On the way into the valley. Trucks hustle by - moving billboards. The view of the sky above the hills fills with cloud-like chips, a pink face like a bubble-gum angel, meat, a mattress – like film clips from a strange story. Beyond the highway sun and cloud shadows slide over the hills, giving me a feeling of homecoming I haven’t had in a longtime –since before filming. If I didn’t know better I think it was a welcoming place. A host of popsicle and sunburn memories invite me back as I see the houses with their flags and banners. Then I see the sagging porches, the ragged yellow ribbons tied to trees, hands holding big gulp sodas and surly eyes watching everything and pretending to see nothing. Then I remember scenes of ice cream bought with the embarrassment of using food stamps, or of some pretty cousin laughing at a BBQ, hiding a black eye with heavy make-up made all too obvious by the sun.
It is always a shock to see the family these days, especially the women. I see more of them than I have in years but more often as images from the film than in person. It skews my sense of time passage. My mother looks older and worn but sweetly so as always. A now blonde Daneal plays with her son, proud to be a good mom, but the discontent is there. She talks of having another baby while panting to keep up with Abel. Donna appears, tired and obviously strung out from wrestling with old demons. She’s one tough fighter (metaphorically and literally –she recently broke her hand in fight) but at the moment she seems too thin to resist the weight of her past. And of course Desi, with those sharp eyes and that sharp mind, watches the battle –her own face looking shrewd and fragile under messy spikes of hair. Then off she goes, witty, ironic and whacky, all the qualities that need to be nourished for her to get out of here and have complicated homecomings of her own in the future.