A Thank You to the Universe for our Zihuatanejo Connection.
The flight was on time as it descended over the basin rim into the desert. Phoenix in mid-April was green golf courses and swimming pools surrounded by alfalfa fields and sprinklers. I pulled my eyes from the magazine I was pretending to read. My hands were trembling from the apprehension of meeting my oldest daughter, Sam, to board a plane to Zihuatanejo. I knew she had not agreed to this trip without persuasion.
The trip itself was the result of many hands. God had a plan.
In the taxiing plane I heard my friend’s stern voice two months earlier brooking no dissent: “Just hear me out before you say anything. I’ve booked you into a writer’s retreat in Zihuatenajo for late April. You need to go. You’re not writing and you need to be. Go and let it change your life.”
That phone call had frozen me with apprehension. Mexico—alone? From the way my stomach dropped at the idea I knew I was not brave enough to go alone. My heart, my instinct called for my daughter.
She had objections: a single week of vacation built up, not enough money, but beyond her objections I recognized her apprehension about spending a week together. What if we hated each other?
She had left home at seventeen for college and never returned. What if after all the years of living apart—of chasing separate dreams and missed connections—this was our only chance and we blew it? But if we didn’t try we would never know.
But maybe knowing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be!
She stalled. I fussed to her father about her indecision when secretly I was doing the same thing. It was her father who negotiated the truce, the man who didn’t really want me to go because it was southern Mexico—he hated Mexico—and he would have no power to save me if something went wrong. This husband of mine called his daughter without me knowing and told her I wouldn’t go without her.
Fast forward to Zihua:
Fate had decreed it was time.
Miles from home, the novelty of adventure freed us. Tears turned to laughter as we struggled to find common ground, mother and daughter, offspring of my teen years when I had little to offer her except my love.
Laying on our beds that first night we began to talk, first of inconsequentials, then of the disappointments we had each suffered at the other’s hand. When exhaustion claimed us my firefighter daughter demanded that we make an evacuation plan. She placed a flashlight and our shoes by the door while I scoffed, not yet ready to relinquish the parent role to this adult daughter who had grown tenacious in the missing years.
In the middle of the night when the first temblor rocked the hotel I accepted the small earthquake as a sign that flexibility and respect would be a good thing. By joint agreement she became the leader of the expedition.
Seven days later we were friends in a way we had never before managed, our hearts healed of the nagging fear that we had somehow missed our connection. Here’s what I wrote to celebrate our week.
Thank you, Zihua’
The week was productive and inspirational. My daughter and I left our mark on the little town. I asked questions of every bartender and waiter, every vendor and taxi driver who would tolerate our Spanish. We rode a bus with broken windows to Petatlán and were taken in hand by a couple of eager seventeen-year-olds. We caught the stench of freshly-butchered pigs, ate cow head enchiladas, and brushed off flies and proposals of marriage with equal adroitness.
We adored Lenore and Veronica and Elsa and her husband. We dined with an opera singer from Mexico City and advised her in her marital distress over a bottle of wine at midnight. We rose at dawn and ate cerviche at the fish market, and enticed Jose the cantina owner into telling us his story of lost virginity at the hands of a Greek goddess who was nineteen to his seventeen.
Sweet days. We made friends with the geckos on our wall and nodding acquaintance with the iguana in our tree. We toted home fresh cocos and pinas and laced the shells with rum. We tossed Else’s bougainvillea into the sea at midnight and made a wish to return. We bought Latina sandals that made our legs look long and hootchie- mama dresses that made us feel great.
We danced to a Bolivian CD in the dark and watched the houses on the hill swell with the afternoon light. We bought morning coffee for the Indian woman who carries flan on her head, and turned down an offer of product from the local drug dealer. We taxied to Ixtapa and ferried to Las Gatas and attended Easter Mass at the church of the Virgin of Guadalupe. (And knelt in reverence at the cathedral at Petatlan) and saved our sunburn for the last day.
Oh yes, I finished twenty-five pages of most excellent prose for a total of seventy-five pages on my novel. If we missed anything we’ll be glad to retrace our steps. We have found paradise.
When we returned My husband wanted to know why I looked so relaxed. I told him it was the humidity.
In a lifetime a mother should be so lucky to share such a trip with a daughter. We were both profoundly touched by our experiences. A Norwegian reporter from New York told me she was reading Willa Cather and my book, Branches on the Conejo at the same time and found herself lost in the similarities between us. I read Cather’s My Antonia in Zihua and I found a part of my whole. Thank you, Universe, for your part in my journey.
Anne Schroeder writes about this trip and other experiences of the Social and Sexual Revolution in her baby boomer memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite, available through Amazon and e-books. Her social history of Southern California, Branches on the Conejo: Leaving the Soil after Five Generations is available at Amazon. Her books are also available through her blog: http://anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com
She describes her husband as a stallion running in circles around her, trying to keep her in the corral while she pushes to expand the circle. After 44 years it seems to work for them.
Anne has nearly a hundred short stories and essays published in print and e-magazines. She has won multiple awards, including a LAURA award for Western short story, the NightWriters Gold Quill, Writer’s Digest, AAPW, and WIN-WIN Persie. Connect with Anne on her Facebook link.
Anne, Thank you for sharing your honest story about reconnecting with your daughter who left home at seventeen. This question, “What if we hated each other?” and “What if after all the years of living apart—of chasing separate dreams and missed connections—this was our only chance and we blew it? But if we didn’t try we would never know.”That one week together worked its magic and I know there are many mothers and daughters out there who will thank you for sharing and I know your story will make a difference in someone’s life.
Please leave a comment for Anne and I know she’ll be over to respond. Also share her story with others you think might enjoy reading it.
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