Navy brats?

Somebody recently pointed out to me that my blogs never bring up the fact that my husband was an active duty sailor in the U.S. Navy for 10 years before we landed in southwest Minnesota. Haven’t I ever mentioned that?

Eric and I got married a few months after he graduated from boot camp. I was a Navy wife and raised three Navy brats.

I’m not sure why military children ever got tagged with the nickname “brats.” There were Army brats and Navy brats. My kids had some wonderful playmates over those military years, with not a brat among them. Not to say there weren’t a few stinkers around, but try to find an area where there isn’t a playground bully or that kid that wanders the neighborhood at all hours. Face it…kids are kids everywhere you go.

Our last duty station was at the Great Lakes Naval Base just outside of Chicago, Ill. We lived in Navy housing in a nice townhouse with plenty of space. Eric managed to find a used chain link fence from somewhere, and we fenced in the backyard. There were sliding glass doors going out into the yard, and with the addition of the fence, I felt pretty comfortable letting the kids go in the yard to play without me having to stand next to them the whole time. I’m sure I wore a path in the linoleum between those glass doors and the kitchen with all my trips back and forth to check on them, but the fence made me feel better and kept them well away from the road.

They were pretty little – Matt was born while we lived there, which was when Nick was two, so Mags must have been about seven. We left shortly before her 10th birthday.

In our fenced-in yard we had a swing set, a little slide shaped like an elephant (that had been in the three previous yards) and a plum tree that seemed to attract mean children.
There was one little boy about six years old who would constantly climb over fence into the yard and get up in the tree. From there he would proceed to pull unripe plums from the branches and throw them at my boys. If Maggie was home, she would pull him out and thrash him for picking on her brothers if she caught the kid before I did. She was as mean as a rabid skunk when anyone picked on her boys. I would just boot him out of the yard.

One day, after tossing the kid out of the yard for the fifth time or so that day, I told him if he didn’t stay out I would tell his mom. In truth, I knew who his mom was because I had seen her around the neighborhood, but I didn’t talk to her much because every time I spoke with her she was drunk and asking to borrow money so she could buy beer. She was also hugely pregnant with twins. I know she was reported for child neglect more than once, but nothing ever seemed to happen.

I swatted the kid on the behind that afternoon and sent him out of the yard, but something about that encounter must have really gotten his goat, because later that evening a neighbor called about a problem out in front of the house. Eric and I walked out front and discovered someone had scratched “f*** you” on the hood of our almost brand new car with a rock.

Except he didn’t use the little asterisks. He used the letters.

Two of our neighbors had seen the little plum-tossing bandit climb up on the hood and do the deed before scampering off. We called base security and they came out to take a look. They rounded up his mom, who wandered over in a drunken stupor to see the evidence for herself.

Her one and only comment about the whole thing?

“Wow, I didn’t know he could spell.”

OK, he qualified as a brat, but it’s hard to learn right and wrong when you’re being raised by wolves. And that’s pretty unfair to wolves.

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