The house had once been the bustling big-family centre of an old plantation. Then there had been a generation of all girls, and each one of them had perched on their daddy's knee in turn to press their pretty faces to his increasingly worn one and tell him that they were leaving to set up families of their own. There must have been boys in the family somewhere, but the old man couldn't wait out his death in that house once his daughters had all gone and he sold it, plantation and all, to total strangers.
It went through a number of hands, and by the time my family acquired it, the farm land had been sold off separately and it had gone from cotton to corn to tourist ranch, complete with the neatest corral you've ever seen, from which emerged the sounds of clumsy whip-cracks and forced, over-enunciated yee-has.
We moved into the house when I was nothing more than a slight swell on the stomach of my already over-stretched mother. There were four kids already and four more to follow me. But I had a feeling that the house was mine - that it had been bought for me. The others all left as soon as they were old enough - we weren't as close as you'd imagine. Maybe it's different in other big families, but in ours there always seemed to be enough kids to go around. Nobody worried over one leaving. Or at least, not until there was just one left. And that was me.
I was planted firm in the house while the tide of the other kids flowed in and out around birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving. I was shingle on the shore-line. I was flotsam and jetsam. Floating and tumbling in their tide but never seeming to get anywhere. Well, not anymore! Today, it is Christmas morning and there is spray-snow on the windows and an embarrassing mound of presents spilling out from under the tree. Today, they will be too busy to notice that I'm gone. I'm already in my pick-up as the sun struggles up over the horizon, with my suitcases in the back and no destination in mind. The truck is rumbling down the single track away from the house and in my rearview there is nothing but the past, growing smaller and smaller by the second.