Growing up in Arizona has its advantages. No natural disasters, swimming 7 months out of the year, and I never had to shovel snow. It is truly great for those reasons. However, in the house I grew up in proximity to, I learned that the Arizona climate is more troubling than you might think. I say in proximity to because around the time I turned 8, my mother all of a sudden became very excited about me "camping" in the back yard. At first it was fun! Being outside, experiencing nature, learning to survive with nothing but my wit, a pack of Ramen Noodles, and a cup of luke warm water. And the pup up tent I had was not much but it got the job done. My dog Gizmo (a nearly blind lhasa opso with dread locked hair) and I would huddle up in the tent and reminisce of better days. This was all well and good until I visited my old bedroom to find that my bed no longer had sheets on it. "That's weird," I thought to myself but didn't think much of it. Then the next week my actual bed was gone. I just continued sleeping in my tent as my mom insisted I was having a great time. Then a short three days later I returned to my room to get a long overdue change of clothes only to find that the locks had been changed on my bedroom door. "What gives, Mom?"
"We had to make room."
"For what? That's my bedroom!"
"Your father has decided he wants to get in to shape. He's going to take up running."
"Round is a shape!" I insisted to no avail. "And what does that have to do with my room?"
"We're getting him a treadmill."
The only thing dumber than running on the street with no destination was doing it on a machine that keeps you stationary. "I thought you were enjoying camping? Aren't you having a good time?"
"I was, but I am ready to sleep in my bed again. I think I need to see a chiropractor mom, my L5 is killing me!"
"Your vertebrae are fine, Mike. They're not even completely fused yet; you need to give it time."
I reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that the back yard was to be my new home. I headed outside only to find my loyal hound tearing my tent to pieces. I forgot I had left the last corn ration that my mother had given my under my pillow. "Amature!" I thought to myself. So I decided to form a shanty out of the old tent pieces and the leaves of a fig tree that I took from my neighbor's house. The nights started getting longer as winter began to rear its ugly head. Now winter in AZ ain't all that bad but you don't want to be outside either. Gizmo and I found out real fast the secret to staying warm in the winter was body heat. We came to really depend on each other. I coveted his long winter coat and I assume he coveted my opposable thumbs.
I truly learned to appreciate all that I once had thanks to my mom having me sleep outside. I hold no hostility toward her now. And through all of it, she continued to take care of me. She explained that my restless bowels were caused by making my oleander tea, and that I could close an open wound using the sap from the rubber tree. She would come out on the nights when the weather man would predict a hard freeze and cover up me and the hibiscus I slept next to with Tony's old bed sheets. I felt so warm on those nights. So loved. I only hope that my kids will feel the same kind of affection.