“cowgirls don’t cry, ride baby ride..it’s gonna hurt every now and then, if you fall-get back on up again..” Brooks & Dunn.
I’m homesick. I miss my mom. I miss my grandma. I miss the smell of wood burning in the air. I miss talking at the kitchen table with my dad about everything from the local basketball team, polities, the Tribal government, who he saw at Bashas yesterday and donuts. I miss the sound of the wind blowing at night. I miss the sound of dogs barking. I miss the smell of coffee and fresh bread. I miss visitors at random and people laughing.
Some days I think I could trade in my convertible, my office, my salary and move home and be happy with a tribal house, a garden and my family. But, it’s not that clear or simple. I don’t know if I’d survive there.
The reservation isn’t an easy place to exist. People are poor. Alcoholism is normal. So is diabetes. Health care is poor. Medical care isn’t available 24/7. Wal-mart is over an hour away, it closes early and frankly-it’s a dump. Teen pregnancy is socially acceptable. There aren’t enough libraries.
I worry sometimes about being candid about the social ills there. Other ndns jump on me and call me a traitor, liar or they ignore me. We have a fear about disclosing our ills. We’re taught not to talk badly about one another, but we do it all the time. We live in a society of oxymorons.
Tangent: My paternal grandfather drank himself to death and was found near the rail road tracks by his hogan. They say he was traumatized by the war which was probably true because all I ever saw was darkness, anger and fear in him. This time of the year, I think of him and how I never got to know him & oddly-I feel grateful for that. Sad sometimes, but grateful. He was not a good man. Maybe he did great things in the war, but as a human being, he was a real jerk.
But, family skeletons aside-there’s lot to love on the reservation. For one, there’s space. I can see the sky. It’s blue, clean and clear. The clouds puff and roam to their choosing. I can run in the open and there are hills, valleys and mountains. There are horses. Sheep run along side the road. Children ride their bikes everywhere. Skinned knees, ice cream and pickles constitute a good summer. There are a lot of uncomplicated features living out there. No to mention, every where you go, you know someone.
I worry sometimes about Cheeto growing up here in the city, about how he’ll acclimate to who he is as my son & more importantly as a Navajo male. I want him to know his culture and his language, but I worry sometimes that I can’t teach him alone. How do I teach him what it means to be who he is? Of course I’m not alone, I have friends, Michael and my family-but there are times (like now) when I worry that he’ll be 20 and sitting somewhere far from the southwest and someone will say to him-who are you? And he’ll stare at them blankly.
I hope that my father can teach him things he taught me. I hope that Cheeto can learn about the importance of our land, our families, our clan and connection. I hope that he knows that I didn’t decide to live here out of rejection or fear, but that I chose this path because I felt it would be better for us/him in the long run. I didn’t want to him to stop learning in the 6th grade. I didn’t want him to turn to sex or drugs because he was “bored.” I didn’t want him to think obesity was normal. I want him to explore. I want to foster curiosity.
Given, I didn’t grow up to be a total waste & I was raised on the reservation so it’s not all that bad. However, I also left with a lot of unhealthy baggage. I grew up thinking abuse was normal. It was such an enbedded concept that it took me running from someone and landing myself in a nearly homeless situation in graduate school to internalize & understand on a very deep level that it wasn’t ok. (That and some therapy.) It’s a long and complicated story, but thanks to friends and continued hard work, it all worked out. I’m hopeful that he won’t have some of the darkness I took from the reservation & had to overcome.
I think it will be process of growing for both of us. Seeing as how I’ve never had a son, I think that’s a good place to start. I’ll let go of the pressure of what I think he needs to know to be a good Navajo man for now. I suspect Michael already has ideas about what being a good man is about anyways and that’s a great place to start.