It’s the Great American Rite of Passage, driving across the US of A. Books—some good—have been written about it. Movies—some dreadful—have been filmed about it. There’s usually a yearning to see and learn and grow, or just escape. The journey becomes a Bildungsroman, in the right hands. My journey started less heroically: transporting stuff.
People tend to die after a while, and they can leave behind a lot of stuff. Living people sometimes cling to stuff as a way to remind themselves of the dead. Living people sometimes cling to way too much stuff.
I ended up with a lot of stuff, because for a third consecutive summer, I lost another relative: Great Aunt, Grandma, then Mom. Each death hit—literally—closer to home, and harder. At the end of Summer 3, I started to worry that I had become Death’s target demographic (female, related, next youngest). But before that paranoia fully dug in its claws, there was the grief to deal with. And the stuff. Chairs, tables, luncheon sets, familyabilia.
In the bowels of Alabama was a small house full of
mementos and furniture, which—split three ways—was still an incredible amount
of mementos and furniture. My mom had always been good at packing and this
applied not only to luggage, but to her small house, as well. It was too hard to make a
wise decision on what to keep and what to part with while dealing with so much
raw emotion, so my brothers and I divvied up the household, loading
it onto rental trucks and trailers bound for various coasts. Recover, then sort,
was the plan.
|Courtesy British Library.|
I was headed West, but first, apparently, I needed more stuff. Another relative in Louisiana had been hanging onto the jetsam from my grandmother and great aunt’s estates, and there I headed. In the day’s rental truck-drive between Central Alabama and South Louisiana, filled with curses and unannounced curbs, I developed a small appreciation for what lay ahead. Although I was a veteran of many, many long car trips; although I’d moved across America—even across the world and back—I had not personally driven across America. With a load of curious and fragile possessions and emotions. I’d read Steinbeck, so I knew inopportune things and maybe some life-long bonding awaited on this cross-country trip to my new home in California. I just wanted to get through the trip without more relatives dying—in or on the vehicle.
To be continued...