My granny raised me in Phoenix, Arizona. My most vivid memory of those years was always trying to make friends with someone who had a pool. Otherwise, you spent your summers trying to uncap fire hydrants, stand under sprinklers or stick your blistering feet into six-inch, deep creeks that held more crawfish than water. By the time I was 18, I fled to California in my VW bug, swearing that I would, “never, ever return to a land of nothing but cactus and old people.” Well, two weeks ago (and 45 years later), I have returned to that desert once again.
This time, though, I am one of the ‘old people,’ and that’s fine by me. No more shoveling snow or slipping on ice. No more bundling and layering against the cold and watching the sky grow dark by 4 PM. No more hunkering down under blankets in front of the fire or turning on the faucets at night so the pipes don’t freeze. At last, I’m warm under a wide, open, bright sky and it’s heaven.
One Christmas, shortly before I graduated from high school, Granny gave me a Smith Corona, portable typewriter, along with a silly joke book about saguaros. I LOVED the typewriter. The book? Not so much. Inside were silly pictures of saguaros with goofy captions. At the time, I remembered thinking, ‘I hope I never have to look at one of these old, prickly things ever again.’
Now? I love their weaving arms and the holes that birds have made in their trunks for nests. I admire how they rise from desert rock with seemingly no water or nurture whatsoever. I applaud the statuesque beauty with which they carry themselves. Mostly, I wish that I had that old, silly book back. It told me that saguaros don’t reach their full height or produce their first blooms until they’re 70 and that they don’t even grow their first arms until they’re close to 100!
Next week, I am hosting four girlfriends at my place for Thanksgiving. Some of them I have not laid eyes on since Granny gave me that typewriter and saguaro book. I worry they might find me old, wrinkled and gray. But if they are worried about the same, I shall remind them that if we were saguaros, we have not yet reached our full height! For now, I am thrilled THAT we are all still here, standing tall and upright!!