I woke laughing around 3:30 this morning. Haven’t done that in a while. Bob asked me if I was laughing. I chortled out a cryptic sleepy sounding “Yes,” filled with morning breath and spoken over a faceful of purring cat (Pinky) who had nestled into my neck and plastered herself to me.
However, if you were to ask me if I could’ve expected waking up this way, I’d have said, “No way!”
I’d fallen asleep emotional and teary, kind of cranky. My visit to Phoenix left me sad and worried for the health of my cousin but also my visit had left me a little nostalgic.
I hadn’t expected getting the nostalgia, not at the end of July in Phoenix with temperatures nearing 115F. And yet it presented itself like a big sooty cloud in front of me as I drove my rental car down scraggy 24th Street & McDowell to Sky Harbor Circle back to the rental car co-op around Buckeye Rd.
The desert owns a certain appeal that old cowboys understood right away. The old west full of grit and danger, drew men and women to its dusty hard-packed basin. With its humanoid cacti and wildlife–rattlers, scorpions and those that ate them, like roadrunners and nightowls.
I was born in Phoenix in 1958 in the summer on a hot Tuesday with all the sweat and tears my laboring mother could spend, I’m sure. So, when I landed at the airport this past Friday and walked from the cool interior of the plane, the waffling heat pushed at me as I exited the tube from the plane’s door to another cool interior, just inside the airport gate. Temperatures change fast in the desert, like walking through a waterfall of cool or searing lava heat. They change as you go from inside to outside and back.
But, I’d forgotten.
I’d forgotten how blistering hot it got at the end of July.
Here’s the funny thing though. After only a few minutes in Phoenix’s climate, it was business as usual. I thought, “Oh, yes, this is what I left.” In part, why I left for the cool wet temps of the Pacific Northwest where I now call home.
My mom wants to move back to Phoenix. She has longed to go “home” (as she calls it) for years. In fact, she wanted to return after almost a month of arriving in Washington State to live, selling everything she owned back in Phoenix and making the move.
I understand why she wants to live there again. I do. Now.
See, most of our family lives there still. My sister and her “team” live there. And what a great team it is! We try to visit each other as much as possible.
This time when I traveled to Phoenix I went to see my sis, of course, but I also went to see my cousin–an old cowboy with roots from Lebanon–from the old country. For me, Phoenix is the new old country. Like my grandfather before me, I sort of got run out. Of course, the running was on my own terms. But, I ran. And, as I sat there in the hospital with my cousin and his family, I remembered the real definition of home. Home isn’t about place. Not really. It’s about people, about family. Sitting next to my cousin chatting, made me think about how wonderful our talks used to be, how we’d laugh and sing and dance the dabke at Uncle Chuck’s and Aunt Madeline’s, in the add-on den. With life abounding and abundant. My cousin, a rodeo cowboy firefighter, who went to New York on 9/11 to assist in the disaster has been feeling rather puny these days and I needed to see him again.
So, after I put it all together–the waking up, laughing, laughing hard, then falling back to sleep. I can remember the fun times. The good times with my cousin, all my cousins, my aunts and uncles, Sitto and Giddo, my dad and mom and sister, our old home on Luke Avenue, then the temporary one on 32nd Street, the 1/4 acre home we had with my pony Apache. There are many other places we searched for looking to find that sense of home, spent back in Phoenix.
I guess nostalgia has its place. Sitting here on my nobby couch with my pups and cats and my feet up on my ottoman as I type, I know my emotional discord occurred in Phoenix because of leaving family and not because I was leaving Phoenix.