Living on a military base meant creative solutions to many ordinary home comfort decisions. Ordinary families personalize their homes, both inside and out. This personalization may include painting walls, unique lighting fixtures, fancy faucets/fixtures, furniture, appliances, and landscaping projects or gardening. The changes we make to our homes can be dramatic or barely noticeable yet each change adds a particular style or flair. More importantly, each change helps create that sense of home. Military families are usually living away from their extended families. So building that sense of home on a military base is vital.
Most home comfort choices are severely limited while living in government quarters. Housing offices on military bases have more rules than even the most stringent Home Owners Associations (HOA). While changes are possible to the interior of government quarters, all must be undone when moving out. Everything painted or changed most go back to the original. Have you ever tried to cover a bright “impact” wall paint with cheap flat white paint? Have you tried to remove wall decals or wall boarder without tearing the dry wall? Exhausting! Since military families rarely live in the same area more than three years, changing then undoing changes is time-consuming and pricy.
I have painted walls, put up boarders, changed small fixtures in government quarters. Then, I have fought the inspector when out-processing from those quarters. It can be absurd to argue over the exact shade of flat white put back on the walls. Nevertheless, I have had that argument. I have filled holes in walls with everything from newspaper and spackle to toothpaste to cover damage from a door handle banging into the walls (kids are great!). Holes I am positive where there and poorly repaired from the previous occupant. Hey, pay it forward. If the doors came with a stop to prevent wall damage before we arrived this whole process might have been avoided. Nope, nothing is that easy.
After a time I learned a few tricks to personalizing the interior of our home without ruining the walls or creating tons of work to move out. I would add color to walls by using large hanging blankets. This was a twofold benefit, changing out bright colors are as easy as putting up a new blanket, and a muffling of sound between the walls where the blanket hangs is a huge plus. Put up wall boarders or wall decals using adhesive putty. Removal is easy and clean! A twin/full size flat sheet is a wonderful canvas for hanging posters, pictures, etc. Simply tack the sheet up high on the wall then use straight pins or safety pins to add items to the sheet. The sheet allows much more room than the average corkboard for displaying a variety of keepsakes, a perfect solution for a teen’s room.
Personalizing exteriors spaces on a military base has its own set of challenges. No digging allowed was a familiar refrain on most military bases. The solution is container gardens. We used a variety of containers including five-gallon buckets, whiskey barrels halves, and kiddie swimming pools. I am always amazed at the variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers that thrive in a container garden. My husband has the proverbial green thumb. He would plant tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, corn, carrots, peas, green beans, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and a variety of herbs. All in some type of container, a favorite was the small plastic kiddie pools.
One of my favorite memories of our military time revolves around our container gardens. When our boys were very young they used to snitch vegetables out of the garden. No shame at all, both boys when asked if they had been eating out of the garden would immediately respond NO! Never mind that both wore the evidence. They pulled up any root vegetables, wiped the dirt on their leg, or arm, or chest and commenced eating. Stripes of dirt and flecks of plant matter decorating little bodies. I am positive that we never had a carrot that grew longer than a thumb. Tomatoes rarely had time to turn red. Bell peppers, jalapeño’s, snacked on long before picking size. Even the herbs were graze worthy. Honestly, the only crop not pulled up and eaten before it was mature was the pumpkins. The pumpkins only made it because they were for pie. No Jack-o-lanterns for us, pumpkins equaled pie, conversation over.
We fashioned our home in a variety of government quarters during our 26 years with the Army. Inside and out we made small changes to each set of quarters that provided comfort and personalization. Our ordinary lives grew and thrived. Memories to cherish built with each change. Most important this ordinary lady learned that home really IS where the heart is, and that my heart is with my family. Building a comfortable living space in temporary quarters is easier knowing that.