"My Address Is" is a Utah Public Radio series exploring Utah issues associated with how and where we live. This is part 4 of 6.
“My name is Connie Winder and my name is Parry Winder, and our address is Cache Valley Sunsets.”
Parry Winder was an air force pilot and due to the nature of his work, he, his wife and four children would move every three months to three years, with individual trainings and deployments for Parry in between. The family has moved a total of 23 times, living in many diverse places.
“Of course our unique place would be Germany, such a different place to live,” Connie said.
“We feel like it was an opportunity so we lived in a small German village rather than on the base. We shopped in the German stores and we went to the German restaurants and tried to become immersed in the German community and the German way of life, and it was just great; we loved it,” Parry said.
“Our favorite place was probably Alamogordo, New Mexico because we finally were able to buy our own home and have our own fenced-in back yard. Probably not the place that everyone would want to live; it’s not on anyone’s bucket list to go to Alamogordo, New Mexico, but we loved it,” Connie said.
The Winders say each place brought something interesting and new, but along with the unique opportunities that came with a career in the air force, there were some difficulties as well.
“Sometimes I could tell Connie where I was going and sometimes I couldn’t because we were in classified operations so we just would deploy and I’d say ‘I’ll be back when I’m back’,” Parry said.
“In those days we didn’t have cell phones and we didn’t have internet, so we didn’t stay in contact very well, so that was hard not being able to hear from him and know what was going on and communicate back and forth. He was sent to Korea for a one-year tour without us and he had about 6 months of training before that, and so that was hard on our whole family, having the dad gone,” Connie said.
The Winders say a positive attitude is what made their experiences constructive and believe their attitude reflected in the experience of their children.
“We went into it with a positive attitude, excited about wherever we were going to live. We just decided we would find out about that new area and do whatever there was to do there,” Connie said.
“We had an unusual opinion and attitude. We figured, like Connie mentioned earlier, that our home was our family—it was the six people, and all we need to do is find a house to put it in. And that was our mantra, we did that almost daily. We might not like where we live, but we’re together and we’re going to have a blast, and it ended up really becoming a non-issue,” Parry said.
The Winders say their children are fearless travelers because of their upbringing and have a unique understanding of the value of family.
“Our kids would often say that, because they moved a lot, they would make good friends in the new location and then have to be uprooted and go somewhere else, but they always took their best friends with them, and that was their brothers and sister. They have learned that at an early age and now they’re very stable,” Parry said.
“They kids would say when people would say to them, ‘Oh you’re just living out of a box, that’s too bad, you don’t have a home’, and they’d say ‘We have a home, we just don’t have a house to put it in’,” said Connie.
The Winders say it is the unique environments and situations from their “out of a box” living that created the most cherished family memories.
“One Christmas I was deployed and we were at a schoolhouse in Arizona. So, Connie and the kids joined me, but because it was bachelor officers’ quarters, we had to check out every day. It wasn’t family quarters, but they let the family stay there, you know, providing the neighbors didn’t complain. So, we couldn’t get a Christmas tree, and the kids really wanted a Christmas tree, so Connie took brown paper bags and made a Christmas tree that we’d tape on the wall every day and then take down when we moved out the next day, and then move into a another one that afternoon and put the Christmas tree back up. We did that quite a few times. It was cool; the kids still talk about it—the brown bag Christmas,” Parry said.
With each move, there were limits to what they could bring, which the Winders believe made them priorities their physical belongings and assess what was important for their family.
“You know, we kind of didn’t have a lot of prized possessions because the movers were sometimes very hard on the things. It’s been said that three moves equals a fire, and we saw some of our items being brought in from the moving truck in pieces and they’d pile them in the corner, what was left of a dresser,” Parry said.
“We had a lot of photo albums. I took a lot of pictures over the years and in the olden days when we print them off and put them in photo albums, I had a lot of photo albums that kind of documented our life, and I made sure they were closely monitored and taken care of,” Connie said.
Their current home is filled with photos and in their living room lies a wood cabinet dedicated to artifacts of their unique travel experiences. They settled in Logan, now residing there for 12 ½ years, and say family is still what makes this house their home.
“It’s kind of now the central gathering place. When we built this home we decided that we recognized that we probably would not be moving too much; I could commute to my work. We could build a home where the kids could always come home and feel like it was home, and bring their kids, wives, etc. So, I think we’ve really been able to fulfill that,” said Parry.
From their unique life experience, the Winders have come to believe that home is not just a physical place where one resides, but the family inside.