to make even one as young as I was, truly realize the renewal of the earth’s cycle of life, a concept brought with wisdom not personally realized before that year. I remember one afternoon in late Spring, when my mother was at some Officers’ Wives’ Club function, and not expected to return until dusk, when my big brother and I had one of the most over the top “water fights”I have ever heard about. It was quite comfortably warm and we had the screen door and some windows open to let in the Spring’s warm breeze. This was so altogether inspiring as we were seemingly freed from an icy prison, and yet again given back our childhood’s playful attitude, so impulsive and invigorating as to reintroduce our former stupid and purposeless battle for family supremacy. This, particular noteworthy exchange was undoubtedly started by the simple reality of my having to do some chores (NOT THAT!) that day -when I was putting some used and rinsed dishes and glasses in our new dishwasher (a first for our family). This kitchen also came with a very handy tool, the removable and easily directed and defused spray nozzle at the kitchen sink-not the usual simple fixed faucet that we were used to having. Of course, this marvelous new invention became the ultimate efficient and evil spray gun that never ran out of water unless you gave up and ran. So, my brother proceeded to walk by on his way toward the door of the kitchen, providing the perfect and most excellent target for said convenient kitchen utensil. I Sprayed him with maximum water pressure, and with out mercy and rather thoroughly (I thought). Where as he had only the glass of water he carried to return fire until he escaped. Given my brothers proclivity for ingenious revenge, he found the garden hose and spray nozzle in the garage, which he then attached to the closest outside water faucet (all without my noticing him doing that). I was almost finished my task of loading the dishwasher, when he returned with that far greater fire power, a fully pressurized garden hose, locked and loaded for battle. My puny kitchen sprayer was no match for that garden hose at full blast, but we preceded to battle this out until noticing we had both of our persons and the entire kitchen sopping wet. To the point where there was (mas or menos) almost an inch of water contained with in the kitchen floor. At this significant moment of inevitable retreat, for both, and the realization of the much needed reconaissance that we faced; we shifted our formerly advisarial roles, becoming allies (however temorary) in order undo the horor of our water war, which would not be viewed in the spirit intended by our parents. We knew the battle was over but not the war.
I think it took us over an hour to re-establish normality to that lovely, clean kitchen …err… with the very recently rinsed (quite thoroughly) light yellow tiled floor, and wiped down cabinets. The effort put forth took every broom, mop, and dry towel in the house, which we thoughtfully put in the washer to clean, and the dryer to dry, sneaking down and retrieving them, folding them, and returning them to their former locations, later- on the sly. Fortunately, the kitchen curtains were “wash and wear”, though I don’t think this was what they had in mind. We had barely finished doing this, when we heard our mother come home, driving the car into the garage. Though the hose and nozzle had not been returned to it’s assigned place in the garage, it was not a noticed factor, so we proceeded to behave quite normally, having changed out of our soaked clothes, and evil expressions.
As I remember things, by the time my mother returned to change out of her very formal attire, I was sitting in the den pretending to read the newspaper and my brother was in his room ingrossed in his home work. Just another afternoon, in the tales of the Air Force Brats, that we really were. Too bad that time goes away as easily as the water disappeared that afternoon of memorable though dubious intent.