Every few years growing up, my family moved to a new state. Caravans with Mayflower moving vans and backseat pillow fights were family traditions. My brother and I developed a routine for telling our room good-bye: we'd stand in the doorway, spit on our palms, rub them in the carpet and then jump backwards out of the room. Pretty ridiculous, I know, but somehow cathartic for two boys with such shallow roots. There were "friends" I would have liked to spit on and jump backwards over, too, but that was not allowed.
The painful move came during Jim's junior and my sophomore year in high school. We moved from Hollywood, Florida, a land of sunny beaches and Art Deco hotels, to Wilderness, Virginia, to attend Spotsylvania High School. Pulling off I-95 between Richmond and D.C. at Fredericksburg, we saw a red barn by a silo. "That's the nicest hotel in town," Dad said. It was a Sheraton ingeniously built to blend with the pastoral setting. I sank low in the backseat. There was not a stick of chrome or a sheet of glass in sight.
Northern Virginia was a beautiful place, steeped in history. As we drove through the Revolutionary village, the Eagles' hit song "New Kid in Town" came over the radio; it was our theme song. Jim and I made a pact to talk less about where we came from, more about where we'd landed. Living in transient places like Atlanta and Hollywood, we'd heard our share of sob stories from homesick kids. I quickly grew to love those rolling hills, old farmhouses and the dirt roads of Virginia, as much as any sandy beach or palm tree. I also learned not to judge a hotel by its silo.