A week later I said a tearful good-bye to my school classmates and friends in Wall Lake. My best friend, George, the son of the hotel owner, came over to the house just before we left. "You will come back sometimes, won't you Andy?" he said, his eyes shining with tears.
I was too choked to speak, and Mom answered for me: "Of course he will, George. You know Des Moines really isn't so far away."
After George had gone, a forlorn little figure trudging back across the dirt road, I took a last look around the house. I wanted to capture in my mind's eye a snapshot that I could always recall, but the furniture, our possessions, and our precious piano had been loaded into a truck earlier that morning. Without them the house already seemed remote from me, a cold and empty shell, not the warm and happy home I had known.
Dad and Bob carried the battered family trunk between them while the rest of us straggled down the hill behind them, carrying a ramshackle collection of bags and boxes. We crossed the railroad tracks and lined up on the platform as the train that would take us to Des Moines rounded the shoulder of the hill. In my misery the train whistle sounded even more plaintive and desolate than usual.
We boarded the train, and as it pulled away from the platform, Dick and I pressed against the window for our last view of the little wooden house on the hill, the only home we had ever known. Then smoke and steam swirled around the railcar, and by the time it had cleared, our house and Wall Lake were lost to sight. It would be many years before I would see them again.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from MOON RIVER AND ME by Andy Williams, 2009.