Can’t Go Back

It was 3 a.m., July 6, 1994, at my parents’ home. I woke up, dressed quickly, and ate a light breakfast. It felt like a secret to be awake at that hour. My parents had also woken up. (I was leaving before dawn because it was summer, 600 miles lay ahead, and my car had no air conditioner.) My mother, still sleepy, enveloped me in her arms. It was a long embrace; I felt her sweet warmth and her grief. My father said to her, “Come on, let her go.” She did, and I turned to hug him. We were not a hugging family, so each embrace always felt new. As we separated, he said, “Go on and live life. Go make a million dollars.”

I climbed into my blue Eagle Summit, which I’d packed to the walls and ceiling with my belongings, and started out. I felt sadness and tremendous excitement. I cried for about 15 miles as I headed west. I was leaving Syracuse — my home of 31 years — for a new life in Austin, Texas. I’d sold all my furniture and most of my collection of 600 books. After sifting through all my belongings and discarding most of them, I’d packed 20 U-haul book boxes with items I deemed essential and shipped them to my brother in Austin for storage. My car was paid for; I had $2000 in the bank. I had no place to live and no job once I arrived. With each mile I felt the delight opening up to whatever presented itself. I was done with Syracuse and gladly moved on. On the third day, I rose again. Then I descended upon Austin.

I never looked back. I have never wanted to go back. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This song by The Weepies captures the heart of that experience. I imagine one day I, too, will envelope my daughter in a long, sleepy, poignant hug as she ventures into the world.

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