I am a mother. My mother took me to my first public library in Phoenix Arizona. I rode on the back of her bike. The library, the books became my kingdom for building a world that was not my world. Reading absorbed me. Writing threw out my secret feelings. I am a daughter. A daughter who watched her mother beat up her three older sisters in such a rage. My father left the house. When he did not leave the house, I went with him to play tennis. Well, I watched him play tennis. And fed the ducks at the pond near the tennis courts and romped my way through Encanto Park. I am my father’s daughter. Afterward, we would go to a tavern. I loved the darkness, mystery, people who I did not know and most especially the neon sign that looked like real running water. The cool waters where Budweiser came from. My dad drank Bud and I felt he was an important person. People liked my dad. As I drank my Shirley Temples they would ruffle my hair and tell me I was my dad’s spitting image. I liked that. Even if I was a girl. The land of the sky blue waters stopped when we came home late on a Sunday with booze on my dad’s breathe. Cornered by my mom’s jealousy, she held one hand on my shoulder and asked me where we had been. I didn’t want to tell, but I did. My dad had trouble that night.
We camped most holidays. Six of us crammed in a VW Beetle towing an Apache pop-up canvas tent. After the divorce, my mother and I lived in that Apache camping tent in a trailer park. I suppose squabbling over the money; it was all we could afford. We lived on Kentucky Fried Chicken and frozen eclairs from the supermarket. My mom taught me how to dumpster dive for thrown away food from the El Ranchero Market before it became a popular movement in the big cities. Freeganism. A bruised apple, a slightly blackened cauliflower, bananas just a bit too ripe were part of the bounty of our table. I felt like a pirate sorting through the treasures of the grocery store’s trash. It wasn’t a sad time. It was a time of adventure and learning to survive.
My sister Kathy, who had fled with her husband Michael to skip-out of Vietnam, sent me a box of pastels and a purple amethyst ring. The pastels came in a wooden box with a golden latch and were made in France. That is when I started to draw and think of traveling to places that loved pastels. The ring fell down the drain pipe in the community shower room at the trailer park. The lady was nice. Large and stooping to undo the loop in the drain that might have caught my ring. But it didn’t. Our camp was right beside the railroad tracks and the train came through every night. The fierce engine sounded like it would flatten our canvas home, but it never did. Then there was the softness of the box cars swaying on the rails to lull me back to sleep. My mom would talk of the depression and how men came by their farm to pick up some work or looking for food. My grandma Leta had five children and a husband hooked on silo corn booze. But my mom remembers Leta could always find a chore to for a man to do and a fat back sandwich to fill his belly. These men traveled on the trains. Sometimes I thought I could hear someone in the brush outside our camp when the train had passed. Mom settled my fears explaining no one rides these rails. It was the 1970’s.