First of all, thanks to all of you who participated in the win-a-great-memoir contest. Short and long, the family stories posted in the comments were great. I urge you to read all the them if you didn’t when you posted your own story or if you’re just checking in now.
And the winner, chosen by Random.org, is… #11, a story of a family journey from small town Pennsylvania, which involves cowboy boots and an affair with a woman named Juanita:
#11 Both sides of my family were working class, small town Pennsylvanians. They died in the same small towns they were born in and there was no money for vacations. My father was an exception. In the early 50’s he was driving a tractor trailer, hauling steel from PA to OH. We moved to OH when I was about four years old, and, after a couple of years, my father “took up” with the married secretary in the small trucking company where he worked. In those days affairs and divorces were scandalous and it was not uncommon for lovers to leave town rather than face the malice of their families and neighbors. He and Juanita went on a road trip that ended up in Tempe AZ. I remember after he contacted us I could not believe he was living in cowboy land and had a girlfriend with such an exotic name. Two years later he and my mother reconciled and he showed up in a turquoise Ford Fairlane hard top convertible. And he was wearing a cowboy hat and boots. What a shock, he had left his small town conservative self and gone native (no pun intended)! I ended up in Tucson after moving around quite a bit and sometimes smile to myself thinking that my dad was out here so long ago and muse about how different it must have been. No air conditioning, sunscreen, or misters; I don’t even know if ceiling fans were widely used. He would have never have been mistaken for a Father-Knows-Best type of dad, but I am glad he showed me that by traveling you can discover new sides of yourself.
It’s a great story and, by coincidence, very apropos–my air-conditioning unit died and (unhappily), I have been transported to Arizona back in the days of Cynthia’s dad. I am hoping that, by the time you read this, I will have less period atmosphere, more cooling.
I urge those who didn’t win to consider getting Survival in Paradise: Sketches from a Refugee Life in Curacao from Amazon. It’s an excellent book, and if you need to soak up the atmosphere, visiting this picturesque Caribbean Island with its colorful houses and colorful liqueur and beachy synagogue is a lot better than being in Arizona in the summer without air-conditioning.