A year ago today, we rolled out of our Tulsa home, after 21 years, and headed into the east for greener pastures in Rome, Georgia. Our son began the new school year with a swaggering confidence that belied his fear. I gritted my teeth and clenched every muscled in my body and made myself go out and meet people and smile and try new things and make friends. We made it. We made it through the first year without grace, and with lots of angst and, in true Luithaus style, lots of laughs.
This summer, the boy was tasked with reading two books from a summer reading list. When I saw S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders on the list, I told him, “This is the book. You must read this.” He hates reading. He would rather be running up walls, jumping off ceilings or plucking out his eyelashes. But then I dropped the secret: “It’s set in Tulsa,” I told him. His eye lit up. He tried to hide it. Too late. I saw the flash of curiosity.
I remember when I first met Hinton’s characters, Ponyboy and Dally, Johnny and Darry. Cherry. I wanted to be as beautiful as I knew Cherry was, even if she did come from the right side of town. I knew, if I could just get him ten pages in, he would be sold.
I love it when I’m right.
As he began reading the book, he made a trip back to Tulsa to visit some friends. He spent a week shuttling around three different houses, going to parkour every single day. When he came home, he slammed into my arms and sobbed. Tulsa was his home, and though he spent a year getting acclimated to a new one, his heart lives back there, in T-town, where the river rocks are ready for rambling, where his buddies ebb and flow around each other in the carefree ease of stinky limbs and laughter.
Of course, he has reached the part of the book where tragedy strikes and as I knew it was approached, I hemmed around him, wondering if he wanted to talk about it, if he was bridging the emotions elicited from the book, from the mountain top ebullience of being where he was most comfortable, most himself. If he needed some help enunciating his … whatever.
The book is a connection for us. I read it as a kid, and loved reading it, when I had no idea I would spend 21 years of my life raising a family in Tulsa. Now that he has been there, loved there, is from there, it’s a tether for him, too. A tie between us, to the past, to our friends who will always and ever be ours. If people think there’s no power in story, they are overlooking the magic, the words that say what we cannot, the truth of loneliness that only an outsider can know.