(These “Crossing the River” essays were an assignment in the Advanced Creative Writing course that I took in 2008.)
“Look, here’s the Red River,” said Mom. “See the sign? ‘Welcome to Texas.’”
The intermittent, muffled sobs from the back seat of the Chevy quickly escalated to all-out wails. Mom sighed. Daddy’s jaw muscles bulged. Somehow I had assumed that if I just cried hard enough, my parents would give in, turn around, and take me back home. But even after six hours of my most dramatic weeping, we were still proceeding south at sixty-five miles an hour, more or less. Getting farther from our little town of Nevada, Missouri and my beloved first grade class every minute. Had I lost my touch? How could Mom and Daddy just ignore my piteous cries? Hearts of stone! My brother and sister must have been in on the diabolical plot, too – I don’t recall either of them offering a bit of support. They didn’t even try to persuade Mom and Daddy to give up this outrageous idea of moving to Texas. Of course, my sister was only three at the time, but still.
The car double-bumped over a wide seam in the pavement, signaling we were now on the bridge. This was it. The Red River was the state line, the Point of No Return. I figured I’d better up the ante. “I’ll never see my frieeeeends agaaain!” Daddy’s grip on the steering wheel tightened a little more as Mom rubbed her fingers in little circles on her forehead.
The railroad had already transferred Daddy several times. I lived in four states before I could walk. Moving to a new town had never bothered me before. In fact, I thought packing was fun, and my brother and I had this dorky little moving game we played; we would try to guess what color the bathroom in the new house would be. I think I won once. When we arrived at the new place, before the moving van brought our furniture, we would skip around from one empty room to another, singing and shouting just to hear the echoes.
But that was all before I started School. Now I had a life of my own: places to go, friends to seesaw with, books to read. I had a boyfriend, for Pete’s sake! At least, some kid named Gary had given me a wallet-size school photo of himself. This was not just another move from one little Missouri railroad town to the next. It was no game, either. This was exile.