Sunday, December 13, 2015

Smalltown, U.S.A.

It hasn't been above forty degrees since we arrived in Cheney, Washington. This is no surprise and rather expected. The weather--as I understand it--is rather temperate this time of year. The kids have been wishing for snow, but--with the exception of brief flurries yesterday as I grilled chicken on the Weber--there has been no snow since we landed almost two weeks ago. We did see snowflakes the size of Lays potato chips as we went over Snoqualmie pass on the way to Seattle, but that has been it...much to the children's disappointment.

The weather is still cold for all of us, and the kids are at the age where they just simply need to run free. Being cooped up in the house--regardless of how warm and cozy it is--will drive everyone crazy...especially the adults. So it was imperative that the kids get outside ASAP. 

When we got back from Seattle, Elise had two photo sessions she had to edit. While she was working I marched the kids down the hill to the playground at the city park, despite the clouds and cold. The park is next door to the elementary school, and we watched as classes let out, the kids were dismissed. Buses came and went. We talked about the boys' new school in Fall Church or DC, wherever we should land, and I think it helps for them to see an American elementary school to give them some visiu point of reference. At least maybe now they will have some idea of what their immediate future holds. Elise and I have been trying to inspire home to keep up with their lessons, but with so little structure in our lives right now, it has been almost impossible for us to get them to concentrate on reading or arithmetic, much less science or social studies. Today, I explained to them the difference between professional and collegiate sports. Call it a civics lesson. 

In addition to talking about the upcoming Star Wars movie--which is ubiquitous not only in popular culture, but also as a topic of conversation when Sam, Peter, and Clementine go on walks like these (They have only seen the original Star Wars movie, but are enthralled (along with the rest of America) by the Star Wars mythos. I'm disappointed the new movie is rated PG-13, and that we will have to wait until at least the next installment before We can enjoy the excitement of going to see the new movie in the theater.)--we talked about what it meant to be a safety patrol, where our new house might be and how they might get to and from school. 

Sam said he liked Cheney. I like Cheney, too. For a brief moment I contemplated the simplicity of smalltown life, how much less hectic and stressful our lives might be if we weren't constantly moving from one country to the next, wondering what to pack in our sea freight versus out air shipment, not having to worry about where to stay for two months while we are in between assignments. In truth, I would be lying if I said I was envious of smalltown life. It is interesting to me as a direct point of comparison, the exact opposite of our own existence. That those who live in Smalltown, America, never leaving the same small town and living their entire life in one place, must be equally baffled how someone could constantly move, be in motion, never truly settled. Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like if our train derailed, if we came off the tracks in Cheney and had to stay, had to find a job and enroll the kids in school. What would our lives be like? Could we find contentment? Could I be happy just tuning to the end of Bet Rd everyday, the same seven miles, over and over, the same rolling hills, as beautiful as they are, regardless of the season, knowing every step, every incline, of even hill. A nondescript patch of mud to anyone else would always be the same four mile mark, or six. 

It gets me to thinking of places as a generality. Why do certain places or small towns even exist? What keeps people there? What do people do for work in Cheney? Why is there a Medical Lake, Airway Heights, or Post Falls? I'm sure my father-in-law, a geography professor specializing in the Pacific Northwest would have a good reason each of those places existed, i.e. they were old railroad stops or trading posts. They're located at the confluence of two fur trading routes, but how do they persist, survive. I am even more impressed by the fact that places like Des Moines, IA and Omaha, NE have skylines, legitimate skyscrapers. Not small towns, I know, but how many accountants, roofers, dog walkers, florists can live in a place to sustain a viable economy? What do people do for work in Des Moines? Why is it there? (If you look it up on Wikipedia, the insurance industry is the, there...I answered my own question.)

Today, we had to get the kids out of the house again, so we walked down to the university with plans to play soccer in the field house. The students have all gone home for the holidays, and the town is deserted. The field house--though open--was vacant and dark. The lights in the gym were off, the indoor track locked. So we went back outside and played a three on two pick-up game of soccer. We ran the kids until Elise's ears started to ache from the cold, then we hiked back up the hill to the warmth of home. 

On a previous day, much similar to the one described above, we ended up at Zips for burgers, fries with tartar sauce, and marshmallow milkshakes. Without a home to call our own, stuck in limbo between our old home in Chennai and our new home at as yet to be determined location within the DC beltway, we find ourselves lingering in restaurants a little longer than normal as we are in no hurry to further impose on the kindness of our hosts. This state of being, as well as two years in India, may have aged me. I don't feel any older, but the woman who took our order didn't seem to agree. And so....this happened for the first time....

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