Monday, August 16, 2010


The post office at Fin del Mundo - the end of the world, or the ends of the earth

No matter how much I try to stand out in the world, I am really a walking cliche. I am part of the Baby Boom generation, so I have a lot of peers. I am overweight, like so many Americans are. I am middle class and white. I even have a blog, like how many million other people?

But the two cliches I embody the most are the two best. I have a husband who literally followed me to the ends of the earth, and a mom who literally walked through fire for me.

My husband did not want to go on an Antarctic cruise the first time I brought it up, or the second time, or the fifth time. After three years, I had given up on getting him to go when one day he said out of the blue, "So you want to go to Antarctica." Shortly after we paid the deposit in the fall of 2008, the stock market crashed, and he began having second thoughts, but we couldn't get the deposit back anyway, so we decided to prop up the world economy the best we could with our travels. The ship left from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, and home of the Unidad Postal Fin Del Mundo, the official end of the world. I love to brag that my husband followed me there.

Without my mom, though, I wouldn't have been alive to have those adventures. My "mom" is actually my stepmom. She came into my life when I was 8, three years after my mother died, so she's my mom, even though our relationship was rocky, to say the least. The only thing we seemed to have in common is being hypersensitive and quick to take offense. Otherwise, she was an extrovert high school drop out to whom family and friends were everything; I am a bookish introvert to whom friendships come hard and grades came easy. If we had been more easy-going people those differences might not have mattered, but they did.

But if she didn't accept me, adore me, or understand me, there is no doubting the woman loved me. One day, standing in our cold kitchen trying to make breakfast, I reached over the stove. My dad had left the oven on and the door open to heat the kitchen, and despite being a supposedly bright 14 year old I did not think to close the oven door first. Before I knew it, my robe was on fire. I panicked and screamed for my mom. Not knowing what else to do, she walked up to me and pulled my robe off me with her bare hands.  For the next two weeks, she had to have people help her with her intimate needs until her hands healed. For the next six weeks, I was in a hospital having third degree burns debrided and skin grafts in six different spots, but I was alive.

I would like to say that that incident was a turning point in our relationship, but it was not. We tried to reach out to each other but always wound up feeling mawkish and gave up. Mom did support me through my divorce from my ex, and she adored my son, but we were never close. I don't know if she ever did know how much I appreciated what she did for me.

So I am, as I said, an ordinary person, one of a large and undistinguished crowd. But I have a husband who followed me to the ends of the earth and a mom who walked through fire for me, and I wouldn't trade that for a Nobel Prize.

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