My friend Kathy invited me to be her guest at her swank condo on the beach in Mexico. I would even fly on her companion ticket. The whole trip would hardly cost anything. I said the only thing I could say — YES!
Yet, as the day to leave approached, I felt strangely ambivalent. I wanted to go and I wanted to stay.
I could imagine how the breeze wafting off the ocean would smell as I climbed down the ramp off the airplane onto the tarmac. Hugs from Carmen and Ana would await our arrival, warm greetings from Rui and Susanna. As soon as we could shuck our clothes and tug on swimwear, Kathy and I would hit the beach. I could close my eyes and almost feel my toes sink into the warm sands of Mazatlan. I packed my bags a month ahead.
Remember back in the day when the thick Sears catalog arrived in the mail? Our mailbox was a mile down our country lane. I would walk back to the house slowly, thumbing through the pages that interested me most, toys, bicycles and clothing. As I got older I used that time alone to surreptitiously study women’s underwear. I wondered if I should ever get to wear such mysterious garments. A few years later I graduated to memorizing pages showing young male models. They looked so debonair compared to our local louts. The catalog spread a cornucopia of delights. It little mattered to me that the only things I ever ordered were new shoes and school clothing. Every page was mine.
Most times my life is like that Sears catalog. Every day I have pages of delectable activities from which to choose. But here’s where my simile falls apart. Unlike the catalog orders which arrived promptly, my life is a bit sloppy. Sometimes items arrive that I didn’t order. Other times the order is damaged in shipping. Most days bring me bits of happiness spiced with bits of sadness. What is life if we don’t laugh a little and cry a little. Oh, so many choices.
Despite my packed bags, I felt blue about all the events I was going to miss.
Along with Anne and Ralph Schneider who teach music at the North Harlem Colony, I had been helping with a portion of the graduation and the Mother’s Day presentations. We worked with Adrian and Royce, the two graduating boys, on a series of musical numbers. I was excited to see the growth and the talent of these two young men and was proud to do my part. I would miss both celebrations.
Then there was the first swimming pool fundraiser, a dinner and auction at the VFW Club, and I felt torn to miss that important event. (By the way, I heard the group has garnered over $15,000 dollars to date. In little Harlem, this is momentous.)
Every May for the last several years I have gone to Billings for the annual MMIA training for elected officials. Not only is the trip fun, but I have always come back with useful information to help me in my civic duties. I look forward to greeting friends from all over the state, to meet new people, to share ideas, experiences and frustrations. Ah, next year.
Along with everything else, I had arranged to host the Missoula Children’s Theater directors in my home. They drove in as I drove out so I handed over the keys. I missed getting to know a team of dynamic young women. I missed our Harlem kids play “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
On the morning I left, I walked around my garden to check the progress of the budding tulips, the leaves popping on my chokecherries, the rhubarb already up and running, the iris and lilacs, the herb garden, hollyhocks, and everything else I knew was going to explode into full growth the minute I turned my back and headed for Mexico. I wanted to be here to celebrate every baby sprig and green of spring.
Now I’ve gone and come back home again. My cat greeted me with purrs and refuses to leave my side. The garden is beautiful. Lilacs are blooming. Raspberries show promise of a good crop. I breathe deeply and smell Montana.
Already I miss sleeping to the sound of surf. But in Mexico I got a jump start on my farmer tan, ate sea creatures every day and added to my burgeoning vocabulary of mangled Spanglish.
Self knowledge is a good thing. What I’ve learned is that I am a pig. I want it all. I want the truffles in the forest and the hog slop in the trough.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)