For me, one of the hardest things about making these big moves was leaving behind the people I had come to know and love. I’ve had to say goodbye to many friends over the years, and I think it’s hardened my heart a bit. On the other hand, it’s also enabled me to open up to people more quickly. I’ve learned that there’s no time like the present. Why waste time when I’m not sure where I’ll be next year? As a result, I have many sisters and brothers around the country who shared formative times in a variety of places. Some of us remained connected while others drifted apart. The bond is still there, and it’s strong whether or not we ever see each other again. There were also times when those bonds unraveled to different degrees, but we stuck it out to the end. So far, anyway.
Paul and I knew it was time to move on. We had unthinkingly come back to many of the same things we’d left in the first place. It was a very conservative area politically and socially. My family was also very conservative. They were uncomfortable with even the idea that I would breastfeed my child. So, I was asked to “go to the bathroom to do that,” which I refused, of course. Out west, where she was born, everyone fed their young ones that way. I’d been hanging out with hippies. I’d learned about herbal healing and organic gardening. I was growing and learning and thriving in this new world. A lot of those ideas hadn’t really reached my hometown, yet. We were also just barely getting by, even with both of us working and Paul taking on an extra job. Although we were drowning, we’d made some close friends, had reconnected with old friends who’d survived those early initiation days and were able to let our daughter bond with her grandparents. All of that made it harder to say goodbye. But it was time to move on. So once again, we started to plan.
Remember Amber? She had moved up north to the Cascade Mountains as we had hoped to do and was having a baby. She invited us to come help and be companions. Her boyfriend was there, but the relationship was not the best. She could use the support. We had bought my dad’s old 1966 Plymouth Valiant, the car I learned to drive in. It was a reliable car and could take us across the country again. We’d gotten a tax return to pay for the trip and should be all set. One of the new friends I had was another Debbie. Having been born in 1953, I often ran into “Debbies”. This Debbie was and still is a photographer. She’s one of those people who is born to be artistic. You just can’t seem to help it. She and I spent a lot of time together during that year and a half. I still have some of the photos she took of Jessie and another of my first two children, she took a few years later. Now, as we were getting ready to leave, her boyfriend suddenly left her for another woman. She wanted to leave with us and make a new start. Of course, we said yes. She and Jessie got along well. Debbie would help out with her, the driving and the expenses, plus we’d all know another person when we got there. It did mean three adults and a child in a four-door sedan packed with everything we could fit to start up a new household but … we could do it!
Everything was lining up according to plan. In my experience, before every journey, there’s that time when you’re over-thinking everything and going over all the details, driving yourself crazy. What could possibly go wrong? In my life, things often go wrong. And, I have to admit, if you’re moving across the country like a gypsy, there’s plenty that could go wrong. On the other hand, if you’re a true hippie, you must have faith that things will work out if you keep those positive vibes. We were all about the vibes.
Two weeks before we were set to leave, Debbie’s boyfriend returned. He’d gone to some Caribbean Island to be with another woman, and it didn’t work out. He wanted to reconcile. Debbie was all set on leaving with us, but the pressure was getting to her. She loved him. We totally let her off the hook, so she could be free to do whatever she wanted. We could manage the trip on our own. Just keep those positive vibes going. It turned out that what she wanted was for her beau to travel with us. I didn’t think much of the guy, and we hadn’t even met him yet. There was no way I wanted to add another person into our cramped car anyway. Jessie wasn’t a baby anymore. She was two and a half and needed space to play or create while we drove. As it was, we would have to make frequent stops to let her run around. When I added in the space he would need for his belongings, it was an easy, “NO!”
Between Debbie crying and being indecisive then crying more, and Paul’s frugality reminding me that we would spend less money, less time driving with more people sharing the burdens and they didn’t have a car which made a caravan out of the question, I reluctantly relented. We quickly met Steve. He seemed like a nice guy and eventually became a close friend. He was also over six feet tall. I guess we figured that we would just cram everybody and everything in as best we could and hope for the best. So, we scheduled some meetings to strategize our route and set some kind of schedule.
