This came to me, a gesture from someone at the event, a rare photo of my son age two and a half. He was so stylin in his little Peruvian bowler and fringie leather jacket. He managed not to lose that hat for years–until? I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to it. Amos knows how to watch out for his stuff. Notice the sharp eye he’s laying on the dog who is sniffing around his basket. There may have been a candy or two; hippies weren’t big on wasting precious food money on empty calories. Those eggs he’s holding will go into that basket and be enjoyed, every one of them. The weather was good and we can’t see it here, but there was a pig or goat roasting in the ground beside the house. It may have been roasting all night, and I don’t remember eating it, but I do remember the guys tending it, especially so no kids would come near and fall into the pit. An old-fashioned matanza, I would come to learn the Hispanic tradition of the huge party, the roasting animal, the boards on saw horses with a feast pot-lucked by all for all.
The teenagers are sitting on a low, unfinished wall that marks the shape of a front yard where a few years later, when Amos is turning five, Lucia and her son Miguel, and Amos and I will take a turn at being the renters of the house. It was a nice place. A real house owned by the neighbor Fermin who ran his cows and sheep every where but that little yard. Out back were a couple of acres of cow-heavenly green and a pond with a raft that every kid who lived there was forbidden to play on, but most likely every one of them did. I used to go back there and watch Amos pole himself around the pond. He’d learned to swim but there were murky things, old wire and fence parts and it was dangerous. He was careful. He watched out, and a bit like me, his mother, I think he believed that no harm would come to him.
The property was on the road to El Salto, the Tooth, as the steep hills, mountains really, jutted up in a cathedral wall of pointy rock. My friends lived up there on El Salto even after splitting with their husbands; one was Ellie who lived on the edge of a spring-fed pond where a neighbor on the other side had built a sauna. I was jealous of the mountain dwellers who all owned their property. Who lived in homemade, hand made houses. Had their own meadow and out door kitchens, but the two women who were raising their kids alone, without the help of on-site husbands were my friends. We stuck together.
We had a home child care co-op, four or five days a week rotating the option to bring your child to another mother’s home and yard, be it full of dirt or snow. The weather was a friend whose mood one had to know; we all knew how to dress ourselves, our kids, and the co-op worked pretty well. When Lucia and I both got jobs in town at Joe’s Restaurant on the boardwalk, we scrubbed the house up, got the kids’ best toys and books on display, and invited the county to certify us as an official, licensed home day care. The government was left leaning enough to realize women needed day care, and day care didn’t exist. This home-certification allowed us both to get paid for watching each others’ and one neighbor’s kids. We had to have opposite shifts at Joe’s but it worked.
I found it almost unbelievable that the government paid us to watch each other’s kids. But why not? We only took in one other steady customer, a single dad’s boy, but three little boys was plenty enough to call it a job.
I think it may have been that plan, plus the decision to get help from a therapist in Alamogordo that turned my life around forever. A simple flip from downhill to up. A decision to live in the light, no longer the dark. That happened. Of course, the therapist, was a genius, and I still quote his little tips to others I encounter who feel trapped or stuck in a nosedive. One of these days I’ll post that list: quotes from Dr. Robert Waterman that have helped me these last forty years.