By Louise Ure
Alafair was right yesterday … the weather does affect us in inestimable ways. It was 109 degrees when I left Sydney and it snowed here in Tucson Sunday, for the first time in decades. (Of course, it’s70 degrees here today, but why let a good whine go to waste?)
I’ve returned to Tucson to finally settle my mother’s estate. She died two years ago this week, but the whole family got caught up in other – and in my case, more dire – circumstances and we couldn’t get things settled until now.
It has been decades since I’ve been here for longer than the expected four day Christmas visit. This time, although it’s fraught with potential conflict, I have the time to see the whole extended family, to eat at all my favorite restaurants, and to drive up to the foothills to see the snow if I want to.
My family numbers in the hundreds here, although there are probably only six or seven surnames involved. (No jokes about white trash marrying cousins of the same name, please. We have lots of males in the family and they in turn married into big families and sired lots more males.) But it’s the women in the family that hold it together. The women who care for the generations before them and behind them, who safeguard the memories, who tell the stories, who dust off the pictures. I celebrate them all.
If I knew that the bombs would blast on a certain day, I would make sure to gather this whole extended clan of siblings and cousins and nephews and in-laws. Among us there is a farmer, a rancher, a chicken breeder, a scientist and a teacher. There’s also a judge, a bookkeeper, a house builder, a songwriter, and a couple of nurses. In going through all the old family papers these last couple of weeks, I see that I am not the only or even the best writer among us. Taken as a whole village, the people I am related to could recreate the world.
Of course, we’ve got our fair share of ne’er-do-wells and dope dealers and scalawags, but that’s what makes it interesting.
In all my visits these last few decades, I’ve stayed at hotels here and maintained a polite but friendly distance from my three siblings. They didn’t have room for us to stay, and it felt intrusive to me. This trip we’re all staying together. We rise together and go bed together. And in between, we eat too much and laugh at jokes both old and new.
I have rekindled my happiness in making calabasitas and chorizo in my mother’s kitchen. I have once again recognized how important my siblings are to me.
In the 1970’s, trying to describe my brothers and sisters, I wrote a short essay about how each of or them would react to a boulder in the road ahead of them. I wrote that my eldest brother, Bill, who died of cancer at 29, would not have noticed it, intent on an architectural challenge he was working out in his head. My only sister, the other half of the coin to my lack of empathy, would have placed hands on the rock to understand why it was there and try to love it out of the way. The middle brother, a scientist and thinker, would have fashioned a giant lever to move it aside. And the baby brother, faster with fists than with rationale, would have beat against it until both he and the boulder were depleted.
They have not changed since then, nor has my opinion.
But we’re laughing together again. And together, whether it’s with love or a lever, we’re going to get this god damn boulder out of the way.
Tell me a story about families, ‘Rati. Either the one you have or the one you wish you had.