“You remember too much, my mother said to me recently.
Why hold onto all that?
And I said,
Where can I put it down?”
– Anne Carson, Glass, Irony and God
I’m in Tucson, Arizona for the winter. Over the last thirty years I’ve spent many winters here helping my mother. On my first trip to Arizona in May, 1983, my mother and I visited her best friend, Jean. Three single women on a road trip to the National Parks, driving through wide-open spaces and golden light. Mother content, friend kind and sweet, daughter taking photos – collecting memories like shards of pottery.
Gone for over four years now, my mother’s spirit drifts throughout the dry desert air. Yesterday as I drove up Mt. Lemmon (9,000 feet) I remembered the time in 1985 when my mother joined me on the cross country drive for my move from Vermont to California. Along the way we made a detour to drive up Pikes Peak Highway in Colorado (14,000 feet). I didn’t know there was a per person admission fee, so while we waited in line at the toll booth I threw a blanket over my mother in the passenger seat and said, “Don’t move.” “What’re you doing?”
“Just stay still.” When the toll booth attendant asked me how many people I said, “One.”
Meanwhile my mother was laughing so hard the blanket was heaving up and down. “Just one?” the attendant asked again. “Yup, just one,” I said with a straight face.
My mother couldn’t stand it any longer and threw the blanket off. “No. Two. There are two of us!”
We all laughed so hard we were in tears. “You’ve made my day,” said the attendant. “Go on through for free.”
My writing so often turns to memories about my mother. She was the antagonist in my life story – actively opposed to me flying out of the nest – and away from her. I hold the moments of deep laughter between us in my hands like shards of memory that long to be put back together into the perfect mother/daughter relationship. Does any mother ever understand? Does any daughter ever do enough? I breathe in the desert air before a rainstorm arrives hoping for some answers. But all the breeze stirs up are more questions. Questions with no answers that will take a lifetime to ask.