Every one of us has a moment when we realize we are the age our parents were when [fill in the blank with whatever core memory has formed for you there]. I tell Nate yesterday that I am the age my mother was when she hitched a trailer to the back of a class-C RV, loaded up four of our (then) six kids, and took us across the country. I was 15.
I tell him this is when I first saw the Grand Canyon, crossed the Continental Divide, visited the Alamo, and stood on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. But what I remember of that trip is a spare tire falling off a vehicle on the washboard roads of Louisiana, my mother backing up an RV and trailer in a downtown Saint Louis parking lot, my siblings and I sitting in a booth across from a mechanic while she navigated the total loss of our catalytic convertor in the middle of the country. I remember cresting the hill over the painted desert and gasping at its beauty, while she gripped the wheel of the vehicle holding her most precious cargo down the steep mountainside. I remember keeping her awake while driving one night and her telling me to look at the sky where it was so dark you couldn’t tell the difference between the night above and the horizon below. I remember cooking macaroni with my baby brother on my hip, pumping gas in Colorado City, confused at the plethora of children acting like adults. I remember my mother in the captain’s chair, charting a course through Vail, Colorado, driving in the middle of the night looking for a safe place to land with her children. I remember the lights of a ski-resort feeling like relief.
I have never thought of my mother as particularly brave. When I was coming of age, she was coming out of the shell of patriarchy, pouring glasses of wine and wearing whatever the hell she wanted. She was listening to jazz music and buying shirts with sequins. I thought she’d lost her mind. I wanted to punish her for it.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to S A Y A B L E to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.