Thursday, February 9, 2012

Full of Holes: Part Two

      The girl watched the pop-up camper being cranked up and inflated like a balloon.  She loved the little home it made.  It was so compact and efficient.  Her Mom cooked dinner over the fire while she and her brother made mud pies where the cooler water had been dumped.  They also played army in the woods.  Her brother dressed in full fatigues blending seamlessly into the shrubs and needles.  After burning their mouths on hot pie filling and other campfire desserts, they climbed into the camper finding a nook in which to sleep.  Her sister, sandwiched between the Irish girl and herself in one wing, told her stories of grizzly bears and how they were taller than the van when standing on their hind legs.  The girl ran her finger along the flimsy seams of the thin canvas feeling the whisper of outside air.  Wondering if a grizzly stood on the other side, she was unable to fall asleep.
    In the morning they carefully spat their toothpaste on the fire embers.  The girl sat in her pop-up wing watching her Aunt neatly fold her clothes in tissue and put them in plastic bags and then in her suitcase.  Then her Dad cranked the camper down into a neat rectangle.  Pulling the camper behind them, they made their way to the Grand Canyon.
     She stood with her toes near the edge as she looked into the gaping hole in the earth.  What if she fell?  Her brother chased after a lizard as she listened to her mother inquire about the donkeys.  For some reason we weren't able to ride the donkeys down into the depths.  The girl couldn't decide whether she was disappointed or relieved by this prospect.  She'd overheard her older brother enthusiastically  mention that donkeys were afraid of snakes and upon sight were in the habit of throwing their riders off their backs.  On steady human feet they descended down the narrow trail.  Their steps disrupted sand sending it off the ridge and trickling down the cliffs.  She clung to the wall tracing the layered grooves with her finger trying to comprehend how and when water cut the rock away.
     After a couple miles down, several family photos, and a session watching a squirrel, the group turned around to hike back to the surface.  Her socks loosely encircled her tired legs.  Though thankful there hadn't been a snake sighting, she felt the weight of her exhausted body and dreaded the seemingly endless ascension.  It also seemed impossible to match her stride to that of her parents and siblings.  After struggling to keep up she asked her Dad to carry her on his shoulders.  Her Aunt immediately protested suggesting her Dad's heart would be taxed.  Her Dad was built to carry things----the radio during Vietnam, coolers packed densely with ice and meat, furniture out of the attic or into the basement.  She didn't believe that carrying her would pose much of a challenge.  Still several paces up a steep hill on a hot  afternoon left him winded.   Her Aunt continued to worry over her Dad's heart and insisted the girl complete the rest of the trek on her own two feet.  The girl caught wind of her Aunt's fear and now worried for her Dad.  She asked him to remove her from his shoulders.  Every step was pregnant with risk.  She begged him to let her down.  He refused-- carrying her all the way to the top despite all protests.  As the sun set, the girl gazed into the hole one last time as it now seemed merely full of guilt and threat.
     In San Diego they had a break from the pop-up camper and stayed in the home of her Dad's war buddy.  Although dark had fallen, her Dad was forced to inflate the camper to retrieve her Mom's tampons.  Her sister had the misfortune of receiving her first ever period and was too embarrassed to ask the war buddy's wife to borrow from her supply.  Later that night in her sleeping bag, the girl felt the earth tremble and heard the far off din of her Dad and his buddy laughing through crunched beer cans.
     In San Francisco they visited old and beloved neighbors who now owned a glass shop.  They each picked a memento, a fragile trinket to cart home.  The girl picked a teddy bear holding a heart.  The heart was red glass.  They soon headed home weary and tired of living so close to one another.  Once home her studs were removed from her infected ears, and the holes closed up.  Her hair grew longer, and her Aunt pasted together a thorough log of the trip.  She wouldn't visit the mall to re-puncture her ears again until she was 13.  Accompanied again by her Mom and sister, she'd commemorate the beginning of her first period.


  1. Anna, This is such wonderful writing. And it brings back memories of my own family camping vacations and our pop-up camper.

  2. Thanks Amy! I sort of feel this feverish panic to record all my childhood memories before they escape, and it also makes me wonder what is sticking with my kids-what memories am I creating for them?