I was feeling kind of bad on the night of February 5th, 2014. That’s because earlier that evening I had shouted some pretty mean things at my mom for soaking 3 cups of lima beans which is way more than 3 people could possibly consume in one sitting. Yes. I had an argument about lima beans because food has pretty much always been important to me. Of course, no one could see it my way, and mostly they were right—and that’s the story of my life.
I am a 31 year old Persian and Italian mix that has grown up everywhere, belonging to nowhere in particular, and have currently found myself out of work with little savings to go on in one of the most expensive cities in America. So you know what? I feel like a little lima bean rationing is in order. I live in beautiful Marin County in Northern California. I have a small, well furnished apartment and I barely get by with a little consulting work and extra generous parents. But my life is kind of a disaster and my relationship with my mother is one so fraught with dramatic ups and downs that I’ve been told that I should write about it so here is my flawed perspective. I’m really quite terrible at timelines so let’s start at….
I was born in England in the fall. I can’t really recall if I liked it there. I think I might have, but I never got the chance because at 9 months old my Mom decided it was too bloody cold and wet and she demanded that we leave that sorry island for a shot at the American Dream. She picked the driest, hottest place in the USA that she could think of: Arizona.
I grew up in the heart of the Sonoran desert, which is actually a pretty nice place if you don’t mind the dry summers, snakes, scorpions, javelinas, and jumping cacti - which of course as kids, we didn’t. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, sometime in early 1986 I received my very own brother—or as I saw him —a life size doll to experiment on.
Growing up in Arizona was fairly easy despite being one of the only two ethnic kids outside of the Indian reservation in a very small, very white retirement community called Fountain Hills. At the time, we had the world’s tallest fountain and on St Patrick’s day the town dyed it green, because there was no environmentalism to speak of. On Halloween we would go trick-o- treating and the retired folks would hand us cash instead of candy because they didn’t realize kids lived in the area. We grew up with all the holidays in school, and I mean all of them. Holidays like Johnny Appleseed day, Big Blue day, and Columbus Day and other obscure celebrations were very important to the Fountain Hills Elementary School System. It was only later that I discovered many of the celebrations were quite non-existent in places that actually had an educational curriculum. But, boy do I miss those fresh caramel apples on Appleseed day.
As kids, my brother and I loved to play in the desert wash. If you’ve never heard of a wash, it’s like a little valley formed by flood waters during the rainy season -yes Arizona has a rainy season- and these washes were prone to flash floods but that didn’t stop us from playing in the relative greenery that we found down there. And before you chastise our parents for letting us grow up unaccompanied, keep in mind that I wouldn’t trade one minute of time spent among the ironwoods and cottonwoods, which provided shade in the heat and a mossy surface to play on. And play we did. Our imaginations ran as wild as we did.
We rode our radio flyer wagon down steep streets, fast enough to qualify for the Formula 1 races - until the wheels flew off, and then we were sparking on the hills metal-on-asphalt style with only the wind to stop us. We built huge forts to hide in during the sky-splitting thunderstorms, and spent time creating fun carnivals for ourselves on our homes roller coaster-style winding 100 foot driveway.
Despite all the fun, I found as a child, I had a rough time of things. Again it’s pretty much my fault. From the young age of, well from the moment I was born, I was a fiercely stubborn little girl. I’ll give you a few examples. Let’s start with my earliest memory, at the young age of four, my Mother decided that I no longer required warm milk in a yellow hush puppy-shaped bottle before I went to bed, instead I could enjoy it cold. I had a different opinion altogether. While she tried to convince me that I’d be fine drinking the cold white liquid, I explained that despite her thoughts, I loved warm milk and if she didn’t heat up the milk to the proper temperature, I’d never drink milk again. Well she didn’t warm up the milk. To this day I have not voluntarily drank a glass of milk. Hey, I figure it’s been this long so why break the winning streak? It’s moments like this that span my career as a child.
Moments like the time I ran away when I was six. My mother and I got into it, for some long-forgotten reason, and I explained through tears, as I packed my pink Wuzzles rolling suitcase with random articles of clothing and my security blanket, “I hate it here. I’m going to run away!” To which my mother calmly replied, “Ok. Go on then.”
I continued to sulk and exited the house, despite my confusion at her nonchalance. “Maybe she really didn’t care about me,” I thought to myself as I began the long arduous climb up the winding driveway around noon in the Arizona summer, stopping by the orange trees to grab snacks for the journey. Persians love fruit and my Mom had planted a bountiful variety of fruits in the yard, from which I snacked on almost continuously as a child. But that was neither her nor there. Right now I was engaged in a battle of the mind, body, and soul.
“She probably wishes I was never born,” I pitied as I turned the bend halfway up the long driveway, dramatically dragging my feet and my suitcase under the hot summer sun. I looked around at the beautiful palm trees, and bountiful fruit trees that I was leaving behind. I was running away for real, and I carried the weight of the six-year-old world on my shoulders as I did it. Life was so unfair.
I was nearly to the top of the driveway now, “I’ll have to find a way to get food. I know I can eat the prickly pears,” I affirmed to myself as sweat dripped down my brow. I had to take a quick break and eat one of the oranges or I’d never make it to the top. “I can probably camp somewhere. Maybe the coyotes will eat me and put me out of my misery,” I thought to myself. It must have been around 3 o’clock at this point because the sun was incredibly hot and I was fighting off the hallucinations that come with heat stroke. “I had better take a break under these palms.” My brother was playing in the yard and my Dad was working on building a retaining wall at the bend of the driveway. “Great, my brother… what am I gonna tell him?” I thought to myself as the young toddler waddled up to play. “I made a commitment and I’m sticking to it,” I picked up my things and continued to march slowly on, brother in tow. I was just a few dozen feet from the edge of the driveway and sweet, sweet freedom. My mom came up and without a word, took my brother back down. Great. Now I was alone, truly and utterly alone. But as a six year old who had a deep commitment to the integrity of my words and actions, by golly I was running away and I was sticking to the plan. No backouts.
So I stay at the edge of the driveway for the next 3 hours. I contemplated the meaning of life. Twice my Mom came up to see if I was hungry, and I prided myself on ignoring the woman and sticking to my guns. By 5:30pm I was sick and tired of the taste of oranges. I think I was on my sixth one and really, I needed some diversity in my diet. My Dad had long gone, finished with his construction for the day and my brother was still sadly under the rule of mother. I felt sorry for him.
I had counted several passing cars to pass the time and was starting to lose interest in that so I pondered which cars contained bad guys, and which ones were my neighbors wondering what the heck I was doing so close to the street for so many hours. I had to avoid their detection because they might report me to my Mother. It was 5:45 and my tummy was rumbling like I had my very own monsoon inside me and by six o’clock, I could smell dinner cooking. “Ariana! Dinner’s ready,” the woman called. Something about the tone in her voice sounded like she had given in. She sounded like she needed me to eat something. As if perhaps I was required in order for the others to eat. I had to go back down. I couldn’t leave my defenseless brother and Father to eat on their own. They needed me.
The battle was lost, but the war was not over and I fought valiantly, but I could not escape the clutches of a freshly prepared dinner. I mean really, who could? I grabbed my suitcase and ran down the driveway, three oranges still bouncing inside. And really, the point was made, wasn’t it? I had succeeded in a 5 hour coup on the Powers That Be, and dinner was the peace offering that could calm a stubborn but starving little six year old. But dinner didn’t work forever. As I got older, the battles became more sophisticated.
TO BE CONTINUED….