17 Jun

So, in hindsight, I feel as if child protective services should have at least looked into this whole trek across country.  First of all, we did not even sit in a car with seatbelts.  We bounced around haphazardly on our bed of blankets and hung out the windows like savages across three thousand miles.  It is a true miracle the wreck did not do more damage than demolishing the back of the car and my mother’s already frayed nerves.  This accident was also the first time I ever heard the word Valium, the magical pill that made my mother seem nicer.  Of course, the effects were not long enough lasting.

We were a few days in a hotel in Texarkana that smelled of diesel and fried chicken.  It meant sharing a room with my mother who at varying points was either too hot or too cold.  It was also the first time in a long time we ate normal food.  I say normal because my mother could make delicious fried chicken and about nothing else.  She was infamous for her thrown together casseroles and her guilty attempts at feeding her family vegetables by serving overcooked brussels sprouts we could sip through straws.  She claims it was because we were poor, but I do believe marauding wild dogs ate better food.  When it was announced we were hitting the road again, I remember being disappointed my mother would once again be in the vicinity of a stove.

There were stories of the desert, yet I was still surprised when we were indeed in the desert.  My first memory of Arizona is a Native American adobe ruin and immediately touching a cactus.  The first hour in our new home state was spent picking needles out of my hand with tweezers and my mother commenting how hot it was.  There is not a breeze to be found in the desert in July we discovered.  There is a photo of me, wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt, my blonde hair bleached white and smiling in front of the ruin.  I had yet to receive the warnings.

Okay, so my parents wait until we are driving along a tiny dirty road climbing Salt River Canyon with my mother crying we were going to plunge to our deaths with one pothole, to inform us that EVERYTHING will kill us in our new home.  We should have been given a power point presentation at the least.  The list was endless and frightening.  I half listened, as I was certain my father after days in the car with my mother would drive us right over that edge.  I remember the list being something like this:

1.    Do not pick up rocks.  There will be rattlesnakes sleeping beneath them and one bite and YOU WILL DIE.

2.    Do not walk barefoot outside.  There will be scorpions that will sting you and YOU WILL DIE.

3.    Do not stand beneath trees.  Many of the pines are old and they will fall on you and YOU WILL DIE.

4.    Do not eat any berries.  Who knows what is poisonous and if you eat one YOU WILL DIE.

5.    Do not stay out in the midday sun.  You will suffer from heatstroke and YOU WILL DIE.

6.    There will be sudden dust storms.  Take shelter or the wind will pick up sharp objects that will decapitate you and YOU WILL DIE.

7.    Watch out for red anthills.  They will swarm you and sting you and YOU WILL DIE.

8.    Never play with fire or a magnifying glass.  You will set the entire state on fire and YOU WILL DIE.

9.    Never wander off whilst in the woods because cougars and bears will see you as lunch and YOU WILL DIE.

10.    Never interrupt mother when she is having her midday nap or YOU WILL DIE.

So as the car stopped in front of a trailer, one of about ten in a small park located in the middle of the desert, I huddled with my sister and feared stepping foot onto the sand.  This was Coolidge, Arizona with its barrel cacti and yucca trees and for what seemed like for the worst we were living here now.  If my parents were trying to scare us straight, it worked.



  1. ninakillham June 18, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much for making a comment on my post so that I could find this. I’m can’t wait for Arizona Chronicles Part Trois.

    • Cold Dead Heart June 18, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

      Thank you so much…your stuff is fantastic too.. 🙂

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