Thursday, June 10, 2010

Leaving Vancouver: 1967

I could be wrong about the year. It could have been in 1966, but I think it was the winter of 67 that we packed up and left Washington and moved to Tennessee. My father had bought a brand new 1966 Ford Falcon Wagon--a dark metallic green--and after the moving vans had come, we all piled into that car (seven of us) with a multitude of belongings and we took off. Must have been 67.
It was still winter, so we took the southern route through California with stops at Yosemite and San Fran, Los Angeles and across through Arizona (must have stopped at the Grand Canyon, but maybe not that trip) and into New Mexico. It was one of the classic long car trips of my childhood. I do recall wanting to see Albuquerque because my best friend back in Vancouver (Joey Hanes) was from there.
The whole trip was full of long rides and adventure. I usually rode in the very back, among blankets and boxes, sacks of snacks and suitcases. I had a little spot burrowed out there along the back window and side window, a comfortable nest where I could watch new worlds go by as Father drove. Of course it would be illegal now, but back then you just rode whatever way you wanted and no one used seat belts. We stayed in motels mostly--small places, sometimes a Holiday Inn which we considered to be extravagant, a luxury resort. My father liked to drive all day and into the nigh, he liked to get going before the sun rose sometimes. I do get that trip mixed up a bit with all the other long trips we took, but I do recall specifically a time in Texas.
In Texas--the panhandle, I think, around Amarillo--we were up before dawn. I was in my cubbyhole in back and I remember, distinctly, the sunrise. It was a big fat orange sunrise with the empty lonesome highway and that endless nothing nothing land all around and the sun came up and lit it all, showering it with pinks and grays and requisite purples. Orange and yellow and the beginnings of blue. And it struck me. I was nine or ten or whatever and it hit me that this was a beautiful moment. Not just the sunrise, the the sunrise in Texas and the way I felt, the texture of the moment, the context of the trip and the unconnectedness to any home or place or community. We had no idea what Tennessee was or expectations. We as a family--at least how I see it--had only ourselves and our slim belongings and the car, had motels and new horizons. We had only the moment.
Man, that was a long time ago. I don't think I can even conjure up any of that feeling--that feeling of childhood and being in my family, that world of brothers and sisters, of toys and newness. That long passages of time. Maybe I can get that feeling--I mean, I can remember it, I just can't feel it.
Anyway. We moved from Vancouver and most of us regretted that. We didn't know at the time, but we did regret it soon enough. For a very long time I considered Washington State--the Pacific Northwest--considered Vancouver to be my home. Though I'd been born in South Dakota and was there till the age of five (or almost the age of 5), Vancouver was home. I don't recall being sad about us leaving. I remember walking home from school and thinking: "I'm moving to Tennessee!" I was excited. But I--we kids--didn't say Johnson City, we just said Tennessee. We had no idea. But we left. We'd done it before--a big move--and we just went along with this one as well. We were kids. But that long drive was something. That move. I grew into a new consciousness on that trip--I became more aware of the world, the innate beauty of the physical world but also the inner beauty of my own nomadic existence--on that morning in the Texas panhandle.

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