My mother, who turns seventy next year,
four days from now is driving from LA,
alone across almost two thousand miles
(she plans between ten and twelve miles a day)
to visit us in New Orleans — she says,
for just a day or so; and then, she’s off
towards the north. Next stop is Tennessee.
My younger sister’s been there just two months
and barely settled in; she moved away
to close the West Coast chapter of her life.
Of course, that book includes my brothers and my mom.
I understand her motivation well,
although to mom it’s not so cut and dry.
She wonders what would cause someone to split
away from hearth and home, leaving behind
the everything your life has ever been
in search of something else – something else real.
But she and Dad did much the same thing:
they put a state, at first, between their life
and where they came from, cutting free the past.
It worked for about seven years or so.
And then they were dragged back into the fold,
or close enough to be within the web
of sibling politics and watchful eyes;
they tried to make a go of it, and failed.
Next, they tried the whole damn continent —
uprooting us from the dull, complacent life
that was in store if we stayed on the farm,
and ran three thousand miles, to Western shores.
The family back at home, in the Midwest
still wonders why they left, dissatisfied
with close-knit clan surrounding on all sides
and little opportunity for growth.
But it was dad that needed space, and change,
and his decision to break with the past.
Mom never spoke of it, but now, I think
she has regrets that they struck out alone.
And sis and I, the two like the old man,
have likewise flung ourselves out and away —
with breathing room to reconstruct our lives
in different ways, by rules that we define.
How could mom be surprised? Our exodus
was fated from the start. There was no force
of nature, blood or even divine will
that could have keep us California-bound.