“The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”
Roaring through the arches of the patio, the wind here is mournful and heavy, almost a tangible presence.
My parents live in the desert, a desert that ambles down to the water’s edge, but if all you knew was the sound of the wind you’d think they lived on the open prairie.
I remember a line in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about women on the prairie going mad from the combination of relentless wind and isolation. How much different were the women who lived here? Were they more resilient? Were they more mentally stable? Or is wind one of those things that spooks even the strongest of us, as it whistles through our hair and tickles our skin.
Outside, it sounds of pan-flutes and empty bottles, of breath and sadness.
And yet, the wind itself brings refreshment, cooler air, fewer insects, even as it stirs up clouds of dust and dries your skin.
If you’re already close to the edge, even the slightest breeze could push you over.
And if you’re not? If you’re well-grounded with your feet firmly planted, does it nudge you toward that precipice or merely tease you with ghostly caresses and wordless whispers?
It’s power and breath and life.
But not always discernible.
It’s 11:35 PM on Christmas Eve, and as I write this I’m sitting on the bed in the guest room in La Paz, BCS, where my parents live. We’re in the house they’re renting while they build a new house – probably the last house they’ll ever live in, directly across the street.
All month, as I’ve been preparing for this trip (we arrived yesterday), my mother has been telling me things like “Gari-Ellen wants to know if you’re coming to coffee with us,” or “Jesse is looking forward to having you come to his restaurant,” or, “Patricia said she’s very excited because her sister’s daughter is coming.” (Patricia, in this case, is my mother’s dear friend, and adopted sister. She’s got a heart as big as the universe and looks like Betty Boop.)
I’ve never really felt like I’ve had a hometown. I mean, there’s the town I consider home, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., because my earliest memories are there, and my family roots are there, and my mother’s first home with me was there, but I didn’t get the experience of growing up there.
I grew up in lots of places, really: New Jersey, Colorado, California. And then I’ve lived in South Dakota, California and Texas, during my marriage.
My parents moved here, to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico in 2000, and at first visiting them never felt like home. When they moved into the house they built, I liked staying in the casita, but it felt like staying in a guest house.
I know my mother was depressed, but I never realized how much until we drove into the development where she lives now. There’s an ease about her, a lightness, that she hasn’t had in years, and that lightness has wrapped itself around her life, extending into the very walls of this house.
She calls it the “Barbie House,” because it’s tiny, but it’s not uncomfortably so – really. But rental or not, it’s the first place she’s lived in, here, that has felt like coming home.
And I realized, as I was packing, and then even more as we made the journey up the canyon, up the highway, from Cabo to La Paz, that I’ve been here, to this funky, quirky, lovely city on the Gulf of California, enough times that coming back here feels like coming home.
I didn’t grow up here, but this year, I’m not merely visiting my parents, I’ve come home for Christmas.