The Big Move
by Janet Banks
I knelt on the backseat of our old ’48 Dodge and watched my world disappear out the rear window. The scratchy upholstery was rough on my bare elbows and seven-year-old knees, and my throat swelled from holding back tears.
The trailer hitched to the back bumper weaved and bobbed on its two wheels as we made our way slowly, from Primghar to Ida Grove, Iowa. Mattresses, headboards and bedframes were recognizable under old quilts tied down with heavy rope. The tall, three-bulb lamp with a plug the size of a radish, knocked in a steady rhythm against the slats. No more than an oversized cart, Dad had built the trailer specifically for our move and had been hauling our belongings the sixty miles every day for the last week.
The new house was grander than the one we’d left behind, with stucco pillars and a porch that stretched the full length of the house. There in the front room were our davenport, dining room table and chairs all askew, as if they’d been waiting for us to arrive and arrange them properly.
Boxes of my toys and books were in the corner of a small bedroom; the wallpaper featured pink and yellow bouquets of flowers, tied with bows of blue ribbon. Dad tightened the bedframe with a pair of pliers. It didn’t occur to him to ask if I was pleased with the room. Men didn’t have purposeless conversation with children.
After Mother put me to bed, I scrunched down and hunted for the familiar footboard with my toes. The sheets, ironed and fresh, smelled like the outdoors, like the home I missed. I bit down on the edge of the top sheet to taste the clean on my tongue, and rocked myself to sleep with my toes.
IMAGE: Vintage postcard — Long Bridge, Ida Grove, Iowa.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother told me that I cried myself to sleep for an entire year after the big move, and I believe it. One might think that all small Iowa towns are more or less the same, but it isn’t true when you are seven years old.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I took this photo in 1981 at the Heritage Day Parade in Ida Grove, Iowa. My son, Kevin Nelson, age 7, is dressed as a old man in red underwear and carrying a cane. Born and raised in Manhattan, Kevin loved visiting my hometown.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janet Banks is a retired business executive and writer whose work has appeared on WBUR’s Cognoscenti and The Rumpus (forthcoming). Her stories and essays are set in her home state of Iowa, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she lived for nearly 30 years, and in Boston, where she and her husband make their home today. She has also published in The Harvard Business Review and has contributed commentary regarding career development to numerous publications.
PHOTO: The author on the beach of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, just outside Newburyport, Massachusetts (August 2016)