On a recent trip to Phoenix, I took a quick detour before visiting a friend from high school. I wasn’t planning on it, but as the scenery became more and more familiar and I couldn’t help but see images from my past in the baked sidewalks, I found myself turning down a side street.
The Glendale Public Library’s main branch is surrounded by a lush green lawn and the Glendale Water Conservation & Xeriscape Garden which winds through the parking lot and up the pathway to the entrance. Brilliant and colorful peacocks roam freely, spillover from the nearby Sahuaro Ranch Park, creating a wholly unique soundtrack. Experiencing this again felt like coming home.
This is the library where my sister and I would go after school to play on the computers or work on homework in the afternoons before one of our parents could pick us up when we were younger. Shaved ice and cotton candy stands outside kept us occupied when the books couldn’t hold our attention.
Later, when we moved to a house down the street, this was where I found respite from the heat during the long summers since we kept the air conditioning off to save money. I would walk through the park on my way to the library, often leaving around sunset. My backpack full of books, I’d run into my mom as she was arriving after work, her own selection of novels in hand.
I walked through the familiar stacks but didn’t linger long; I had only wanted to briefly indulge in my whim before continuing on with my afternoon. There will be more time to walk down memory lane and, although the last house my mom had lived in before she passed away was within arm’s reach, the library brought back enough feelings. I wasn’t quite ready for more.
That night, after dropping my friend off at someone’s birthday party that I didn’t have the mental energy to attend, I turned down another familiar street.
I almost didn’t recognize the house, driving past it at first, but there it was. Us moving here marked a change in school districts to a new elementary school that lacked an orchestra program and friends I had grown up with, and we stayed through my junior year of high school before moving near the library. I wondered if the new residents covered up the dusky pastel desert mural my late grandma had painted in the entryway when she and my grandpa lived there before us.
As I sat in my car across from that old house—where I had snuck out more times than I’m proud of, where the pomegranate tree in the backyard offered its fruit in the fall and the tall citrus trees provided the perfect climbing opportunities—I realized that an entire maternal line no longer exists.
Mothers make the most selfless decision when they choose to carry life inside them for nine months. Making sure you have all the tools you need to be happy and successful once you arrive becomes their priority.
From taking me to private violin lessons and waking up early to drive me to 6 a.m. marching band rehearsals, my mom supported all of my endeavors, but it took her cancer diagnosis almost five years ago for me to truly understand the unconditional love of a parent. I didn’t have a car at the time and took the Greyhound to Phoenix whenever I could, even if it never felt like enough. Each time I asked if she wanted me to take time off work to visit longer than a weekend, she insisted it was fine and I should focus on my job and summer internship. I should have ignored her though. When I look back on those missed opportunities, I feel guilty that I’ve been able to largely get back to my life without much interruption. I brought this lingering guilt up in a conversation with my therapist and she said this independence is a sign my parents did a good job raising me. Although, that doesn’t mean I don’t still wish I could talk to her every single day and hear her advice on navigating the intricacies of existence.
Be sure to thank your parents for being there to raise you while you have the chance, especially your mother as we approach Mother’s Day this weekend. She’s the reason any of us exist in the first place.