We moved around a lot when I was a kid. I wasn’t a military brat, I just had parents who were restless and poor at sticking with decisions. But one of these moves stands out more than the rest…the time we moved our household of six for one weekend.
When I was in my early teens we lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was an okay place as far as places go. We’d been there for a couple of years already, so in retrospect the move shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
Still, all of us (especially my mom) were a little upset when my dad came home from work one afternoon and announced that we would be moving to Tucson. He was already on the phone with the moving company by the time my mom finally figured out that he hadn’t gotten a job in Tucson, he simply had an interview for a job in Tucson.
“Listen, Nikki,” I can imagine him saying. “I’ve already got the job. So-and-so said that he was very interested. It’s a done deal.”
I have no idea what kind of conversations my parents had after that. All I know is that the U-Haul was picked up a couple of days later, several guys packed all our stuff up and loaded it into the U-Haul, and my brothers and I said semi-tearful goodbyes to the few friends we’d managed to make on this leg of our childhood journey.
The trip down went about as poorly as it could have possibly gone. The U-Haul air conditioner went out, leaving half of us to sweat it out on the black vinyl seat as we made our way through the desert. After our first night in the hotel it was decided that we needed to change rooms because something was very very wrong with ours (as a kid I didn’t know what was going on but looking back I can hazard a guess that someone in the other room was having loud sex). I’m not sure what happened with the interview but my dad was angry afterward and his bad mood infected all of us. We drove around looking for houses to rent and there was something wrong with every one of them. Too much cactus was a popular complaint. And then at the end of a very frustrating day, my dad went into the gas station to get us some drinks and the place got robbed as he was waiting in line to pay. He came out alive eventually and with several Sprites that nobody wanted anymore.
And that’s when shit got real.
The entire horrible strange weekend journey all came down to this–the six of us sitting in the cramped cab of the U-Haul with undrunk Sprites, us kids watching as our parents played rock, paper, scissors to decide our fate. If my dad won we would stay in Tucson. If my mom won we would go back to Los Alamos.
This taught me many good life lessons, as you can imagine.
So after being gone for one weekend, we drove the van and the car back up to Los Alamos, to the great amusement (disappointment) of our neighbors. They thought they’d finally gotten rid of us. They’d have to wait another year for that to happen.
I feel like we had the U-Haul sitting outside our house for a while. My memory might be faulty (or biased…) but I want to say that it was left up to my brothers and I to get most of the stuff back into the house. Another good life lesson–child labor rules don’t apply to one’s own children.