There is a backyard in California where time stands still. I lay down across a giant tractor inner tube and squint up at the bright sunlight shining dappled through the leaves. The grass is green and a bit too long. Odd fences crisscross the yard, remnants of dog breeding attempts. But right now I’m all alone, eating a hot dog with mustard, kicking my bare feet, and channeling my mother.
This yard is the only place she and I have shared, the same place, the same ages. Generations melt away, and I know that we are for once sharing the exact same experience. I hear the traffic driving by that she heard, the same frog sounds in the pond across the narrow dirt lane. I smell the grass and blackberries she smelled, and taste he same French’s mustard. I cold hot dog leaves the same greasy coating on the roofs of our mouths. We feel the sunburn on small spots of our skin where branches let the molten sunlight through. We both avoid scorching hotspots on the dull black tube.
Nothing in my mother’s life paralleled my own except this one summer afternoon in this yard on La Barr Meadows Road. She who married at 16 and finished high school, GED, at 35. Six older siblings and no dad, living always in California with rain and plants growing wild. Me a mom at 30, college graduate, oldest of four, and boy did I have a father in my life. Growing up in deserts, nothing grows by accident or of its own volition. Rain is still a fascination to me now, I’m 41.
And her life wasn’t sunshine, but I got to see her carefree and happy when we shared a sunny afternoon when we were both 12.