In Panama City FL, I remember roaming the neighborhood and by the lake when I was probably still in diapers, and later—from age 3 (in 1961)—roaming the streets of post war (and the newly-divided) Berlin, with its bombed-out buildings. The kids there all spoke only German, but we still managed to play together, as we tried to learn each other’s language. “Wie heißt du?” were the first German words I learned. I remember seeing a young German man with long hair and asking him “Bist du ein Beatle?” Since I thought that any guy with long hair MUST have been one of the fab four.
I think exposure to a constantly-changing set of diverse worlds—cities, countries, states—and being thrown into new cultures as an only child helped me develop I also think it sharpened my memory. When you’re in a group of people and you’re 4 or 5 and translating for a gathering of adults, it forces you to concentrate, especially when your German isn’t all that good to begin with. I think I was blessed to be an Air Force brat, and an only child. Otherwise I would have had something comfortable and familiar on which to lean, and that might have made me complacent. In ever-changing circumstances you’re always either doing your best to swim in unfamiliar waters, or you’re left alone . . . . waiting . . . This later gives rise to spurring imagination. Imagine, as a fairly young kid, sitting on an airplane for 18 hours—quietly. It forces you to create adventures and stories in your head. It’s both good and bad being an “only”. You’re alone and yet you’re not, because as an only child your parents take you everywhere and you experience everything.