E's Playground by John L. Neel

Kady, Jay, E and I were delivered by the Regimental representative to our Quarters in Church Crookham, England. We were exhausted. There is nothing like packing up all your belongings, shipping them overseas, and then traveling with two youngsters across the Atlantic with too many bags to handle to wear a person out. As our sponsor showed us around the place, already "warfed" by the British Army with loaner everything, all I could think was, thanks, but I just want to sleep. He finally left, telling me he would pick me up the next morning to meet the RSM, Depot Para.

It was the middle of the day, but nighttime by our internal clocks. The kids were irritable, unhappy with leaving Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, and unsure of what was happening. Kady had been a champ.

Before we tried to put them to bed or a nap, intending on getting them up in about 30 minutes to begin working on the jet lag and settling them into their new GMT zone, I showed them around, making decisions on who had what room, where the bathroom was located, and making sure they were comfortable.

While we were outside, I pointed out the small playground directly in front of our front door. It had swings and a jungle gym, over asphalt. British Kids are tougher, I assumed. I remember saying something like, "Look, guys, you have your own playground!"

Then we put them to bed. Kady slept upstairs in our room and I crashed on the couch downstairs in case the kids got up and were confused.

The next thing I heard was E opening the front door and yelling, "HEY, YOU KIDS! GET Off MY SWINGS!" It seems some of the British kids in the neighborhood dared to encroach on what E had been told was her space.

Not yet 4-years-old, E was in charge and introducing herself to the community...as the smallest Ugly American. My apologies to the moms, my weak explanation, and my acceptance of blame seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Though not a great start, she and Jay, Kady and I, would make loads of friends there. She would attend the excellent community pre-school, learning British English, and developing the most wonderful English accent with a slight Southern drawl. Jay would attend TASIS England, a very prestigious and expensive school, paid for by the U. S. Embassy.

Our two years in England would turn out to be a fantastic tour and the beginning of four years of great family time.

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