My mother’s favorite song to blast on Saturday mornings from the cheap Sony stereo we had in a downstairs built-in cabinet was Engelbert Humperdinck’s song, “Please Release Me.” My father told me she’d meant it as a slam against him, a not-so-veiled effort at asking for a divorce. As her children, we understood the idea of release, the idea that she wanted to leave our Pasadena house. We assumed housecleaning was the root of her desires. I believed it was her need to go home to Mexico. On occasion, we considered the possibility that we caused her to want to flee.
The real reasons were probably more elusive that that because today, often these days, I want to leave everything and I can’t pinpoint a precise why. It’s all the above, it’s less, it’s something else entirely.
My weekend has finally arrived – I’ll get into an SUV with my sister, sister-in-law, and a family friend. We’ll have our little suitcases, packed with two days worth of stuff. Casseroles will be in the freezers, instructions written on notes and left on kitchen counters. Cell phones will be on and charged (so they can be shut off). We’ll hug our children and kiss our husbands on their noses. We’ll put the CD’s in the car stereo and feel the hot breeze coming in through the windows as we drive fast down the 210 freeway. We’ll pass into the 909 area code, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Redlands. We’ll drive through Yucaipa and Banning, and then head into Palm Springs.
The vista will change radically from the dense suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley (heavy on the urban) into the clutter-free, desert basin of the San Bernardino Mountains. We will see grand, brown fields of white, working windmills and rows and rows of electrical wires. We'll see the desert brush, the freeway without guardrails. There will be heat, a change from the recent cold of Los Angeles. We will see openness before the sharp rise of the purple-green-brown mountains. I take a deep breath as I write this, a cleansing one that runs from my lungs up into my shoulders and down through my limbs. I let go of the clutter in my mind, the junk that chokes me when I write and makes me irritable when I do the humdrum activities of running a household.
I imagine a different life – one that I chose on my own terms. I’d be living in a bungalow in Monrovia, a studio apartment in South Pasadena, or an apartment on the West Side. Would I have been bitter if unmarried? Would I have been desperate at 41 for a child of my own if I were childless? Would I have pursued my writing on a professional level? Would I be an English professor somewhere else, outside Los Angeles? Would I be sorry I hadn’t chosen law school?
Who would I be today without all the steps I’ve already taken?
I’d be funnier, I say. I have a feeling my self-esteem would be just as wrapped up in having a man love me as it is today. Sounds simplistic – there’s more to it than that. I need broad-based love and admiration. Students, friends, men. That seems to be hard-wired into me. Probably a hold-over from my mother wishing to run away from me. I’d probably be even more self-absorbed than I already am – I credit having children to a development of selflessness. I’d be angrier maybe about my parents’ early deaths.
I will breathe easier this weekend. I will write on my laptop and maybe in my notebook. Write with a pen, taking the time to spell out words instead of tapping madly to get them on the screen. I will read a little. I will laugh and drink and gossip. I will embrace the sensation of not being needed for long hours at a time. Two nights of nobody asking me to do anything other than, “Sit next to me,” “You want to eat here or there,” “Your massage is scheduled for three o’clock with big-muscled, non-gay Sven,” “Are you sleepy?”
What am I running from? Responsibility, maybe. The children. The dirty house. The noise. The choices I made with my quickly-passing life. The abandonment of what *I* wanted as opposed to what everyone else wanted, or what my logic told me was the right thing to do. Hard-in-coming satisfaction and contentment. Disappointing love. Love that disappoints? How is that possible? The built up inability to accept love. Proverbial walls built up around me to protect me against inevitable loss because believe me that will happen so I do the cutting of ties. I push away and then cry that love has been disappointing.
What am I running from? What am I always running from? I’m running from me. Gasp! Ancient epiphany. Cliché even. “Please Release Me,” my mother said. Release her from the life she’d chosen, from who she had become. Yes, I understand that. The big joke is … we can’t really run away from ourselves. We will follow US everywhere.
Salud! Cheers! Have a good weekend. I will return on Sunday, refreshed and miserable and happy to be blogging once again.