We wanted to visit friends and family along the way, so the first stop was the Pittsburg, PA area. We stayed with Denis and Nigel who had a punk band. Denis was also an artist who did a comic. He was a childhood friend of Paul’s. We eventually lost track of them over the years. Last we’d heard they were in Los Angeles. I don’t think they ever heard of Paul’s death, though I did try to find them. We also had a friend in Kansas City, Debbie and Steve had one in Yellow Springs, Ohio. They were also really set on visiting the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We knew that there was a good possibility of snow at that time, so we nixed that idea, but they never really dropped it. The plan so far was to stay south of the Rockies to avoid any bad weather.
Two days before we were ready to leave, I decided to go say goodbye to Amber’s mother. It was a beautiful morning as I put Jessie in the car and drove to North Stamford along the winding, hilly roads. We had a wonderful but tearful visit then started home. Along one of those particularly winding stretches of road, my car made a horrible THUNK and just stopped. I sat there stunned for a few minutes then got out to look. I had no idea what the problem was, but I wasn’t going to figure it out standing there, so I scooped up Jessie and stuck out my thumb. I made it home and called my mom who called a towing company to come get the car. Then, she called her multitude of friends and found us another car that day. Mom was always amazing that way. She had friends everywhere and knew how to get things done. The new car was registered that day, so we packed it up and were ready to go. Mom wasn’t pleased that we dropped off the spare tire to make room for the very last bit. Paul assured her that we’d be fine and wouldn’t even need the tire, which we didn’t.
The morning before we were scheduled to leave, we heard the doorbell ring. Paul went downstairs to check and came back up with a stricken look on his face. He said, “The police are downstairs wanting to talk to you.” “What?!” I was already stressed out about the trip ahead, trying to fit everyone and everything in, all the negotiations then having to replace the car at the last minute. I didn’t think I could handle another drama, but I walked down quickly to get it over with. “Yes, I was Deborah Cavanaugh. Yes, I did own a 1966 Plymouth Valiant. What? No, I didn’t drive it over the edge of a ravine and leave it nose down in a creek!” That’s when I started to cry. I admit that I’m a crier when things get to be too much. It enables me to regroup. So, I just cried for a few minutes. When I was done, they called the towing company that was supposed to have taken the car. They hadn’t gotten to it, yet. Apparently, overnight some kids found it along the road and pushed it over the side, where it landed headfirst into the creek. When they pulled it out, they remarked that the headlights still worked. I was very sorry to lose that car.
It was a trick to fit everything into the new car which was, thankfully, a little larger. Paul and I were moving a small family. Although we were small, there were still three of us, and it was originally our move. We were just bringing them along. Everyone had their own personal belongs that we packed into the trunk and the floor of the backseats. This meant that the back was just a large platform. Steve insisted on bringing his comic book collection, which was an investment that he didn’t trust being away from him, but they couldn’t get packed away. They had to be accessible to him. He did end up financing something big with that collection later in his life. They were amazing comics with Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and many more. We didn’t mind him reading them in the back seat, except that my 2 ½ year old daughter was always in the back and wasn’t even allowed to look over his shoulder. They would argue over those comics incessantly. He and Debbie were trying to work out their stormy relationship during this trip, and it was making everything very tense. Before too long, Steve bought sardines at one of our stops and started eating them as we drove. Paul pulled over, got out of the car and lost it. He threatened to leave him there. Between the fights over the comics, the bickering between him and Debbie and now the sardines, I was good with that. Let’s leave him here! Leaving him meant leaving Debbie, and we couldn’t really do that, so we finally decided not to just leave him there on the side of the road with his comics and sardines, but there were rules. No more sardines, no more arguing between him and Debbie inside the car and he would always have a front seat, with his comics. I wondered later if maybe it was manipulated to get him a front seat. We hadn’t really thought about the height issue in the back, and he really did need a front seat, being so tall.
The next stop was Yellow Springs, Ohio. Debbie’s friend was there. Betsy had a small child that they hadn’t met yet. She looked like a very cool person, but we needed a break from the two of them, so we proposed dropping them off there and moving on to Kansas City to visit our friend there. If they could get to Kansas City in eight days, we would bring them the rest of the way. We gave them Brian’s phone number hoping that they would call and say they decided to do something else, then we drove on our way, our load quite a bit lighter.