It was the year of our Lord 1965.
Man had not yet journeyed to the moon.
But every summer America packed their cars.
“Fill her up with ethyl” my Dad would say.
And we would venture across state lines,
To “see the USA in a Chevrolet” like the TV ad said.
Our car was never the newest, or the best.
But it never failed us, and Dad was prepared.
The canvas Desert Bag could “save our life”, insisted Dad.
How my father loved that old bag.
My father’s “necessities” disturbed my childhood neurotic nature.
Axe, rope, shovel, among other items.
“Why this?” I pestered, as I fingered the axe handle.
Year after year his answer never shifted.
“The wilderness” he would beam and his eyes would sparkle.
The wilderness was a few nights at economy motels,
That lined the highways of places like Winslow or Lordsburg.
Rosalie and I would chime together “Do they have a pool?”
We would climb out from the back seat with deep lines upon our faces.
Lines created from hours of sleeping, pressed firmly against vinyl seats.
Dinner was provided by a nearby Howard Johnson or local diner.
I chose the same meal often.
Open faced hot turkey sandwich.
A child should never be denied gravy.
I was dejected when I could no longer order from the child’s menu,
Because I longed for that small silver dish of ice cream.
There is a long lost photo, taken with a Kodak Brownie perhaps.
Rosalie and I with tan summer cheeks wearing matching pedal pushers.
We are smiling at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.
Later in the day, we ceased to smile.
Thousands of winged creatures emerged from the caverns.
“Look mama!” I crooned with wide eyes. “Look at all the birdies!”
My mother clutched Rosalie and I closely.
Upon closer inspection, the birdies possessed fangs and little devil faces.
“They’re bats mija!” my mother shrieked as she closed her eyes.
However there stood my father smiling.
“Wilderness” he grinned. “Wilderness”.