There is a certain level of awkwardness that attaches itself to pre-pubescent girls, but that level goes through the roof when you are a shy, studious, poverty-stricken pre-pubescent girl new to school.
This week I helped my son move into his new home, as I have every blazing hot August for the past four years. He is the proverbial college student, so I suppose this consistent residence turnover is to be expected. It seems he is always looking for a new and better living arrangement, and not necessarily so that he can study better.
Did I mention I really hate moving? As I helped pack and move an unbelievable amount of belongings this week, I was reminded of my transient, dysfunctional childhood, and of my father’s search for home. When my father was employed, he worked as a seismographic oilman, specifically a driller. His job was to test the soil for oil, a fairly lucrative position for a blue-collar worker in the 1970s-1980s. Unfortunately, it seemed this type of job and my father’s personality guaranteed we were never in one place for very long. Though his position seemed to pay well, my father was terrible at managing his money, so we often were forced to move to avoid bill collectors. We rented old, roach-infested farmhouses in remote areas, ramshackle trailer houses with no air conditioning, or tiny apartments in the lower part of town. Sometimes we would stay in the seedy motels provided at a discount to the oilmen, and would follow my father around as he worked.
I hated moving. There was nothing worse than getting off the bus from school only to see our short, round mother standing amid the disarray of our meager household goods, hands on full hips, and sweating profusely. We had no trouble recognizing the swoosh of duct tape sealing musty cardboard boxes shut, the forced cheerfulness as she announced yet again that we would “get to” move to an exciting new city where my father was sure to have an “even better” job opportunity. I could only envision being the new girl once again, being ignored for days on end at school; or even worse-being noticed. There is a certain level of awkwardness that attaches itself to pre-pubescent girls, but that level goes through the roof when you are a shy, studious, poverty-stricken pre-pubescent girl new to school. Usually I would have just made a few friends when we found ourselves packing up in the middle of the night and loading our old green truck with as many belongings as possible. We left many mementos and promising relationships behind in our haste to leave town, and drove day and night until we reached our destination. My father always exuded this quiet excitement when we first arrived in town; it seemed he always hoped to find something with every move. Find what? I wondered. Did he search for happiness, contentment, a real home? I knew from the stories my mother had told me that this man, who watched his six siblings removed from his home and placed in an orphanage because of parental neglect, was thirteen when he escaped authority and found himself living on his own. He spent his life in rebellion, running from the laws of the land and his own demons, looking for a fresh start but making the same mistakes along the way. We got to go along for the ride.
It’s funny, I don’t mind helping my son unpack in his new home; in fact I really like helping him organize everything. Maybe it is because I hope that this place, this new home, will bring wonderful new opportunities and new beginnings. Everything seems cleaner, fresher, promising. I guess I can understand just a little what my father may have been thinking in his pursuit of happiness. By the way, I always pack my son’s belongings in colorful plastic tubs. I NEVER use cardboard boxes or duct tape.