A year or so before my hippie parents broke up, my mom and her boyfriend and myself drove across country in April. I was 9 years old and had already driven across country 4 or 5 times, so I was a seasoned car traveler, but this trip was different in that we were driving in April, and all the other times had been in the summer. In addition, perhaps due to the season, this time we were staying in motels and eating in restaurants rather than camping out. And my mom was 3 months pregnant with my brother.
Like a gestational craving, my mom had been possessed by a passion to see “the desert in bloom” and visit friends in California. We drove across Oklahoma (oil derricks) and Texas (artichoke season!) and into the Sierra Nevada mountains. High in a pass somewhere we encountered a not-too-rare springtime snow storm.
At least 2 feet of snow fell in a couple of hours that afternoon. Naturally, our car became stuck on the side of the road and we waited, hungry (we had no food with us because we weren’t camping) until a snow plow driver pulled us out. We followed SLOWLY, behind the plow until late at night we came to a motel with nine cabins, all vacant, arranged around a pristine white parking lot. The plow scraped a path through the lot and we got out of the car, tired, hungry and disheveled.
We rented a cabin, got the heat going, but the adjacent diner was closed. The cook couldn’t get there in the storm, and, until we got dragged in by the snow plow, there had been no guests to cook for.
The motel owner invited us to dinner in her cabin. To my joy, she opened a couple of cans of Chef Boyardee Ravioli (“I’m not wasting my money on that crap” my mom had once proclaimed) and, with cigarette ash dangling precipitously, scraped the goods into a pan. Plop.
As if in a dream, or a strange movie, after dinner, the motel lady’s miniature black poodle entertained us (me especially) by playing the piano. Black paws on white keys, she played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” before sending us out into the frigid Colorado night to our little cabin in the snow.