On Moving and Kids and Truckers (or "Live Long and Prosper")

We've moved from our rental house in Arlington to a too-ritzy-for-our-pocketbook-were-it-not-for-per-diem hotel closer to the airport. In a day or two a big jet will whisk us over the ocean and chapter one will begin.

I say chapter one, but the truth is we're somewhere in the middle of this book. Chapter one was probably when Shannon and I sat in front of a videographer scant minutes after being married and he filmed us answering hackneyed questions about where we saw ourselves in the future. We told the guy we were travelers. But of course it was bunk. We weren't travelers. I'd taken a couple Arabic classes and Shannon had studied abroad, but lots of students with those credentials go on to manage old peoples' mutual funds and process insurance claims in offices in strip malls in St. Louis. We weren't travelers. We were a couple of kids in wedding atire fidgeting awkwardly on camera and articulating cliches in snippets that would later be set to awful elevator music and presented to us in VHS format.

But pages have turned and it turns out that cars and airplanes have indeed carried us a lot of places I didn't expect to go as a kid on a bike on my childhood dead-end street. Sometimes I'd ride four houses down to where the pavement met the cherry orchards and I'd gaze at Mt. Hood, an 11,000 foot behemoth that rose thirty miles to the west. The dead-end street seemed like a mistake, like the street used to just keep on going all the way to the mountain's snow-capped peak, but that someone who hated little kids and didn't want them riding their bikes to awesome places had severed the road right there so I couldn't get more than four houses from home and wouldn't be late for dinner. But I was pretty content on the dead-end street. I wasn't born a traveler.

We moved away from my safe little street when I was six to a dirty highway junction where Interstate 84 crosses Highway 97. It wasn't a city, wasn't a town, just a junction. Two motels, a couple gas stations, and a pretty decent restaurant with french fries that I think tasted better than anything I've had since. My parents managed one of the motels. We lived in quarters behind the front desk. I attended a little school five miles down the highway where they combined first and second grades to make a class big enough to warrant hiring a teacher. 

I guess my parents might've been nervous to move me from the cozy dead-end to a motel in a place that was little more than a big truck stop. But I thought it was great. I had my own pool. The restaurant across the highway had Centipede and Frogger, and the waitresses thought I was cute when I stood on my tippy toes to play the arcade games, so they'd give me free ice cream. I discovered sunflower seeds at the gas station minimart next door. I explored the rocky slope behind the motel where with every inch you climbed grasshoppers leapt like brown and yellow sparks from the crags between the rocks.

Sometimes I worry that changing my kids' surroundings all the time will stunt them somehow. Turn them into maladjusted, psychotic villans that laugh whilst they swing cats by the tail or, worse, that they'll mistakenly believe that it's cool to listen to Katy Perry. We moved them from a cozy old house with a backyard and a rope swing to a temporary rental where they slept in the basement with cave crickets, and we sent them to a new school for a mere three weeks and then pulled them out to move to a hotel, and then, a few days later, to another foreign country, where they'll merge with a new school in midstream. And sometimes I feel nervous about it .


But then I remember the motel on the highway all those years ago, rubbing shoulders with the tobacco-chewing truckers at the minimart. I never said to my parents, "Listen, Mom, Dad, this whole living in a motel thing is fantastic. Really. I have my own swimming pool." But the truth is I was a happy kid. Children are flexible. They bend and they roll, and it's usually all okay. So I try not to worry too much my cute little nomads. They'll live -- hopefully long -- and prosper.