(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.’”
I burst into fresh sobs from my corner of the back seat. At seven years old, I still saw the world as a place where things should always go the right way – that is, my way. If I wanted something, then surely it was right for me to have it. If I did not want something to happen, then surely it should not happen. If I could not see a reason for something, then surely there was no reason. For example, there could be no possible reason for this move from our little Missouri town all the way to Palestine, Texas.
The railroad had transferred my dad, a member of its lower-level management, several times during my short life. In fact, we lived in four different states before I was old enough to walk. Moving to a new town had never bothered me before. I saw packing as an adventurous break in a preschooler’s uneventful routine. All the important people in my life (my immediate family) always moved with me, so it didn’t matter where we lived. But this time was different. I had started school during the two or so years we lived in Nevada, and I loved everything about it. I loved choosing a pleated skirt and tights to wear each day; I loved walking to school; I loved playing with kids my own size at recess; I loved my teacher. Besides, our little frame house was everything a kid could want. It had a front porch with a rail to jump off of, a basement where I had learned to roller skate, three apple and two cherry trees plus a couple of other good climbing trees, grape vines on the fence, and a vacant lot behind the back yard. For the first time, I was attached to a place, and could not imagine living anywhere else – especially any place as far away as . . . Texas. How I hated the very name!
Mayflower Van Lines had loaded all our furniture and belongings into a moving van which was now en route to Texas, just as we were. In my mind, that made no difference. I wanted Mom and Dad to turn around and take me back home, therefore they could turn around and take me back home. At seven, I did not see that there was no home to go back to. Somehow I had formed the conviction that if I cried hard enough, I could get my parents to see what a big mistake this move would be. But I had to convince them before we actually got into Texas, or it would be too late. The double-bump of the wheels over a wide seam in the pavement, signaling we were now on the bridge, was for me the clang of a prison door barring me from everything I had come to care about.