Always on the Run

I remember watching a bad TV movie with my parents back in the ’70s. The plot involved a family on the lam. I will be honest and admit that I long thought this expression referenced a farm animal, which made about as much as much sense as the plot of this movie.

The parents in the movie had done some illegal (nothing evil, but they were sideways with the man). Their kids were unaware of this significant wrinkle. All they knew is that they were tired of moving in the middle of the night to another town where they would again be forced to start over with a new school, friends, etc. 

I recall looking over at my parents at frequent intervals. This story seemed awfully familiar. I wondered if this movie might inspire a confession.

During my early childhood, we lived in various rent houses and apartments in and around Denver. When I was four we moved to Boston (our two years there left me with a wicked accent and a scar on the end of my nose from when the neighbor boy threw an impromptu spear at me for swinging with his sister — stop it, I was five and it was an actual swing set).

We returned to Denver and again moved around. Even when we spent a year in the same spot my schooling refused to be stationary as I was part of the forced school bussing program. Initially, I was excited about this development. We had no money so I assumed that my classmates and I were the poor people they wanted to send to a posh school in six-week intervals. It turned out that the bussing exercise was based on race, not necessarily affluence, so I got to spend time with equally poor kids–who happened to be black–at their school.

When I was in the fourth grade we moved to Houston so I could better understand the concepts of humidity and what it was like to share a bedroom with a baby (my sister). We left the apartment complex after a year or so and moved to a starter home even further out in the suburbs. This attempt at a neighborhood had fallen on hard times and the community rec center behind our back fence had closed, leaving behind a pool full of trash, turtles, and an abnormally high concentration of used needles and condoms. 

I did not live in a democracy (and even if I had, I lacked the votes to carry the day) so my thoughts regarding our constant movement were neither sought out nor heard. The years passed, and I came into contact with people who had spent their entire lives in one place in some sort of Leave it to Beaver spin-off. This both annoyed and inspired me. I promised myself that, if I had children, I would make sure their formative years were spent in a single, comfortable place.

With that as a backdrop, we have a bit more than seven weeks left until we say goodbye to our adopted land of Costa Rica and head to Victoria, BC. As I sat down to write this I realize that Things #1, now 13, has lived in Houston, Brenham, Houston again, and Costa Rica. Soon we’ll all move into a rent house in Canada while we wait to, hopefully, sell our house in Pura Vida. We’ll then buy the last house that we’ll ever own in the last place that we’ll ever live. Ha.

I have, in short, done exactly the opposite of what I promised to do. In my defense, how things turned out was not by any means my plan. I now recall some of the lofty goals we leveraged as justification for taking our boys from the home and neighborhood they loved in Houston:

  • Fluency in Spanish
  • Exposure to a different culture
  • Healthy lifestyle/rock-hard abs

Had we been wildly successful on these fronts I could, potentially, still claim to have fulfilled my promise to myself. In that version of the narrative, we made these moves because we saw an opportunity to create a better life for our children. Did we?

Well…Things #1 and #2 have their father’s gift for language. Had we stayed a bit longer in Costa Rica and girlfriends had entered the picture, there might have been a bit more incentive (ganas) to care about verb tenses–particularly the conditional. Perhaps it’s for the best that we leave now before grandchildren become part of the equation.

Culture-wise I give us a solid B+. This time in Central America has definitely opened up young minds to a completely different approach. It’s also given them the opportunity to view what is happening in the United States (race, politics, wealth distribution) from the outside-in. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it has exposed them to Shakira and a complete understanding of how her hips absolutely do not lie.

Health/Rock-hard abs: The boys are thriving, and growing. Personally, my struggles with a cancerous kidney and a pulmonary embolism have left me a bit puny. I have been deemed “otherwise” healthy, which is akin to saying that the Titanic was “otherwise” sea-worthy. I’m not sure we can credit Costa Rica for any of this one way or the other but if nothing else I have hopefully instilled a desire in the boys to do whatever is necessary to stay out of the hospital. Rock-hard-ab-wise (my personal goal) it appears that no amount of free time is sufficient for me to regain my teenage form—though had the cancer rampaged undetected I might’ve at least ended up dropping a few pant sizes. We’ll never know. I hope.

So, like the protagonists in the bad movie (and my parents) we’ll pack our bags and head to our next home. I will, probably, get over my failure to live up to my own lofty goals. I will definitely stop making ultimatums. Life, like any meal in our house that involves soup, is messy.

Things #1 and #2 are excited about the move and have some significant expectations of their new, new country. I hope Canada is prepared to deliver, and I hope the public middle school Thing #2 attends understands that he consider shoes, and underwear, optional. Perhaps they will bus him somewhere special.

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