If you happened upon him in your daily travels, you would not be impressed. You would likely pass him by with only a casual glance. His faded red shirt and blue overalls are threadbare. His shoes are worn and covered with the grime of years gone by. His bright blue eyes light up his face and he sports a great big grin all the time. His blond hair is held perfectly in place by a blue and gold beanie.
No, you would not be impressed. His tiny hands, dirty white shoes, and grinning head are all made of plastic. His red shirt and blue overalls cover the stuffed frame of his small body. On his left leg, he sports a small plastic ring attached to the end of a worn-out string. A quick tug on that string used to make him talk, but not anymore. His voice box gave out long ago.
To you, he would be just an old, worn-out doll, but to me, he is a treasure. He is my Beany Boy.
Growing up as an Army Brat, Beany Boy was my best friend. He went everywhere with me, and I mean everywhere. Through 29 moves and 25 schools, Beany Boy stuck with me. He never moved away and left me. He never made fun of me as the new kid on the block. He was always smiling when I arrived home from school.
Beany was my faithful companion, tagging along merrily wherever I went. When Mama and I made the long trek to Seoul, Korea to meet Daddy, Beany jumped in my overnight bag and joined me for the adventure. I left the top of the bag unzipped so he could breathe. He was a good traveler.
On a bad day, his smiling face always made things better. A hug from him held the promise that everything would work out alright. We explored the new neighborhoods together, and I told him everything. He was a great listener.
He arrived the Christmas just after I turned two years old. There is a photo of a cute little blond headed girl with big brown eyes holding a smiling little Beany Boy doll. On top of his blue and gold beanie cap, there was a handy set of red propellers that twirled around like a tiny helicopter. They were his wings. They were there to help him fly!
Beany was quite a conversationalist. He said all kinds of things. He talked about his friend Cecil, the Sea-sick Sea Serpent. He warned me to watch out for DJ, the villain. You see, Beany was a TV star and that’s how I came to know him. He was the lead actor in “Beany Boy and Cecil”, a popular cartoon show in the early 1960s. I loved to watch that show and so it was that Beany showed up at my house that Christmas morning.
In the arms of that little blond headed girl, Beany Boy came to life and so began our many adventures. He flew with me on my first airplane ride to Panama. He always occupied the other side of the back seat as we traveled across the country. After years of dragging Beany around, we lost the propellers to his little cap, but in my mind, he could still fly!
Growing up Army was a challenge and an honor.
My Daddy was my hero and my Mama was my refuge. The three of us were inseparable. We were a team, traveling all over the world and hanging on for dear life at times. I was proud to be an Army Brat, the nickname attributed to children of Army servicemen and women. It was a life of dichotomy, a mixed bag of adventure and angst, heartache and happiness, service and sacrifice, duty and desperation, pride and panic, intense loneliness and unforgettable friendships, a life of grief and glory.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the blessings of my young life. I had parents who loved me beyond measure. Though we were stationed far away, my grandparents always gave us a sense of belonging, opening their doors wide to welcome us home whenever we had the chance to come. I met amazing people, truly some unforgettable characters. I saw the world through the eyes of a child and those experiences gave me a different perspective than most. Sure, it was hard to move that often. All those new schools were heartbreaking at times, but I learned so much along the way. It was such an amazing way to grow up and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Beany is still with me, a smiling reminder of good days long past. He keeps watch over our household activities from his perch in my rocking chair. As I pass by his chair, he makes me pause and remember my days as an Army Brat. Not only did my Dad serve our country, in a way, Mama and I did too. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.