I live in Seattle. It’s a place that, even now, has a frontier-like quality. If you were awake in 8th grade history, you know that it is the final destination of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the western edge of the Louisiana Purchase. If you’ve visited there (during the summer months), you know it’s one of the most physically beautiful places ever. If you live there, you know that it’s a city in a constant struggle with the rainforest that surrounds it. It’s both oasis and outpost.
It’s home. For me. For now.
A couple weeks ago, my wife woke up and said she wanted to move to Kentucky. Kentucky? Seriously? Seriously. Just like that. I should come to expect these bombshells by now, to be able to feel the pulses of changes drumming in her and in me. 7 years ago we started this wagon trail by leaving Cleveland for the promised land of Colorado. 2 years later we were traipsing over the Rockies for Seattle. We get restless; we seek adventure and new places and new chapters. It is our rhythm honestly, the one that started our relationship and, hopefully, one that will continue for years to come. I’m not moving to Kentucky. Not a chance. But I do know that I am moving. I do know my story doesn’t end in Seattle, as much as I love it. I guess it’s time to turn the page.
The last 7 days have been one story unraveling on top of another. This Thanksgiving holiday I hung out with my in-laws in Cincinnati. I visited the Natural History Museum in Cincinnati’s Union Terminal and saw a stunning model railroad display of the city in different decades since early 1900s. They recreated a 1800s-era dock with storefronts and a real steamboat floating in a lagoon. They told the story of explorers, of farmers and artisans and craftspeople, making something out of nothing.
My father-in-law lives in a 120 year-old house. It has a basement and attic, nooks and crannies, secret passageways. My daughter, the honey badger, has been itching to explore—she’s been opening doorways and sneaking up unused staircases, creeping down crooked basement stairs with low-hanging ceilings, chomping at the bit for a run in the attic. She’s doing what kids do, what we do, seeing what happens next.
I guess the need to explore is innate. At least it is for me. It is for my wife, my daughter, and millions of our forebears. It is what pushes us beyond the boundaries we see today, led us to challenge to flatness of the earth and the strength of its gravity. It sounds lofty and noble but, for me, it comes down to the story itself. It’s just not over yet. There is more adventure to seek, more plot to uncover, more characters to introduce. The only thing that changes along the way is why—our motivations influence the plotlines of our lives just like they govern the whims of the souls we populate on the page. A story is a story is a story.
I’ve often said that my wife is a walking Lifetime movie. While I staunchly believe she is the strongest person I’ve ever met, she didn’t get there quickly or easily. She’s the product of plenty of family drama, abusive relationships, a hard head and a quick tongue. Such resilience is contagious: her extended friends and family look to her as a center, an anchor, to ground their own fears and grief and trepidation about the future. They lost their mother recently and a family without a matriarch is like a flock of birds with no leader: aimless and lost. They need her as a platform—as context—to write the next chapters in their own stories.
I’m realizing we’re not alone in this, my wife and I, and this Restless Leg Syndrome is as human, and as American, as walking on two legs. It is what we do. What we’re meant to do. For my wife, she is answering the call of those closest to her, those whose own stories depend on her. For my daughter, the taste of a new adventure draws her to a new frontier: she has no idea what to expect but she walks toward the future wide-eyed. I should mention my son has no interest in this madness—his is an epic tale of deep roots and longevity (which is a nice way of saying he doesn’t want to go). For me, it’s the story itself that beckons me. I don’t care where we go (even Kentucky). I just want to see how it ends.