The two teenagers kneel together next to the outlet and stick their fingers up above the other’s head. They wiggle the playful finger ears and the camera clicks.
No one else would know what this spot in the house meant to them. Nearly a decade before, a little girl and little boy had been wrestling together when one of them pushed a bit—or maybe more than a bit—too hard. The other went crashing across the room and stopped abruptly with a thud. Their horseplay is instantly over. They are both staring at a seven-inch crack in the wall. They turn terror-filled eyes toward one another. What have we done? those eyes ask. “You tell,” the girl says.
“No!” the tiny boy wails. “You!”
“They won’t get as mad at you,” she says.
“Yes, they will!”
“We should tell Dad, not Mom,” the girl decides. “Dad won’t be as upset.” Finally, they leak out the mishap to their father.
“Uh, Dad…we were—uhhhh—playing…ya know? Well, we kinda pushed each other. No, no, we weren’t being mean, just PLAYING, Dad. Yeah, we pushed each other. No, nobody’s hurt. But there’s this…well…crack. In the wall. Yes, yes…you did hear us right.”
Oh, the dread that those two children felt as they pointed toward the crack creeping from the edge of the outlet cover and along the wall. To their relief, Dad was disappointed, not mad. But they never quite forgot the terror of that moment.
As the years passed, those children grew up quite a bit. They don’t wrestle or push each other. The boy spends much of his time cutting and creating things from wood and the girl spends much of hers curled up someplace writing. And, now, they were crouched next to the painted wall and laughing. And remembering. The crack, no longer existent, was sort of like their childhood. They were saying goodbye to the house that they had grown up in. They might come back. They might not. Time would tell, they supposed.
Adventure stretched ahead. States they had never seen, places they had never heard of. And the Volkswagen was finally packed and waiting in the driveway. The home was empty, for the family’s possessions were stored away. The teenagers got up from where they were kneeling and moved toward the door. Leaving was exciting. And scary. This place was everything that they knew. When they moved here, he was six months old and she was four years old. When they first pulled down this road to stay in this home, she was buckled in a carseat in the back of a red van. Tonight, she was the one in the driver’s seat of the Volkswagen as they pulled away. Home was behind them. Dreams lay ahead. And the family of six bumped down the dirt road toward the highways.
The dream of moving and a cross-country trip was not a new idea in my family. It was a much sought-after hope of the future. Except the future was now the present. The October air was still warm. The night sky was full of stars. It was a good night to go. A good night to make a fresh start.
Since the day we’ve left Pennsylvania, we’ve splashed through the lakes of Ohio, listened to coyotes and owls welcome us to Illinois at midnight, and stood on the top of a hill in the middle of a Kansas prairie, shouting into the wind. We’ve peeked out of the car to find a tumbleweed with its journey cut short against our tires. We’ve set it free and watched it roll thankfully away. We’ve shivered as we crossed Colorado mountains—driving in slow terror along icy roads with the Volkswagen’s summer tires. We’ve listened to our voices echo off the red columns of rock at Arches National Park in Utah and watched the sunset at the Grand Canyon. We have driven nearly three thousand miles across plains, the Rockies, deserts, forests, and prairies.
And our family has arrived at our destination of California. Some people look at our license plate and see how far we’ve come and that we’re not in school. Occasionally, they ask us if we’re homeschooled. We love to be able to say, “Yes, we’re homeschooled.” If we were enrolled in public school, there is a huge chance that we wouldn’t have been able to take this trip of a lifetime.
We don’t know what will be next. Perhaps our home will sell. Then we won’t be able to go back to everything we know and love. But we will be able to build ourselves a timberframe and strawbale place with our very own hands. We might be able to have a fresh start and let ideas bud and take root.
Today we tumble into the Volkswagen, scattering sand over the carmats. We made it to the Pacific Ocean at last. We are damp and tired from running through the tongues of massive waves. The sun is still in the sky, but at home in Pennsylvania it has already slunk down over the mountains we cherish. Soon we will go searching for a campsite to spend the night at, and tomorrow we will wake to a day of possibilities before us. We don’t know where we’ll go. We will look at the map, pick a place within reach and hit the gas.
McKennaugh Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is 17 years old. She grew up in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.