When I was growing up in Austin I would hike the hills on the other side of my grandparents’ backyard fence. Along the trails I would sometimes find fossils. One was a sea snail shell as big as my mother’s fist. I carried that around for years in the same box that held a growing number of legos.
When I was growing up in Houston I felt like my step-father had come into a vast fortune because our townhouse had a second floor and my own bedroom window no longer looked out on a fence. Now I could see a strip mall from the window and felt very privileged to do so.
When I was growing up in California there was a mountain in the backyard. On the top of the mountain there was snow and I tried to imagine what it felt like, but I had never felt cold and so my imagination fell short, much like imagining what kissing a girl feels like.
We went back to Austin to clean out my grandparents’ house and found that the hills on the other side of the fence had been paved over with streets named after trees and packed with large houses like the serrated edge of a knife. I wondered how many fossils had been sealed off beneath and was angry at the people who’d buried all that treasure.
When I was growing up in Connecticut my backyard was a forest that I had to myself. In the summer, the forest was dark at noon and I would spend a good part of my hikes scraping off full-body cobwebs. In the winter the forest was blinding at noon and a few days after the snow I could still walk on top of it without breaking through.
When I was growing up in Pennsylvania I could no longer walk on top of the snow and no longer had to imagine what kissing a girl felt like. I had lost the sea snail fossil somewhere along the way and didn’t recognize it had gone missing until a high school buddy and I were talking in the backyard and he asked why I had a Texan accent when I was drunk.