Across the Miles
Growing up, saying goodbye meant you’d never see the person again. My dad was in the military and we moved a little bit when I was young. I don’t remember our first base because I was six months old when we left. My second, I have some recollections, but most of them probably come from the stories my mom told me and photographs. Our next move was to England. I don’t remember leaving the States, but I remember riding the train from Heathrow.
I attended two schools in England. The first, my first school, was a British village school where you were in the same class for two years and there were probably four classrooms. I loved it there, though I came home crying during the first week because I was the only one who couldn’t read. Not sure that was true, but it could have been as I was four, almost five, and I wouldn’t have started school in the States until the next year since my birthday’s so late in the year. My mom taught me to read in a week and the rest is history (or literature or, well, books, anyway).
My parents knew we would be transferred, probably back to the States, so we moved to the American school near the airbase for the next year. We moved from a little farm cottage in the country to an attached, sort of row house, in town. That’s probably the first time I remember leaving friends behind. The thing is with me, I’m a very out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of person. I don’t remember missing them, though we did go back to visit at least once, I know, because I was astounded that while I was in second grade, my former classmates were starting French lessons. But I had new friends in our neighborhood. And when it came time to leave them a year later, I don’t remember any big leave taking.
Then we moved to New York. Start in New York City and drive north 300 or so miles. If you get to Montreal, you’re about an hour too far. That’s where I did most of my growing up. My mom wanted to move us down to Pennsylvania when I was thirteen and I threw a fit (so I’m told, I don’t recall). I didn’t want to leave my friends (I do recall that). Apparently this was enough to nix that plan, though I don’t know how that could be. It’s not as if we kids had been consulted on any previous moves.
But three years later, I was leaving them, anyway, to go to college. I went early and, though I was in town for my classmates’ graduation, I lost touch with most of my high school friends as they went off to their own plans. I had made new friends at college, people that I still consider some of my best friends, even though we rarely see each other. College graduation was tough. My life proved that people I said goodbye to were gone forever. I was sure I’d never see these people again. For the first time in my life, I was really upset about leaving a place.
My next big upheaval came when we moved down to Pennsylvania. While I had few connections left in New York, it had been my home for almost sixteen years. Our church threw us a going-away party. Friends of ours sang a song that I’d first heard by IIIrd Tyme Out, Across the Miles, that makes me cry every time I hear it, thinking of that goodbye. Funny, now the boys are famous bluegrass singers and their sister still performs with them sometimes.
Time sure changes things. It’s now been almost sixteen years since we left New York. I’ve left jobs and towns, even a church, mostly without looking back. But someone invented this strange thing called Facebook and I’ve actually been able to get back in touch with some of my high school friends and keep in touch with my college friends. I’ve watched their families growing and growing up across those many miles. The idea of saying goodbye doesn’t worry me so much because it doesn’t feel like forever any more. It might be a tenuous connection, but it’s more than I’d have otherwise and I’ll take it.