Suck it Up
January 6, 2020 – Elfrida, Arizona
Some parents believe in “tough love”—don’t let your kids cry over the small things in life like falling down and scraping a knee. While I fret over every tiny bruise my grandkids get, their mom encourages them to “toughen up”. I used to find it harsh, but now I’m not so sure. What better way to prepare your kids for the real world when they grow up? Maybe if I’d been raised that way, I wouldn’t be so sensitive to criticism, so ready to run when things don’t go my way.
The holidays were a challenge. It was the first time in many years that I didn’t share in the excitement of my grandkids opening their presents, though I made up for it by spending long hours on the phone. We spent Christmas together in the trailer, Brent and I, sharing a dinner of spareribs, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was cold, but I had someone I loved to share my food with, and I was thankful for that. Later, we enjoyed the wilderness, hiking with friends across a magical, snow-covered landscape, and another cross-planting ceremony with my neighbor, Ed made me realize that there are those out there who have it far worse than I do.
Our trailer renovations haven’t progressed much, due to lack of funds and lack of time. But, to be honest, those aren’t the real reasons. The true culprit was the weather—bitterly cold winds blowing in from the ocean, bringing with them rain and snow. It was just too damn cold to stick my hands in icy water and wash smoke off the wood-paneled walls. It was all we could do just to survive, huddled around the pot-bellied stove, despite its leaking smoke, or curled up in bed beneath a mountain of sleeping bags.
It was the cold, in the end, that broke me. More than once, I packed up my suitcases and threatened to drive back to Washington. From there I’d make my way back to Hawaii, where I wouldn’t have to endure the biting winds. Brent tried to dissuade me.
“Stick it out with me, please. This is as bad as it gets. We’ve been through so much already, it would be a shame to quit now.”
My rational, logical mind wanted to believe him, but my emotions wanted to get the hell out of there. Then, slowly, things began to change. Brent worked out a deal with Danny, who owns the motel and much of the real estate here in Elfrida. In exchange for helping him out with carpentry work, we’d get free nights at his motel—hot running water, a shower, and heat.
For the past few days, we’ve been working on his rental property across the street—Brent’s been installing the kitchen and I’ve been doing clean-up. Danny expanded his offer to include a place to stay until we get settled on the property—an old nail salon that used to be part of the motel. It’s got a sink and bathroom, and he’s installing a shower.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m coming down with a cold, recovering from a nasty bee sting, and the last thing I want to do is return to that cold trailer. It’s looking less and less likely that we’ll be able to get the 60-foot home up to the property—there are too many curves and steep hills along that winding dirt road. That means we can either continue to renovate, sell it, and buy a smaller trailer, or move it to a different piece of land.
Here, in southeast Arizona, it’s all about connections, and we’re starting to make them. I met a woman today who is working on re-opening the Elfrida Emporium store. She’s an aspiring artist and craftsperson and we may be able to sell our shells on consignment in her shop. There should be enough carpentry work right here in town to keep Brent busy for a long time. It may be little more than a ghost town, but Elfrida does have its benefits. Low prices, no traffic jams, and a host of opportunities.
My New Year’s resolution this year is to keep my problems to myself, especially when my emotions are running wild. Better to take a few deep breaths and settle down before sharing with others. What initially appear to be overwhelming problems usually turn out to be nothing more than minor snags.
Dale, who owns the property where our trailer sits, said jokingly the other day:
“There’s no way I could cheat on my wife. The whole town would know about it the same day,” and he’s right. Small town gossip spreads faster than an Arizona wildfire out here in Elfrida.