Accustomed to flight, girl will float
By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published January 19, 2007
In some ways, Annamarie McLean is just a typical 10-year-old. She likes macaroni and cheese and practical jokes, and her fingernails are painted hot pink with polka dots.
But in other ways, Annamarie's life is unique. The only way to get into her neighborhood if you're an outsider is to have your car searched by soldiers in camouflage. Conversations with her friends include exchanges of information their dads give them from Southeast Asia, where they're stationed. She has spent most of her life on MacDill Air Force Base.
Annamarie and 14 other kids from MacDill's Tinker Elementary School whose parents are deployed will join the Krewe of Libertalia on their float in Saturday's Gasparilla Children's Parade. They'll all wear eye patches and throw beads, but each kid has a unique story. Here is Annamarie's.
She was born in Germany, where her parents met at a skating rink. Her mom was a manager at the rink, and her dad worked there part time while he was stationed with the Air Force.
Annamarie thinks it's hilarious that her parents met at a skating rink, "because it's like little kids meeting," her mom, Stephanie Reavis, said.
Annamarie's dad, 34-year-old Michael Reavis, taught her how to roller skate when she was 2. Now she can do tricks and use inline skates, too. But other than skating, Annamarie doesn't remember too much from her first home other than Guten tag, which means "good day," she said. "That's all."
The family moved into MacDill seven years ago, when Annamarie's dad was stationed there.
Typically, military families move every few years, but Annamarie has been able to stay in her same school since kindergarten. Before September, her dad had only left the family for three weeks.
He and Annamarie never missed an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos and always played pranks of their own. When her mom tried to get him to mow the lawn, Annamarie's dad would hide in the closet.
Her mom would send Annamarie to look for him, and every time, he'd jump out and scare his daughter.
Annamarie got the last laugh when she hid a fake snake under his pillow. Even though he's an Air Force staff sergeant, he's terrified of snakes. His wife was always the one to kill the snakes that spooked him.
Still, this is how Annamarie describes her dad: "He's very outgoing, not scared to go up to anybody, speaks what's on his mind."
On Sept. 26, her dad left home for duty in Southeast Asia.
It was hard for her mom, since he left four days before her 29th birthday. The family marks the days that pass on the calendar, counting down to dad's return in February.
Since he was away for Christmas, dad bought toys where he was stationed and shipped them to the kids' grandmother's house as surprises for Christmas morning. Annamarie is waiting for her dad to return to break in her new Dance Dance Revolution video game.
Annamarie's 6-year-old brother Austin likes calling himself the man of the house. Annamarie has taken on her dad's chores, like cleaning the dishes, helping mop and - eeeew, she said - cleaning toilets.
Her mom works as a medical assistant at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and is studying to be a nurse, commuting to Kaiser University in Lakeland. Annamarie checks her mother's grades.
"I have to bring home good grades," her mom said. "This morning, she got an A," Annamarie chimed in.
The freckle-faced fourth-grader is prone to giggle attacks, but she says she misses her dad. "A lot."
She looks forward to going to Disney World with him when he returns, and riding all the roller coasters she's tall enough to get on. And she's scheming about the perfect prank to catch on tape for his grand welcome.
Until then, she's got a message for him: "I love you."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digs: MacDill Air Force Base
Her family: Dad, Staff Sgt. Michael Reavis, 34, who is stationed in Southeast Asia. Her mom, Stephanie Reavis, 29. Her brother Austin, 6, and sisters Kathryn, 5, and Madyson, 3.
Her dream job: An author
Favorite author: Judy Blume
Favorite colors: Pink and blue
Her dream pet: The family persuaded dad to buy them a dog when he returns. "We have to get a cute one," Annamarie said. "Because when it poops, he'll look up to Daddy with a cute face, and Daddy will clean it up."
Their first meal upon Dad's return: At Logan's Roadhouse. Dad will order steak. Annamarie will stick to mac and cheese.
If you go
Annamarie will join the Krewe of Libertalia on their float at the Gasparilla Children's Parade on Saturday. The parade will start at 11 a.m. and run along Bayshore Boulevard from Bay to Bay to Watrous/Orleans Avenues.
Krewe of Libertalia
This is the Krewe of Libertalia's first year working with Tinker Elementary School. They hope to continue bringing Gasparilla cheer to the base, said krewe president Jerry Green.
For the 15th year, the krewe will visit the children's ward of Tampa General Hospital next Friday, to pass out beads and other booty to kids who are too sick to go to the Gasparilla parade.
[Last modified January 18, 2007, 08:45:48]
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