America as an idea
When I was 9, my father and mother moved us from Northern California to Central Texas. I don't know that I entirely understood what we were doing, at the time, but I knew we were leaving, lacking something, and we were going looking for it. We drove, a van and a moving truck, a family of six, across the American Southwest on a holiday weekend when the roads were packed. We crossed the hottest parts of the desert at night.
I remember bouncing around in the big truck, watching the teeming streams of people. I remember there were partying students, girls in short shorts and guys without shirts, and there were men with boats, men with horse trailers, men with families. There were truck drivers, I remember, and RVers and old bikers, and everyone was on the road that weekend. I remember my dad, lit-up by the green light of the Hertz-Penske dash, drinking cola from the big bottle and telling me about every car he'd ever had and every job he'd had and every move he'd made, keeping himself awake with his stories and opening a world for me.
This was, I think, my first idea of America as a country: a place where people are moving, looking for what they want.