July 4, 1992 remembered
In 1987, we went to Germany with AAFES (the Army Air Force Exchange Service, my husband's employer). We spent two years in the Aschaffenburg area (south of Frankfurt) and three years in Berlin. The July 4 weekend of 2011 is the 19th anniversary of our return to the U.S. from Germany.
We lived in military housing when we first arrived in Berlin. Our apartment there was decent, but about 18 months before we left, we were moved to a spacious apartment in a lovely, brand-new building. We had playgrounds and a small shopping district within walking distance, and bus service practically to our door. We liked where we lived. And we had friends in Berlin -- church friends, German friends, and military friends. When AAFES gave us orders to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, it was hard to leave Berlin.
Keely was five years old and Isaac had just turned two. Dennis had to work full-time until the last few days before we left, so much of the work of preparing for our PCS (Permanent Change of Station) fell to me. I didn't get much sleep during the last few days. On our departure date, July 3, I lay down on a bare mattress at 2 a.m. for a nap. We got up at 4 a.m. and left for the airport at 5 a.m.
I was so exhausted that I don't remember many details of the long flight back to the US. I guess the children were good. I don't remember. Maybe Dennis was entertaining them. I suppose we came through New York -- we usually did. I do remember asking Dennis if we should make a sign with our name on it, so the AAFES manager from Fort Campbell who was meeting us in Nashville would recognize us. My husband said not to worry; he would be able to pick us out from the crowd.
Arrival in Tennessee
When we finally landed in Nashville, we gathered our children and carry-ons and headed for the baggage claim. Before long, a dark-haired, thin young man with glasses approached us and asked, "Are you the Netz family?" It was George Ricker, an AAFES manager from Fort Campbell and one of my husband's new co-workers.
As we walked from the terminal to the car, I observed that the air was very humid and unpleasantly warm. It was 11 p.m, but heat was radiating from the pavement. It certainly didn't feel like Berlin, where we had been wearing little jackets in the evenings. I had packed sweaters for Keely and Isaac, but clearly we wouldn't be needing them. George told us that Tennessee was having a record-setting heat-wave.
We stuffed our luggage into the trunk of an AAFES car, and the kids and I got in the back seat. Dennis rode in front, and George drove. We got on the interstate and drove through the city and out into the dark night of the countryside. George and Dennis talked about Fort Campbell and the job and AAFES people for a long time, and the children dozed against me. It seemed that surely we would reach our destination soon.
Then we passed a large, green road sign that announced we were entering Kentucky. George exclaimed, "Oh, NO!" And then he groaned, "I can't believe I did that!"
"Did what?" we asked.
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"I forgot to turn off I-65 onto I-24, and now we're way up north," he said sheepishly. "We have to turn around and go back. There's nothing else to do. I'm sorry! I was too busy talking!" So we turned around and drove back to the intersection George had missed on the north side of Nashville, and then we headed west on I-24 from Nashville to Clarksville (TN).
Our detour more than doubled the amount of time it should have taken to get to Clarksville, but at last, we checked into our motel suite and fell into our beds. It had been a very long day of travel.
About noon the next day -- July 4, 1992 -- we walked out of our dark, air-conditioned rooms into the staggering heat and brilliance of a parking lot on a 102-degree day. The blinding sunshine, intense heat, and suffocating humidity made me feel weak.
My husband started work immediately, so he could save his "PCS" time-off for moving into our house later. With no consideration of his living situation, his boss assigned him to the midnight shift. Every day about 10:00 a.m., I left the motel with Keely and Isaac so Dennis could try to sleep. Mid-afternoon, we slipped back into the other room of the suite, and I tried to get the kids to take a nap or watch cartoons quietly.
At last, a home
We spent about a month in the Clarksville motel and another month in a Hopkinsville motel while we located, purchased, and waited for possession of our new home. Keely started school while we were still living in the Hopkinsville motel. I talked to the principal and explained that we weren't yet living in the district, but we soon would be.
One final bit of lunacy in our lives was the woman who was living in the house we bought. She didn't want to move out, and she was angry that we had bought the house. She found out what motel we were in, and she started calling frequently on the telephone to scream at us. The motel couldn't or wouldn't screen the calls. We wondered if she would even move out of the house, but she finally did.
It was a happy day when we moved to our new home on the Tuesday after Labor Day. A big truck brought our furniture a few days later. Gradually, we developed some routines again and began to feel comfortable in Kentucky. But every year at Fourth of July, I remember the long (very long!), hot (very hot!), and crazy (very crazy!) summer of 1992.
Airplane image from Clipart Inc.