On any given day, I could walk into the house and my mother could greet me with, “Get the atlas. Where do you want to go next?”
We had a giant Rand McNally Atlas that seemed as big and tall as I was. Each state had its own page, and the interstates and highways fanned out like a giant spider’s web. I spent hours playing with this book in my room alone. Each of its pages held my dreams of escape, the hopes of a new start and a new chance in our next location. I fantasized that the next correctly picked location could become our chance at happiness.
I looked over each page, carefully studying the roads and running my fingertips over the expressways, as if they were cars driving to their next destination. I would carefully consider my options, often taking hours to flip through the pages. I wanted to be near water, either lakes or oceans was fine with me. With each move, I held hope that the new location would have what we were looking for, whatever it was. With each move came the promise from my mom that things would be better, and I held hope each time that she might be right.
In the end, it didn’t matter where I chose. The decision was never really mine. Depending on the day, I might have five minutes or five hours to say my goodbyes to any friends or acquaintances I might have. Usually there wasn’t time, and truthfully I never knew what to say anyway. I was more concerned about packing my things, my stuffed friends. I had grown tired of leaving things behind, so I began to take more care. My mother and I would hop onto the nearest expressway in our clunker and drive until she couldn’t drive anymore. We always stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop, where she would order a Patty Melt and Diet Coke before hitting the road again. Wherever we stopped was our new home. San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Boulder were a few of the cities where we stayed, but not for long.
I often wondered, “What are we running from? Is my mother a criminal? Did she get fired? Did we owe the landlord money? What about school? Was this my family?” Years of daytime television had made me wonder whether I had been kidnapped from my real family. Nothing about me seemed to fit in, and as I grew older the constant meandering was wearing thin.
Sometimes I felt like the great adventurers I had read about in books, Lewis and Clark or Tom Sawyer. But our perpetual moving came with a price. In kindergarten, we moved twice early in the school year, landing back in San Diego. My class was scheduled to go to Sea World the next day. I was in love with Jacques Cousteau and never missed his television specials. His adventures aboard the ship Calypso made me want to spend my life on the ocean. A trip to Sea World seemed serendipitous: I had just started at the school the day before, and could immediately go on a field trip to my favorite place on Earth. But my mom was already itching to hit the road again. Another move, another garbage bag suitcase. No Sea World, no surprise. I was frustrated.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish