Marcia, Marcia, Marcia — Native dandelion

Hi! I’m Marcia Schlegelmilch and I live in York-comma-Nebraska. I’ve been here for a really long time but it isn’t my hometown. You see, I don’t have a hometown. Everywhere-comma-nowhere is where I hail from!

As a baby boomer certified type-1 Army Brat, I noticed something early on … and that thing was just how much my parents liked to go home.

My mother was raised out east in northern West Virginia, about 90 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a town called Fairmont. All of West Virginia is beautiful, especially Fairmont, where the Monongahela, West Fork and Tygart Rivers come together, splitting the town and its tree-covered hills into east and west. In West Virginia I learned about pepperoni rolls, hot dog sauce, river life, narrow roads and steep declines. My only first cousins live in West Virginia and there are only three of them. In West Virginia a middle name is a must; most people, in my family go by them. If you hear someone call me Marcia Kay … you know it’s someone from my side of the family and it’s West Virginia’s fault. My mom was Barbara Jean; my aunt, Peggy Marie; my cousins, Diana Marie and Cathy Ann. Heck, Cathy Ann’s dog was Pepsi Ann.

Barbara Jean never got used to the flatland that is Nebraska. Going home meant the world to her. She missed the hills, her family and friends like Melba Jo (see I told you).

My father on the other hand, well, he was a Nebraska boy through and through. Raised in Table Rock, Pawnee County, Nebraska, he loved hunting, fishing, kolache and going home. When we were stationed in the States we spent a part of most summers in Table Rock. Back then Table Rock boasted 420 people; today it is somewhere above 200. Back then the Table Rock Festival was the highlight of our trip out. Back then I helped my grandparents at their locker, stamping meat packages and stirring the gargantuan pot of lard with a giant wooden paddle. Back then I would hang from the meat hooks to be weighed every year. I would don a super heavy winter coat and my brother Mike and I would run around in the freezer where all the lockers were. My dad was Dave Lang, the only child of Lena and Leo Lang; owners of Lang’s Locker … home of the famous Lang’s Ring Bologna!

Being home those summers meant the world to Dad. He loved being where everyone knew his name.

Me, I spent my life visiting other people’s hometowns. It was fine. But where was I from? The tally of my former homes included Colorado Springs, Heidelberg in Germany, Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas, Camp Darby in Italy, Ft. Meade in the greater DC area, Table Rock, Tokyo and York. And that was all before I was 15 years old.

Home, typically being where one spends their most formative years, sure didn’t describe me. That’s why 50 years ago, when I married Jay and we started a family, I made the decision my kids would have a hometown. As it turned out, that was York and I am grateful for being able to raise them here. Here where the Brink and North kids lived just up the street … where they could have the memories of walking to and from Willard Elementary and York Middle School with friends … where they could bike up to the park, bike down to 7-11 and bike over to the swimming pool. A place where their memories live … a place they could visit and reminisce about. That kind of place … the kind of place I don’t have.

I can’t drive by my former homes very easily. I’m not allowed on base without an ID card. Vacations across the ocean are pricey and rare. That’s why the handful of friends I have from my high school days in Japan are so very precious to me.

Sociologists have a name for people like me … from my reading I have learned I’m a “Third Culture Kid.”

“Third Culture Kids (TCKs) or third culture individuals (TCI) are people who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality. They also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years.

“TCKs typically experience a greater volume and variety of cultural influences than those who grow up in a single cultural setting.

“The term ‘kid’ in TCK refers to the individual’s formative or developmental years, but sometimes the term ‘adult third culture kid’ (ATCK) is used to clarify that it applies to adults as well.

“TCKs move between cultures before fully developing their personal and cultural identity.

“The first culture for TCKs refers to the culture of the country from which their parents originated, the second culture is the culture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the distinct cultural ties among all third culture individuals that share no connection to the first two cultures,” said the internet.

So, those of you who see me as a bit different or quirky, there is a reason!

Jay and I just got a new car, call it our 50th anniversary present to ourselves, and I’ve ordered vinyl stickers for it; one peace sign, one dandelion and one that looks like a small Colorado license plate that says, “NATIVE.” Because I am native to somewhere and that place is El Paso County, Colorado where I was born. It is funny much how that little sticker makes me feel as if I belong … somewhere.

The dandelion is the symbol of us military brats and here is the story behind it — “The official flower of the military child is the dandelion. Why? The plant puts down roots almost anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking. It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates. Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry them. They are hardy and upright. Their roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the military, planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.” – Author Unknown

And being at peace is something I work toward.

It took quite a while to realize I traded a hometown for a world’s worth of life experience and a wider lens with which to view life. It took quite a while to understand that dandelions are very worthy wherever they may grow … so here’s to all of the brats and TCKs out there who are enjoying their latest hometown!



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