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Katrina Willis "Table for Six"
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Ever since I can remember holding a pen, I remember writing. Words are my constant companion, my solace, my connection to humanity. I write because I must, but I also write to share a common experience. If one of my sentences makes you feel like you are not alone in this wide world, then I have done my job. We have so much to share as human beings, don’t we? Thank you for letting me share my words.
Changing Course
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Changing Course

July 11, 2013 | 09:23 AM

I've been MIA for awhile, I know. But I have a good excuse. Moving across five states with four kids, two dogs, and a guinea pig is not for sissies. It takes a great deal of time, patience, and money -- two of which I don't have. We're all given the same amount of time, right? From Hemingway to Einstein to Oprah, we all get the same number of hours each day. To claim I don't have enough time is a bit... well, obnoxious. But I can say with great certainty that my patience runs thin far too easily and my bank account is often slimmer than I'd like. And a move? Holy shit, moving is expensive! But I digress...

I got the opportunity to drive from Mississippi to Northern Ohio over the course of two days. In the Tahoe, I was joined by Gus, Mary Claire, and two heavily sedated dogs. Sam followed behind with George and the guinea pig. We stayed in a Kentucky hotel that was hosting a Southern Baptist convention. We were a sight to behold. Those conventioneers were not quite sure what to think of our human/canine/large rodent tribe. I heard more than a few, "God Bless You, Sisters" while traipsing in and out of the lobby, coaxing nervous dogs through automatic doors and onto elevators.

In true Clampett style, Chris followed behind a few days later with a U-Haul and all the leftover goods that didn't fit in our pre-paid 35 feet of trailer space.

Upon our Mississippi departure, Chris called a kid huddle and said, "We'll create lots of new relationships in Ohio. But right now, it's just the six of us -- our Tribe. Be good to each other, be kind to each other, be helpful to your mother. Soon enough, we'll expand our circle. For now, it's us. Honor that."

There are so many reasons why I chose this man.

A certain sense of magic and adventure exists in a new physical place. It's exciting to discover fun restaurants, to happen upon shortcuts and unexpected roadside surprises, to gaze upon an unfamiliar face and think, "You? Yes! You're supposed to be my friend, aren't you?" When we passed old standbys such as "Five Guys" and "Steak and Shake," the kids cheered with excitement.

"If I find a Taco Bell, my life will be complete," Sam said. And he did. We'd toyed with the idea of letting him stay in Starkville to complete his high school career. We had a kind and loving home to tuck him into. But after we made the Should-I-Stay-Or-Should-I-Go offer to him, I knew I could not uphold my end of the bargain. I could not leave this vibrant 16-year-old -- this critical piece of our Every Day -- 13 hours away. Soon enough, he'll be off to college and our family dynamic will be irrevocably altered. I was not ready to expedite that change. Luckily, he chose for himself. He decided he wanted to be a part of this craziness more than he wanted to be with his friends and his familiarity. For that, I am eternally grateful. If I'd forced him to be where he didn't want to be, I'm afraid that rift would have occurred not physically, but emotionally. Instead, I get my often-happy, sometimes-sullen, always-witty almost-man. He's enjoyed sneaking off onto the private country club golf course that backs up to our house, he's starting weight training (Weight Training!) with the local lacrosse team this week, he drives to the store when we need a gallon of milk, laughs with his friends on X-Box Live, and keeps this home full to overflowing.

I am complete.

We've visited schools, and the kids are excited. Mary Claire is attending a volleyball day camp at a local university this week. She knew absolutely no one and could not be less phased by it. I've been dropping her off at 9:00 AM, picking her up at 4:00 PM, and in between, she's been making new friends and blazing her confident, sassafras trail.

On her first day, she said to me, "Mom, I think most of the girls in my age group go to a Christian school."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I was chowing down on my Jimmy John's, and they were all still saying a prayer."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I told them I prayed while I was eating."

She enjoys the Meet-In-the-Middle, that one.

Gus returned to Mississippi with Chris yesterday. He's attending a two-week acting camp with his buddies for one final "hurrah!" My husband and our boy stopped at Gus's Fried Chicken on their journey South. His assessment? "AWESOME!" When he returns to Ohio, he'll embrace being a freshman in a strange, new land. A freshman. I'm not sure how that happened.

And Georgeous. His Mississippi experience was so miserable, so sad, so lonely... I have high hopes and big intentions for him here. He'll be starting junior high with a gaggle of nervous new 6th graders. We've coached him to reach out, to make friends, to introduce himself, to connect. "You can't wait for someone else to talk to you," I told him. "Make the first move. Introduce yourself. Find something in common. Be brave even when you don't feel brave." He wants to try soccer this fall. He wants to play the violin and the saxophone. He still talks about his imaginary and illustrious career as an elbow model. We'll make room for those adventures in his 11-year-old life.

I've been blessed to reunite with my high school bestie and IU college roommate here in Ohio. We'd never met each other's kids, but being together was like coming home. Twenty years may have passed, but she's still the same. We're still the same. There is such comfort and happiness in that knowledge, in that experience, in those open arms and ready laughs.

She needed me. I needed her. The Universe said, "Oh, girls! Let me be the first to reintroduce you!"

So much awaits us. Life is like that. It doesn't take new scenery to offer up new adventures, but it most certainly pushes you over the safe, secure precipice. Unknowns cause us to reach, to grow, to expand our horizons. This Tribe is stretching again. And I, for one, could not be more grateful for the opportunity.

There's just something about an early morning Midwestern breeze that feels like home.


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