I was a little girl in glasses who would walk home after school without ever looking up. I knew exactly where I was going. My feet knew the way. I wasn’t sad or lost, I was just thinking, worrying about the rocks that I kicked along the way because I had moved them from what might have been their preferred spot on the road. I imagined the rocks with mothers and bedrooms, and then my big Adidas catapulting them away from home forever. I thought these weird things, and I read a lot.
I would take forever to walk the short way from my grade school to my house, one field and two doors down to the comfort of Cheez Whiz spread on premium salted crackers and orange juice made from powder. It took me so long to make it home that sometimes my mother would pop her head out the door and holler, just to be sure. Only Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, their two much older and therefore worldly kids Ann and Jim and their old orange cat named Socks lived between our house and the school field. We had a cat too, and a dog, and a pet rabbit named Snowball, who we kept in a pen in the far corner of our back yard, where he gradually grew obese. If Mr. Baxter caught me in the driveway, bouncing a ball or something, he would say, “Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight Karen.” I’d always say something like, “I don’t know, what?” And he would answer “rabbit stew,” in a chilling voice for an otherwise mild mannered man.
This was the home I grew up in, the entire time it took me to grow. We didn’t leave it for any length of time, except to go camping. I came to it the first time straight from the hospital and right into the mercies of my sister, two and a half years older, lying in wait for me in her lair. I moved out for the last time 23 years later wearing my wedding dress, hopping into a jaguar borrowed from a Stiller family friend and carefully and slowly driven by my father, over the bridge and right to the chapel where Brent stood up front beside the minister, waiting.
My parents have long ago sold that house and moved to the country, as people do, and I am the only one who loves to drive by whenever I am visiting. Maybe it’s because I am the only one who moved away-away, to a different part of the country, and then moved and moved and moved again. I like to drive by Windward Ave, and see the tree that was the same size as me then towering over the house now. The branches are bigger and the house seems smaller. How did we all fit in there? I can hardly believe this is the very place where my policeman father would inspect our rooms for neatness – and this was called an inspection, during which he would so cleverly look under the bed where most of the mess had been hidden – and then he would align the blinds in the windows for the viewing pleasure of the widow Mrs. Johnson, who lived across the road. Our cat had a long emotional affair with her and spent hours sitting on her doorstep, gazing dreamily and hopefully into her house instead of ours, which my sister hated. This is the house where I read Nancy Drew like an addict, and there is the window of the room where I laughed and cried and cried and cried, because that’s what girls did back then, laying on our beds listening to our radios.
How I longed to move, back then. Every story I read hinted at the life I could be having, should be having, in another place, as another girl. But then I’d toss the book down on my rumpled orange comforter, hop on my bike and pedal for hours around the neighborhood I knew like the back of my hand, pretending my bike was a horse.
(This is a little chunk of a chapter from a project, on home and moving)