At some point during my second grade year, my stepfather, a sonar technician in the Navy, received orders that he’d been transferred to the USS Holland, a new submarine tender headed for Rota, Spain. We were living in Charleston, SC at the time and although my memory is a bit fuzzy, it stands out as the first place I was able to complete an entire school year in one school. The years before had been full of moves from one city to another or one home to another in and around San Diego, then Key West, FL, so that meant school changes were necessary once I’d actually begun attending. A kindergarten or two, perhaps two different schools for first grade — it sounds like a lot for a child to deal with, but I remember being happy, often finding time to wander around whatever neighborhood we lived in to explore vacant lots or think about how I might climb the old pepper trees near one apartment house we lived in.
I don’t remember how my mother explained we’d move to a country somewhere across the Atlantic, but I’m sure she did and in much the same way I adjusted to the other moves we made over the years, I must have thought it was just another adventure. It helped to know our neighbors were being transferred to the same base and that we’d have one familiar contact there. With my stepfather gone well before us, my mother, brother, sister, and I flew first to an airbase in New Jersey, staying for a night — maybe two — then flew to NYC where we caught a TWA red eye to Spain.