I sit at our dining room table playing Monopoly with my brother. It is my turn to go so I pick up the dice and cup them in my hands. As I shake them around in the bowl that I made with my hands, I think about how my life is like those two dice. Bouncing around, never slowing down, never stopping. My life is exactly like those dice, it is different in only one way. When I let go of those dice, they’ll topple onto the board and roll to a stop. I wish it was the same way in my case. I take my hands apart and let the dice fall to the board. I wish it was like that in my life.
For months we had been moving from one place to another. Sometimes down the street, sometimes out of state. “When is it going to stop? Or at least slow down?” I ask myself over and over again. I want desperately to just stay somewhere. I can’t even talk to my pen pal anymore since my address has been changed so many times this year.
I was brought back to earth by my brother’s voice. “Jamie! It’s your turn! I’ve been calling you for like five minutes!”
“Sorry,” I answer, “I’ve just been thinking a lot.”
“I’ll say you have! We aren’t going to be able to finish this game before the grandparents come over this afternoon. Now go, it’s your turn.”
As I pick up the dice the same thoughts tumble through my head about my life. The grandparents were coming over this afternoon as an informal going-away party. We were moving again. This time to North Dakota. That was one of the things I liked about living here in Missouri, being close to relatives. It was going to be hard to say good-bye to them, especially Grandpa. Every time they came over I would sit next to him and chew one of his homemade mints while he would tell me an interesting fact off the top of his head. He never looked anything up online. Sometimes it seems like his knowledge is never-ending. He says that he owes it all to the reading that he had done when he was a boy.
I had a special present that I had made for the both of them. It was a little silk lap pillow with my full name inscribed on it in fancy writing. I had also put “Love you for always.” It was sort of something for them to remember me by. We wouldn’t be seeing each other for a long time and I didn’t want them to forget me. Maybe I was silly for thinking that they would forget me, I don’t know.
Anyways, the afternoon finally rolled around and soon it was time for us to get dressed. Even though it was informal we wanted to look nice. I put on jeans and a dark blue T-shirt. I also put a blue ribbon in my hair. In case you haven’t noticed, blue is my favorite color. I heard the doorbell ring so I went to answer it. It was the grandparents, of course. I welcomed them inside and we all sat down at the table to eat. We had made lasagna for supper because that was everyone’s favorite meal. Somehow we avoided talking about the move over supper and the conversation stayed on light topics. After dinner, however, the conversation turned to the move. I didn’t really want to talk about it so I went over and sat down by Grandpa on the couch.
“Hello, Jamie,” he says with a smile.
“Do you have a mint and a fact for me today, Grandpa?”
“I always do,” he answers, chuckling. He hands me a mint while he thinks of something to tell me. He finally speaks. “Did you know that bananas grow upside down?” he asks.
I shift the mint over to one side of my mouth. “They do, Grandpa?”
“Yes, little one,” he answers. Then he notices that Grandma is motioning that it is time to leave. He puts his arm around me, giving me a sideways hug. “It is time for us to say our good-byes,” he says, standing up. We all gather by the doorway to say our good-byes.
Grandma crosses over to me. “I made something for you,” she says, pulling a shawl out of the bag that hangs on her arm. “To keep you warm up in North Dakota,” she explains.
“Thank you so much, Grandma,” I say. “I will wear it for always.” We hug close, tears in our eyes. “I made something for you also,” I say, pulling the pillow from behind my back. She thanks me and we hug again. When we part, I go to look for Grandpa.
“Ah, Jamie, I have been looking for you. These are for you.” He handed me three packages. “But do not open them until tomorrow when you are driving.”
“Yes, Grandpa,” I say, trying not to cry. I set the packages on the table so I can hug him with both hands.
The next day I am sitting in the car slowly opening the three packages. The first is his old pocket watch. The second is a letter. It reads as follows:
First, I must explain to you about the packages. Every time you cross a border to a new state, do these three things: wind the watch, eat a mint, and read a note. They are all new facts that I haven’t told you yet. And now, good luck at your new home. I know that you will fit in wherever you go.
So I fold up the letter and put on the shawl to wait until we cross the Iowa border. About two hours later Mom calls out, “We’re crossing the Iowa borderline!” So I wind the watch, pop a mint into my mouth, and unroll the first note. It reads as follows:
“Jamie, did you know that long-distance relationships make people’s love grow stronger?”