This is what a yard looks like in Tucson. I love it. I never understood grass with all its maintenance and water waste. Give me a good ol’ gravel yard any day. I took this with the fairly crappy camera on my phone but still love the composition.
My diary tells me all I wanted was my own room. A place that didn’t move. People who knew me, boys who looked at me and wanted me and asked for my number. Only I’d never had a number. The only telephones we used were pay phones, at a corner behind the casino in Winnemucca while the dust blew by and the clouds settled in, while Dad played cards and drank somewhere inside and we sat outside and tried to be still and patient, tempers growing thin and us fidgeting, hungry. In front of a Bashas’ grocery store in Parker, Arizona, from the safety of a grocery trip that got Mom and I away from the desert on our own for a whole day to civilization, ice cream, the library. She’d check in on Granny, call her friend back in Georgia. Let them know we were still alive – did they wonder how long? But she’d made her own choices, they’d say, shaking well-coiffed Southern heads and not even trying to understand. She always was a little wild, that Mary. I didn’t know the wild Mary existed. All I’d ever seen was a sweet cowed woman that loved us more than anything.
Kids don’t know any better. They’re programmed to want to conform, to fit in, to survive in the herd and not be noticed. If I’d continued on the road as a teenager, if we’d kept going while I decided who I was going to be I would never have been able to stop. I know it in my bones. They say “You’d still be on the road, baby. You’d be somewhere in South America by now. On your way to China.” And I ache to be that person that I might have been. The person that I am feels hollow, too light to pull myself free from the clay of the earth and the roots growing round my feet. I imagine the flutter of leaves breaking free from branches, the flight of each one flashes of tiny freedoms and bursts of joy.
The old Airstream settles on Don’s land, her tires sighing out the breath pumped into them 20 (goddamn!) years ago at some far away rest stop- Nevada- maybe Oregon air, seeping out of tires no longer hard and young. Happens to us all.
I see her aging, flaking, and I know her and my destinies include me making her new again. I have to, I’ll rip out her insides and make her mine, strong and road-worthy again. Not young, I don’t have that kind of magic. But youth is not everything. I’d rather have her history, her wisdom. I don’t care how long or how much it costs. We will travel the road again together. But there won’t be 6 of us packed in there again.
The Airstream will be 26 feet of pure minimalist modern luxury when I’m done. Light and bright inside, and light on the road. I wish someone could buff me up and take out the nascent wrinkles before I reach her state of tired.
Walking into the trailer, our old home, brings back Needles where we first lived encased in her well-kept confines, the relative luxury of running water and electricity, of Karl’s borrowed showers, and his desperate want of my mother. I see that most in retrospect, don’t know if it was true and only assume.
Clackamas and Mt. Hood National Forest, where the rain drummed on the taut aluminum body, until we had to leave, avoiding the rust and must that would surely follow. The previous owners, a sweet Canadian couple with their road-years behind them, carved wooden coyotes and saguaros into her bulwarks (the faces of interior cabinets, and my made up ship-name for them). Crude art, that I don’t like but am loathe to take down. So much love in simple art, mine included.
As most good things, she became ours when Dad wasn’t around to fuck things up. Mom asked Granny for the loan. $5 thousand? $8 thousand? I remember we all took turns holding the check because it seemed like a ridiculous amount of money. The most we’d ever seen.
As the only material thing Mom held on to, I’m glad it was this piece of the past. And I’m honored to take her and make her right again. There’s never been a doubt she was a she- mother, protector, road-ship. All vessels are female, the holders of everything important.
The smell inside, of old must books and wood long un-loved makes me want to scrub and scrub all the neglect away. Make her, and the past, belong to me.
I took a bunch of shots of the sky as it changed, I must have 10 totally different skies in 10 minutes. I love the mountains of New Mexico- and when my mom pointed out her whirlygig, it made the perfect silhouette. Silhouettes have always been something I was artistically drawn to- I paint them, photograph them, am endlessly fascinated by them.
Yeah, this isn’t a whiny post about why I haven’t been posting, or blah blah blah. Just an honest one- it will be a year tomorrow since my momma lost her happy ending. It put me off the story of us, of her, of me because it wasn’t the arc I had been writing, on to a generic upbeat ending about how life was better, about how we’re off the road now and mostly wish we were back on its endless curves, its excitement; where you don’t know what it means to be bored.
Life don’t work like that, kids, life is a shitty bastard that likes to kick you right in the guts when you are expecting sunshine and flowers. I won’t go into details, I’ll save that for the story that I’m back on track with now. It just took a year to realize that was the way it was, and there is more tragedy now. And I am a writer and that’s just another kind of story.
It’s always our own fault, isn’t it? We have good intentions but the “not creating” takes over faster than any other kind of lethargy. I let myself get too busy, my days too full, my nights too short.
My sister got “The Artist’s Way” for Christmas, and flipping through I appreciated the advice to nurture the inner artist child. She’s sensitive, and needs encouragement. Dedication is just something you create by being persistent. I’ve fallen victim too often to the thought that you have to “be in the mood” to write, when it’s actually that you make a date with yourself daily and make it happen.
Hello, 2015. I just transcribed the next hour of Mom Speaks. I’m making new dates with myself right now. And the gym, also the gym.