As B drove us in their fabulously air conditioned car with legroom to a popular restaurant near their RV Park in Quartzite, my mother told me about her “happy place.” This was an image, she was given to understand, which should be easily memorable and very special and peaceful, where a person could return to, in their mind, in times of stress or unhappiness to help them regain a sense of ease and rebalance. She described to me in moving detail, my oldest niece, Elisabeth leaning over her new baby sister, Anna and touching her face so gently. Elisabeth’s long dark curls hung near the bassinet; Anna’s pink curled baby fingers, the rosy cheeks, the warmth. Someone wanted to put a blanket on the baby, but Elisabeth, just a little thing herself, insisted that the baby was warm, and DID NOT WANT a blanket just now, thank you very much. I could just see it. I don’t know why, but it made tears roll down my cheeks.
The Pizza was great, and the place was packed. It was so nice to spend time with my mom again. She is a good mother, and has been, I’m sure, like my niece Elisabeth, from the get-go. We drove through the pits of hell in mile high dust devils and 104 degree heat to simply spend time with her, and with my stepdad B, who has always loved her too. I told R, if I didn’t like her so very much, we would be hightailing it further North. We had a good visit. We rented a Park Model, very reasonably so we could stretch out a bit, knowing that we would be hiding from the sun much of the day. I walked up a little hill with the dog in the morning and watched the sun rise. I did water aerobics in the little pool with Mom and met some of her friends. They showed us how to sit on a little ball in the pool and try to knock each other off. We laughed a lot. We often do. We played scrabble at mom’s place and took turns making dinners. I don’t believe R has ever barbecued at 100 degrees on a patio, but B was there to offer moral support. R put “Slap yo mama” spice from New Orleans on the steak the last day and Mom coughed and sipped Crystal Lite and B mopped his brow, but they were so kind. They offered us the hideabed, which was over the top gracious. We played scrabble till my eyes crossed. I did yoga in our own Park model trailer where the AC was WAY less loud and blowy than in our camper. We watched classics like “The terminator” which was actually entertaining because we’d been without TV for so long. Saguarno cactus were blooming like colorful extrusions on gloved hands. The wind was dragon’s breath. I walked into the desert when I could, and appreciated the blooms, the starkness, the iron colored rocks against the lighter grey ones. The washes, the rises, the gullys. The lizards or geckos. The little cotton tailed rabbits and the giant eared jackrabbits that wisely posed as rocks till my dog and I were past, then ran like sixty when they thought our attention was shifted.
Mother’s Day is nearing and my guidebook for this course is asking “What event or events impacted your life the most?” Other than getting and losing religion, I really have to say, having children. While I was visiting Mom, My niece with the long dark curls, featured in Mom’s happy place, was busy having a boychild, so near her firstborns fourth birthday, and so near mother’s day, so I really had to mention it, didn’t I? Ninety minutes, my brother said – “She had shit to do.”
I wasn’t the kind of girl who always wanted to hold the baby, start a hope chest at age twelve, or gave little baby tea parties. I was more the kind of girl that tore off the Barbies heads and strongly preferred Breyer plastic horse models. So did my girlfriends. It wasn’t about the Barbie sports car and burping and carrying a babydoll, although I am certain my mother provided these accoutrements, we just leaned harder to the appaloosa, the chestnut roan, the black colt, the herd, you know?
Well, in spite of my predilections I had not one, but TWO healthy baby boys. They were, and ever will be, the very best piece of my life. I found, to my surprise, that I really LIKED being a mother, and that I was even mostly capable. Two curly headed, slender after the puppy stage, self contained, happy, exploring, loving boys. Thank God I had boys. It is not unlikely I would have ruined a girl child. Even in the most difficult times, the questions became so simple, the answers, immediate. It wasn’t “what would Jesus do?” (which is NOT a bad question) But for me, it was “ what would a good mom do?” Well….I did improvise, some, which I am learning is the way the whole song should be sung anyway.
Thanks, Mom. You are worth walking through fire for. And thanks, boys, you have given me only joy, and happy places. Welcome to the world, James. You are loved in advance. And to the childless who somehow still manage to be guides for those who need guidance, and to the tragically and early orphaned, so close to my heart who sometimes pine at this Hallmark Holiday, I honor you for somehow sprouting blossoms, like the patient Sagura cactus in my mothers desert home.