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She had made no secret of her opposition to the move; rather, she had expressed this so strongly that I harbored the unspoken fear that she might not follow us.She was very much in my mind as we passed a small house with a chain link fence strung with Christmas lights that somehow looked as if they hadn’t been taken down the winter before, and a collapsing larger house, with covered porches on three sides, and beside it a field populated by broken school buses and eyeless shells of trucks.
Later, while we drove, my father wedged a paper cup between the dash and the windshield and had me take shots with a crumpled cigarette package, narrating like a commentator on TV.
We were football fans, my father and I, but we would play any game that presented itself.
Beyond the chilled glass to my left, green lights of the dashboard angle up toward the stars. My wife’s parents live five hundred miles away, what we have come to think of as a day’s drive.
I tend to the thermostat, keeping the car warm enough for my sleeping family, but not so warm that my focus turns dull.
This was November, sometime between my birthday-which we had celebrated in an empty house, amid packed boxes—and Thanksgiving.
Under my father’s influence, the past Christmas Eve, I had seen a reindeer’s red nose from my bedroom window; with the same power of persuasion, he had convinced me, at least, that our move from Maryland to North Carolina—a place so far off it might as well have been wholly imaginary—was a great adventure.
I heard my father’s heavy step into the trailer, heard him return, and the passenger door opened once more. Reaching under the blanket, he set in my hand the stuffed creature I slept with. The first time I told this story, without a moment’s forethought, was ten years later.
She had confided something about her own parents, and we were, after all, in the dark, in the back of her mother’s car.
Her reaction surprised me, to the extent that I stored the memory in a room at the end of one of the long, turning hallways of the mind.
The moment we confine memories to words, images are obscured by the language, the understanding, we have now.