It wouldn’t be a family trip if I didn’t think I was going to die at least once.
But this was no rafting excursion like the one we took in Quebec in 2015 where I emerged from the rapids, gagging water in front of our tour guide, the fear of drowning still pulsing through my veins. No, Sedona Pines Resort in Sedona, Arizona, coddled us. Could the safe, secluded life in our timeshare last forever? Mini-golf, free laundry facilities, a glorious swimming pool, and a main office brimming with all the free movies or games we could wish to borrow told me yes. But we couldn’t stay in our cabins with that majestic red rock singing to us beyond the windows. So, we pulled on our hiking attire and set out, choosing a jaunt to Devil’s Bridge, the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area.
The trek was 1.8 miles roundtrip and easy, one source said; it wouldn’t leave you breathless, but the views would. We parked at the trailhead and walked in.
Forty-five minutes into our hike, I turned to Husband. “We must be getting closer.”
A few hikers returning from the top greeted us with nods. “You’re almost there.”
We saw the sign then, designating that spot as the beginning of the 1.8 miles. And so we carried on, climbing the well-traveled path. Soon it brought us out onto a clearing of flat rocks for our first real view. Hikers speckled the area, their gazes trained on the vistas beyond. I looked where they were looking, and my stomach plummeted.
As a child I had tormented my dad on family trips, running up to rocky precipices and faking like I would jump. Dad would huff out an “Uff da!” and look away. One time he was brave enough to collapse onto his belly, low-crawl to the edge of a cliff for a peek, and drag himself back to safety. Somewhere along the way, I had become him.
“You go on ahead,” I said, waving off the family. They could climb up on their own to see the prince of darkness’ platform, or whatever it was called. I would sit, avoid death, and steady my breathing.
Husband returned from the summit with a photo of Dicka on the five-foot wide “bridge”—no guard rails or fences to keep her on it—and I snapped my focus away. If I had only known the little she was standing on…
I hiked back down the mountain with my family, leaving my queasiness behind on that rock.
The Gin Blossoms’ “Follow You Down” played on our daytrip to Sierra Vista, our home from 1998-2002, reminding me I had done just that back in the day when Husband’s job called him to the Mexican border.
We pulled up in front of the Sierra Vista Community Hospital to show Flicka and Ricka where they were born, but the memorable spot was gone, replaced by Cochise College. I took a picture of our desert babies in front of it anyway—for me. Then we drove to the house we had brought our swaddled bundles home to, but it was a blank brick box. Hadn’t there been some cacti in the front back then, or some color from something? I clicked a picture of the girls on the street in front of the old place anyway, hoping my memories remained stronger than the truth. And we moved on.
The skies above Tombstone, Arizona, were cloudless azure that day—just like I imagine they were on the day of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral. We parked near the main street, trading the car’s air conditioning for the dusty heat of the infamous town, strolling through the streets as we described the 1880s skirmish to the girls.
“Never heard of it,” Ricka said.
My jaw slackened. “How is that possible?”
I ran a Google search on my phone, listing off all the players in the historical event, hoping to trigger something in the girls’ minds. Although not a participant in the gunfight, the name of another Old West outlaw popped up on my screen.
“Billy the Kid is trending today,” I said.
Husband laughed. “Why?”
“It’s his birthday.”
We celebrated with ice cream while we admired the world’s largest rose tree, a 134-year-old beauty that spanned 8,000 square feet, and near it, I spied a man eating a rolled-up piece of flatbread.
I pointed out the familiar-looking food to the girls, an uncanny likeness to a treat they knew. “Do you see that?”
Ricka chuckled. “Lefse.”
I told the man what it looked like to us Minnesotans, describing the Norwegian confection to him.
He smiled. “They make these tortillas over there.” He nodded to a place down the street. “The stuff you buy in the store is garbage.”
We cruised on to the old copper mining town of Bisbee, then rolled along to Douglas, to the wall at the Mexican border where years earlier a younger Husband had sat for long shifts behind the wheel of a government Chevy Tahoe, red dust from the desert staining his olive-green uniform.
The hospital and the house from our past as we knew them may have disappeared, but the view outside our car windows—and Meat Puppets’ lyrics streaming through the vehicle—told me my memories of the border were sharp.
“They may seem rearranged
In the backwater swirling, there is
Something that’ll never change.”
Sedona Pines Resort in our rearview mirror, we drove to Horseshoe Bend, an incised meander of the Colorado River, near Page, Arizona.
“You better bring plenty of water,” the lady at the attraction’s entrance said. “You’ll be walking for thirty minutes.”
We climbed out of the car, and along with the multitudes, trudged the distance in 102-degree heat, first up a stretch of sandy hill, then down a beachy path that curled toward the lookout spot. A horseshoe-shaped body of water glistened a thousand feet below us. I respected the edge, scanning the scene once before turning to drink in the sight of the visitors. Oh, to identify all those languages…
The world followed us to our hotel that night in Page where we all splashed together in the hottest swimming pool of my life, apparently built more for community than cooling. I dove under and resurfaced. Swedish words floated on the breeze. I swam to the deep end. A sentence in French bobbed by me. I dog-paddled in a circle. Chinese dotted the air, punctuated with a laugh.
World peace might be a ways off, but in this pool we’d all be okay.
Come back next week for the third installment of the story.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.