"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Thank-You to the Universe for my Zihuatanejo Connection

Shameless promoter that I am, this essay is entered in Sonia Marsh's Gutsy Story competition. I'd love you to drop by and vote for me. I  write about this trip and other experiences of the Social and Sexual 
Revolution in my baby boomer memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite

The flight is on time as it descends over the basin rim into the desert. Phoenix in mid-April is green golf courses and swimming pools surrounded by alfalfa fields and sprinklers. I pull my eyes from the magazine I’m pretending to read. My hands are trembling from the apprehension of meeting my oldest daughter, Sam, to board a plane to Zihuatanejo. I know she has not agreed to this trip without persuasion.
The trip itself is the result of many hands. God has a plan.
In the taxiing plane I hear my friend’s stern voice, two months earlier, brooking no dissent:  “Just hear me out before you say anything. I’ve booked you into a writer’s retreat in Zihuatenajo for late April. You need to go. You’re not writing and you need to be. Go and let it change your life.”
That phone call had frozen me with apprehension. Mexico—alone? From the way my stomach dropped at the idea I knew I was not brave enough to go alone. My heart, my instinct, called for my daughter.
She had voiced her objections—a single week of vacation built up, not enough money—but beyond the stated, I heard her apprehension about spending a week together. And her fears weren’t without reason.
I was fresh off the farm, a college sophomore when I got pregnant. Her childhood was over before I figured out who I was and what I had to offer her. She was born at the end of the baby boomer generation—stuck between two generations without seeming to belong to either.
We were the classic Peter Pan and Wendy with no idea what to do about it. I knew she didn’t like me very much—but what if I discovered she hated me? She had left home at seventeen for college and never returned. What if after all the years of living apart—of chasing separate dreams and missed connections—this was our only chance and we blew it?
If we didn’t try we would never know. Still—maybe knowing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be!
She stalled. I fussed to her father about her indecision when secretly I was doing the same thing. It was her father who negotiated the truce, the guy who didn’t really want me to go—because it was southern Mexico and he would have no power to save me if something went wrong—this husband of mine called his daughter and told her I wouldn’t go without her.
Fate had decreed it was time.
 Miles from home, the novelty of adventure frees us. Tears turn to laughter as we struggle to find common ground, mother and daughter, offspring of my teen years when I had little to offer her except my love.
Lying on our beds that first night, lost in the weight of awkward silence, we begin to talk, first of inconsequentials, then of the disappointments we have each suffered at the other’s hand.  When exhaustion claims us my firefighter daughter demands that we make an evacuation plan. She places a flashlight and our shoes by the door while I scoff, not yet ready to relinquish the parent role to this adult daughter who has grown tenacious in the missing years.
When the first temblor rocks the hotel I accept the small earthquake as a sign that flexibility and respect might be a good thing.
Seven days later we are friends in a way we have never before managed, our hearts healed of the nagging fear that we have somehow missed our connection. Here’s what I write to celebrate our week.
                                                Thank you, Zihua’
The week was productive and inspirational. My daughter and I left our mark on the little town. I asked questions of every bartender and waiter, every vendor and taxi driver who would tolerate our Spanish. We rode a bus with broken windows to Petatlán and were taken in hand by a couple of eager seventeen-year-olds. We caught the stench of freshly-butchered pigs, ate cow head enchiladas, and brushed off flies and proposals of marriage with equal adroitness.
We adored Lenore and Veronica and Elsa and her husband. We dined with an opera singer from Mexico City and advised her in her marital distress over a bottle of wine at midnight. We rose at dawn and ate cerviche at the fish market, and enticed Jose the cantina owner into telling us his story of lost virginity at the hands of a Greek goddess who was nineteen to his seventeen.
Sweet days. We made friends with the geckos on our wall and nodding acquaintance with the iguana in our tree. We toted home fresh cocos and pinas and laced the shells with rum. We tossed Else's bougainvillea into the sea at midnight and made a wish to return. We bought Latina sandals that made our legs look long and hootchie- mama dresses that made us feel great.
We danced to a Bolivian CD in the dark and watched the houses on the hill
swell with the afternoon light. We bought morning coffee for the Indian woman who carries flan on her head, and turned down an offer of product from the local drug dealer. We taxied to Ixtapa and ferried to Las Gatas and attended Easter Mass at the church of the Virgin of Guadalupe. (And knelt in reverence at the cathedral at Petatlan) and saved our sunburn for the last day.
Oh yes, I finished twenty-five pages of most excellent prose for a total of seventy-five pages on my novel. If we missed anything we'll be glad to retrace our
steps. We have found paradise.
When we returned, my husband wanted to know why I looked so relaxed. I told him it was the humidity.
           In a lifetime a mother should be so lucky. We were both profoundly touched by our experiences. The words started flowing, woman to woman, and they’ve never stopped. Thank you, Universe, for your part in my journey.
What's your story? Any life-changing adventures with your children or grandchildren? Share them with us and please write them down for yourself.