I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Chicago.
For now, let’s call it a Winter Walkabout.
Earlier this summer I went on a walkabout: Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, 3 weeks in Chicago, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and back.
I had to go to Chicago for family stuff, and when it came time to go home I discovered I was near the top of the map and had never seen that part of the country.
It was an adventure. Utah won, with its amazing natural scenery, but everywhere I travelled had a story and a vibe.
Now, I’m going back again for more family stuff. That’s about the only reason I’d spend the winter in Chicago. I live in the desert about as far South as you can go in the U.S. for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that I don’t like cold weather. At all.
So, winter in Chicago it is.
This trip, I’ve decided to zip through Oklahoma and Missouri on the way to Illinois. I’ve driven through Oklahoma once before and I’ve never been to Missouri.
Aside from Betsy and her kids, my entire family lives in Chicago. I’ll be thinking of that as I drive through Oklahoma, where my mother was born. I don’t remember a lot of her mythology- her dad was a character- Cecil.
Cecil was a roughneck who supplemented his income by participating in bare-knuckles boxing contests. By the time I met him he ran a pool cleaning service near L.A.
Mom’s mom, Gladys, was… well, I don’t know much about Gladys because she was a semi-mythical figure. The story I remember is that she had cancer and died with her head on my mom’s lap when my mom was 6 years old.
I seem to remember this happening near Lawton-
Cecil wasn’t the single father type, and mom and her little brother became orphans- farmed out to aunts and uncles- the poor relations, which pretty much defined mom’s identity for the rest of her life.
She married at 16, which was apparently not uncommon back then. A miscarriage and a bout of boredom led her to leave her first husband after a few years. Shortly thereafter, she took up with my dad and my history began.
So, I’ll be driving through Oklahoma thinking about Cecil, Gladys, and my mom… and dust bowl roughneck bare-knuckle fist fights.