If Cheers was a bar where everybody knows your name, my hometown was its township equivalent. With a population of approximately 400 when I was just a little monster cruising its backstreets on a Big Wheel, Jackson was one of the smallest dots on the New Hampshire map. However, it also was the home of three ski areas, multiple secret swimming and fishing holes, and a tiny but mighty Little League team that could barely fill up the nine spots on the field. Jackson was a three season town that boasted recreation galore in the summer, kaleidoscopic foliage in the fall, and both nordic and alpine bliss in the winter. Hell, I suppose if you're a mud lover, you could in fact call it a four season town.
And these 400 or so people -- most of whom I knew by the time I was twelve years old -- all of them were pretty awesome.
When your entire grammar school -- grades 1-6 -- is made up of about 40 kids, you pretty much become friends with every single one of them. But what you don't realize until you grow much, much older, is that the bonds that are made in small towns are often lifelong. This mighty Little League team I mentioned? A whole lot of them are still among my closest friends some 30+ years beyond our heyday on the town ball field. I could go on and on about us kids, and our little league team, and the pond that was sorta part of left field... but that's maybe for another blog post. This isn't about childhoods past, it's about a future childhood. See, I personally don't believe I could've done much better than growing up in Jackson and the community best known as Mount Washington Valley. And now that I have a son, one of my biggest wishes for him is that he will likewise have a childhood that he'll one day look back upon with such affection. But what can a parent do to help their child make such memories?
Well, for starters, they could always close the door on a city of 600,000 people and move to a town of just over 800.
See, that's the current population of Jackson, NH.
And that's where we're going.
In two days.
With a minivan stuffed full enough to reduce our gas milage by 25%, we will soon point our headlights to the east and holler out our Great Relocation Project's battle cry:
At the risk of dating myself (btw, I did actually date myself once -- made me swear off dating), I left my hometown for the west coast nearly two decades ago. The dream back then was to snag an MFA at a prestigious LA film school, make a cool million or two as a screenwriter, then probably move to a bitchin' California coastal town where I could lounge all day and write all night.
Or lounge all day and lounge all night. That option sounded pretty sweet, too.
Of course, as most maniac dreams go, this one veered and swerved and changed course wildly and repeatedly over the next several years. Never quite struck it rich, but the consequent roads I've traveled and the friendships I've formed have made me immeasurably richer for it. Probably my biggest fear about making a 3,000 mile move is that I may not see these friends for a very long time -- if at all. See, it is an obsession of mine to treat every interaction with a faraway friend as though you may be seeing them for the last time. As much as we believe that all of our paths will continue to cross as they've always done before, Time has a sneaky, thieving way about it that often puts barricades in the paths and challenges these beliefs. I hope that my own belief in loyalty as cultivated by an unforgettable small town childhood is strong enough to carry all of my big city friendships with me as I now return.
I think it will be. After all, I left New Hampshire unsure of this very same thing, and I don't feel my friendships have diminished because of this in the slightest.
And hey, to any west coast pals reading this, please know that I hope you will all come visit us in our new/old mountain town...
Just not all at once. After all, I am a role model now.
Of course, now that I've fully committed myself to my career as an author, I'm sure that somehow I will get asked to return to LA and write a screenplay for Air Zoe.
Heh. I'm actually not so sure about that. I just wrote it for comic effect.
And as an aside to any Development Personnel who may be reading this: I am so totally available to write this script. Call my people, we'll discuss. Sure, one of my people is still in the babbling phase, and the other is subject to involuntary babbling spells because we're all still completely sleep-deprived. But still, give us a call and we'll all do lunch. Let's skip Spago or The Ivy and just meet at our small town ski chalet. Earth First Organics makes this totally awesome pureéd Banana Mango blend -- you'll love it!
Anyway... So now it has come to this -- three lives, eighty boxes, and if I can find them somewhere in the packrat clutter, a whole lotta rockin' mix CDs to give this adventure an appropriately memorable soundtrack. Don't get me wrong -- singing Wheels On the Bus never gets old. And now that I've fully learned the lyrics to The Alphabet Song, this one is also a real treat. But one thing I remember about my 1993 trek from east to west is that the road was musical. I'd like to think that I haven't changed all that much -- at least inasmuch as I have upheld a sense of youthful spirit.
One of my newest silly dreams is to someday be the grandfather who pulls into his son's driveway while blasting early Def Leppard from a Winnebago we don't yet own. I suspect that would be a sure sign that life is good.
48 hours of west coast to go. Doesn't quite feel real just yet -- probably because I'm writing about the road and not actually on it just yet. I'm sure, however, that once I'm about to hit the highway with the rock star and the peanut strapped into the back seat of the Swagger Wagon, there will be a dynamic emotional swell.
Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. That's the song I'll have in my head as I pull out of town.
Because I will look at my beautiful wife.
And my heart will go boom-boom-boom.
Then l will look at my amazing little boy.
"Son," I'll say, "grab your things, I've come to take you home."
Of course being only nine months old, he won't be able to grab a heck of a lot. But as long as he grabs Mommy and Daddy's hands, that should be enough.
Yeah. That will be enough.