By John Davis

Leaving or staying home


September 5, 2017

After the great eclipse trip, my next trip (only four days later) was considerably longer, to Seattle, to visit my daughter and her family.

Celia and I have five children between us and they are scattered all over the country. The closest one is in Sheridan, then in Logan, Utah. There’s a big jump to the next furthest away, to Seattle (almost a thousand miles), followed by Murray, Kentucky, and New York City. I suppose we’re typical of most American families, in that most of our kids have moved a long ways away and some not so far. When I handled probates, it seemed that most families displayed that kind of pattern. Out of four or five kids, there would be one or two local ones and the rest would live further away, frequently much further away.

I’ve given a lot of thought why this should be so but have discarded most of my theories. One was that the more ambitious and capable kids tend to stray furthest from home, but I’ve seen too many families in which the outstanding child lives very close. Another is that the children furthest away are likely to be estranged from the family. That’s sometimes true, but in many cases children a good piece away make extra efforts to maintain contact. It’s surprising how many times I’ve had older people tell me that a daughter who lives many miles away is still the most likely to return and help when there’s a need. And, finally, how close family ties are depends mostly on the parents, especially the mother, who is usually the glue that keeps a family close.

I’ve decided that the distance a child lives from their parents is subject to so many variables that it is hard to make generalities. Part of it does have to do with the ambition of a child, and the fact that the best opportunities are in big towns (like over one hundred thousand), of which there are none in Wyoming. But other factors may still keep a child close, such as in Wyoming, where the hunting and fishing is so excellent that male children make an extra effort to stay in the state. Then, too, there is sheer chance. If a great job in your field comes through in Connecticut, and no other job is available, then you will most probably go to Connecticut.

In my case the fact that I ended up in Wyoming was an odd combination of chance and intention. In my senior year of college I was prepared to do graduate work in mathematics, and came within a few days of heading out to Michigan State University. I wanted to stay in Wyoming and my best opportunity seemed to be in law, but in 1964 I couldn’t afford law school. Then, out of the clear blue, I was offered a job in a New Hampshire prep school, which enabled me to save enough to pay for the first year of law school. Then through one means or another, I covered the last two years. So, six years later, in 1973, I returned to Worland as a lawyer.

My daughter lived all over the country, from Maryland to Florida to Pennsylvania. She ended up getting a job in Washington, where she met a young man and married him. They now have two daughters, 10 and 12, and it seems that the family is likely to stay in Washington for a long time. Which is fine; Seattle is not forever away, and it’s an attractive area.

This time the trip was not as attractive as usual, however, because of the smoke in the air. From Worland to Seattle the sky was continually filled with smoke. In that whole thousand-mile trip there was only one stretch in which the air was clear enough to see more than a few miles. And coming back was even worse. All that smoke was coming from the north, I think, as El Nino positions have created a northern drought strip.

Still, the primary purpose of a trip is not the scenery, but to see your loved ones, and I enjoyed my two granddaughters, one of whom is dangerously close to adolescence, but not quite there yet. And I especially enjoyed my daughter, as we spent a lot of quiet hours working in the yard and cooking and just having nice talks.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is retired. He is the author of several books.


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