When Abby Huisman was in third grade, she found out her air force family would be leaving their home in Germany at the end of the school year. Her teacher, knowing that Abby was very sad about leaving her friends, encouraged her to write a poem about her thoughts and feelings about the upcoming move.
The next year, Abby’s new school in Florida announced a PTA writing program for students. Abby asked her mom if she could update her poem and add her feelings after now that the move was over. Sitting at the kitchen table, Abby and her mom and talked about what was good and bad about moving.
“I really tried to think what it means to be military kid, what I felt,” Abby says. “It was easy to write about the frustration and how much I love my family, but it was hard to rhyme the words.”
Abby read her poem aloud for the program at her school and won an award from the PTA. It was also featured by the Biden Foundation as part of a creative initiative for military children called “Picturing Home.” Abby’s poem is called “My Home in a Military Life.”
I’m a fourth grade military child.
My life can be hard, but mostly wild.
I have traveled all over the Earth.
I have no hometown, only the place of my birth.
My favorite colors are orange, purple, and blue,
But I’ve never been able to paint my room.
After five moves I want to scream and shout,
And sometimes I even pout.
Working through my feelings can be very rough,
But my family has taught me to be tough.
I’m not sure you know, but I’m never really alone,
Because after every move, I always find my home.
Abby said she didn’t know if kids who are not from military families understand her life better, even after hearing her poem.
“I’m not sure they understand about painting a room is something I’ve never done–or that I don’t have a hometown,” she says.”Maybe it makes them think a little.”
As a parent, navy wife Alison Buckholtz says writing for her young son was a way to help him understand the changes military life would bring. She wrote a poetic story called “It Was a Good Day,” for her son, then two and half, when her husband was deployed and Alison knew the family would move when the deployment was over.
“I wrote about what was going on in our lives at the moment,” says Alison, whose daughter was a baby at the time. “I wrote what I thought my son would understand and absorb. I tried to put my self in the shoes of this little kid whose life was but to change, but he didn’t know it.”
Alison said she wrote the story for the same reasons she wrote her memoir about deployment, Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War.
“I looked everywhere for something that would speak to our experience, to my son’s experience,” Alison says. “I didn’t find it, so I wrote it.”
Every military family’s experience is different, and some find writing about those experiences is a way to process them. Abby says it helps to write about moving, even if people who read her poem don’t completely understand. Alison said she and he son had fun with their story, reading it over and over.
“We still have the spiral bound copy that he decorated with stickers,” says Alison, whose son is now in his teens. “It was important to me that he thought of it as his book. It was about all those things were really anchors in his life. I knew we were about to move. I wanted to give him those certainties to hold on to.”
Abby Huisman is an award-winning fourth grade poet. Alison Bucholtz’s story “It Was a Good Day,” appears in Military Life: Stories and Poems for Children. She also contributed an essay to Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.