When I claimed Shelley Wallace as my best friend in third grade, it was because she was new, and somehow she never learned that I was considered a social pariah. She liked me, and we laughed, and it was wonderful. I didn’t care so much that she was popular, and she didn’t care so much that I was not. No one told me that basketball coaches move—along with their wonderful daughters—every two years unless they can produce a winning team. So at the end of fifth grade, Shelley announced her family was moving. I suggested that she lash herself to the bedpost and refuse to leave our town, but she shrugged. She’d moved before.
I didn’t move. I lived in the same house until my 18th birthday and my graduation from high school, when my parents put the house on the market and bought me a set of luggage. By then, luggage was exactly what I wanted. I would laugh with my college friends when they said they’d “go back to square one,” which meant going home. I had no square one, and there was no going back to anything, anywhere. My mother shared a trailer in the country with her new husband, the trucker whose company I loathed. My father had moved on to his new step-children and their teenage dramas.
I could form a homey room from the sterile cinderblock walls of a dorm cell. I never traveled light—I carried everything with me. I became my own square one, forming my own path through college and summer breaks. And I was infinitely happy with my independence. Luggage: I was all about the luggage.