Here’s probably the only time you’ll hear me say this: I wish I was in Arizona right now. Not because of the weather or the changing political climate or any sort of change at all: it’s the state’s non-change that appeals to me. As in, they didn’t change their clocks forward, showing eminently more sense than almost all the rest of the country.
I learned of this sensibility the hard way, long ago. My grandma, John’s mom, lived in Sun City, Ariz. (part of the Phoenix Metroplex), but she very prudently spent her summers on the shores of Grand Lake in Colorado’s high country. Every year a grandchild was deputized to drive her north, and one year it was my turn.
I boarded a plane somewhere in Colorado — all these years later, I can’t even tell you where — and flew first to somewhere in New Mexico, probably Albuquerque, before going on to Phoenix. I was very dismayed when we landed in New Mexico at the time I was scheduled to arrive in Phoenix.
This was way before the world of instant communication, and I worked myself into quite a lather, worried about this old woman waiting and waiting for me at the airport. This old woman who probably was about the same age many of my friends now are, which means I would no longer consider her old.
I didn’t deplane in New Mexico, and even if I had, there was no way to reach Grandma Ruth, standing at some gate in the Phoenix airport wondering where I was. I also couldn’t figure out how we’d lost so much time, to be one hour behind scheduled arrival only halfway through an uneventful flight.
I probably spent the entire second leg of the flight sitting forward in my seat, trying to make the plane go faster, and when it landed I dashed off, straight toward Grandma Ruth. “I am so sorry,” I gasped. “For what?” she wanted to know, and when I explained that I was an hour later than intended, she directed my attention to a giant clock in the terminal showing pretty much the same time as it had been an hour before in New Mexico.
Arizona, it turned out, spends its winter on Mountain Standard Time, and its summer on Pacific Daylight Time. Or, as they probably like to think of it, Rational Time. No need to worry about spring forward, fall back or any of this nonsense that’s got me dragging and the animals all off schedule this morning.
Even the allure of time sensibility is not really enough to make me really want to be in Arizona, however. I believe this was my one and only trip to the state, unless you want to count the tiny little corner travelers cut across on their way to Nevada or California on I-15. Arizona is just not my kind of place.
It spoke to the majority of my grandparents. While my maternal grandparents lived just two hours away from us in Colorado, they loved traveling the Southwest, and we got lots of postcards and souvenirs from places like the Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. And even though my trip with Grandma Ruth didn’t have me in Arizona very long, no more than a couple of days at most, I did discover far more diversity, climate-wise, than I had been expecting. But it’s still too hot for me.
I don’t remember what time of year it was. May? June? Whenever it was, it was blisteringly hot in Phoenix, and we went straight from the airport to her house, spending the rest of the day tucked safely inside. She made dinner and then we watched a Hallmark movie — back when they offered their “Hall of Fame” productions that weren’t all their White Christmas romances. This one featured Johnny Cash as an illiterate truck driver and a woman who did not become his love interest teaching him to read. Grandma Ruth was quite happy that it didn’t end as a romance.
She didn’t say so, but as I’m surmising now, Grandma Ruth, a woman of several notable accomplishments who had a school named after her in Nebraska, probably was cheered no end to see a woman whose purpose in life, or at least the movie, was about more than finding a man to make her happy.
The next morning she was up unspeakably early, opening every window in the house to let in the only cool air of the day — along with a riotous amount of birdsong. I think we hit the road not long after that, heading up I-17 through an endless parched desert that speaks to lots of people, including some relatives, but not really to me.
I don’t really remember how long John had been married to my mom, but it couldn’t have been more than a few years, and this was my first chance at getting to know my new grandmother. But I don’t now recall anything we talked about.
I know she introduced me to Navajo fry bread in Tuba City, and I discovered Flagstaff, which comes with evergreens and altitude and sometimes even snow (not when we were there, but I saw a sign for a ski area, which shocked me). If I had to live in Arizona, that’s where I’d go, but since everything I like about it is that it reminded me of Colorado, why move?
I do also recall being surprised at how savvy my grandma was about young adults, but of course she had a lot of grandkids all of similar age, not to mention her own kids and her own life, so I was hardly her first rodeo.
I do remember she offered having us stop at Four Corners, the only place in the United States where four states meet, but I don’t recall if I took her up on it. It had been a very long day of driving, mostly in the heat, by then, and I just remember being relieved that we were stopping in Cortez for the night instead of pushing on another four or so hours to Gunnison.
My favorite moment of the trip came in Cortez. Grandma Ruth was resting in the motel, but I wanted to stretch my road-weary legs. At some point in my walk a car stopped and the driver, mistaking me for a local, wanted to know where the Post Office was. As it happened, I had just passed the Post Office a couple of blocks back, so I nonchalantly provided directions, just like a local. Good thing he didn’t ask where he should eat dinner.
Our arrival in Cortez ended my sojourn in Arizona, Land Where Time Stops — or at least doesn’t make stupid decisions. We wrapped up our drive uneventfully the following day in Gunnison, where she stayed awhile before pushing on to her final destination of Grand Lake.
And so today, as I woke up in complete darkness to find I’d slept an entire hour “later” than usual (when really, it was the exact same time), I found myself, in a rare moment, thinking wistfully of Arizona — which then reminded me of the Arizona time spent getting to know my grandmother.