I woke up in motion. Our rickety old van clunking along the 10 freeway through Texas. The desert sunlight shone through the van’s back window, where my bed was, and baked my fair skin into a honeysuckle hue. All of the windows were open to keep us cool. The dry wind whipped our hair into stringy tentacles, sticking straight back like an erect flag.
I rolled from the backseat, comprised of boxes covered by knitted blankets, and onto the middle seat. I landed on Delilah, our buxom black pug, and she yelped. Sabrina, my pre-teen sister, snapped from the passenger seat as she grabbed Delilah — “Watch it.” My mother glanced in the rearview mirror at me — “Morning Bubzie.” She smiled, soothing and comforting, then refocused her gaze on the road ahead. We only looked at the road ahead.
Sabrina acted as co-pilot, keeping track of the map, as she slathered peanut butter onto oat bread. I had stolen the loaf a few days prior from a Wal-Mart just outside of Fort Stockton. We had peanut butter on bread for most meals. She gave my mom and me our slices and let Delilah lick the peanut butter off of the clear plastic knife. The peanut butter stuck uncomfortably to the top of my mouth. “Can I have apple juice?” I peeped. Sabrina scrounged through the box of goods that we tucked underneath the front seat, resurfacing with a lukewarm jug of apple juice. I took a swig. “Don’t get any spit it in.” Sabrina groaned. Sometimes, it was inevitable.
We spent the morning playing “Guess The Roadkill”, spotting armadillo after armadillo that sprawled out on the road, crushed, gun-metal gray with flashes of pink and red flesh. My mom blared John Denver, even though, secretly, his music made me cry. It reminded me of California, of when my mother was in hospital, of before. To cheer me up, my mom pulled over to the side of the road, “Let’s go for a little adventure.”
Our van perched atop the elevated grassy rest stop as we tumbled down into the prairie. Texas wasn’t exactly an oasis, but the crunchy weeds and hot neon flowers served as slate for my child brain to morph into a wonderland.
Daffodils broke out in spontaneous patches, purely wild. My mother cooed a stanza of Wordsworth —
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,”
She pulled out our disposable camera and told me to sit in the middle of them; flowers never fail to cheer up a sad face.
She was right.