Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trading Lives

In the early morning hours, we leave our farmhouse, the outhouse, the best well water you’ve ever tasted, a large extended family and my best friend behind. My parents are trading a Missouri rural life for an Illinois city life, a new job for my dad at Caterpillar, a new school and a house on Hamilton Street. I feel excited for the adventure, but dread whispers a sad goodbye. 

Mom’s brother is tall, with black hair and tanned skin like her. He’s leaving his farm work behind (for someone else to do) to help us move. His wife has come along to help him haul some of our worldly possessions, in the bed of their pickup.

Along the highways, I switch from looking out of the side window of our car to the front windshield, between my dad’s red curly hair and my mom's head, to watch the pickup traveling in front of our car. Normally, my aunt and uncle fuss at each other, but on this trip, they are newlyweds again, laughing and using names like “honey” and “punkin”. At least temporarily, they trade their old relationship for a pre-marriage one. This new side, of my aunt and uncle, causes me to stare at them, much like people do when passing a car accident. 

After hours of traveling, we arrive on Hamilton Street where darkness has smothered the day and evenly spaced street lamps shed dim light. When we pull into the driveway of a dark house, my dad is the first to exit the car and enter our new home. From the car, I watch the house until blocks of light pop on inside the windows, from the back to the front. My dad appears again in the driveway, and we get out of the car to go inside. He and my uncle begin hauling our things to the house. 

Inside, I explore the unfamiliar two-story with basement, but leave both the upstairs and its basement for another day. I end up back in the kitchen where everyone has gathered. My mom’s tired eyes sparkle when she turns on the kitchen faucet and allows her fingers to dance under the flowing water, a convenience we did not leave behind. She giggles, but my dad says to turn off the water because we have to pay for it now. I’m saddened by his command and wonder how anyone can be made to pay for water.

Two men who seem to know my dad stop by our house. Even though they are old and in their twenties, like my parents, I immediately fall in love with the one called Anthony. He makes me forget my third grade boyfriend back home.

Before long, I follow my uncle and dad back outside, but when they return inside, I stay behind and walk to the edge of the driveway. Each house along the street is close to another and lit up. My eyes scan each one finally resting on the house across the street. Through sheer curtains, I see shadowy shapes of various body sizes darting around the room. My mind pushes past the weariness of travel, the heartache of leaving our Missouri place and a growling stomach to suggest that this is the adventure I’d been waiting for all my life.
My eyes focus on the ghost dance of my new neighbors, through their filmy curtains. “I hope kids my age live there." My voice sounds small on my new street and as it mingles with city noises that I am not accustom to, yet.

(The picture is of the house and me on Hamilton Street.  I thought I was alone in the picture. If you click on the photo, you might be startled by something or someone in the bottom left corner. I was.

Did you move as a child? Was it a good or bad experience?