I loved Charon. She was one of my dearest friends in San Diego for many years when our kids were small... breastfeeding pals, birth junkies, one of the doulas I trained... just an awesome friend. When she moved, I lost touch with her. She isn't on social media, but I just found her address and will write her a snail mail letter.
But this is about an adventure she and I went on once... when we were trying to figure out if we were supposed to be midwives or not.
Where the wild hair came from, I don't know, but she and I found ourselves in her car thinking, "Let's go to Mexico and find a Curandera!" Curanderas are healers, midwives, witches... the wise women of the village. We immediately went into total un-PC mode and tried to think what a Curandera would want in trade for her wisdom. Unfiltered cigarettes came to mind. (Can you see me rolling my eyes in complete shame now?!?) And microwave popcorn. Where that came from is beyond me, but we stopped at a store and bought both. We also had sandwiches, fruit and a lot of water.
Then we headed South.
We had NO idea where we were going! We turned off the highway onto a small, barely asphalted road, and somewhere along the way, we entered Mexico... no border crossing, no sign... just after driving for a couple of hours South, there was nowhere TO be, but in Mexico!
We began seeing little tiny houses, multi-colored, but it looked like someone had taken sandpaper to them. We headed into a neighborhood... barrio... and the first person we saw, I asked in my terrible Spanish (I wasn't fluent back then), "Where is the Curandera?" Amazingly, the man pointed in a direction I could understand. We drove on... into a new barrio... and asked again. The same direction was pointed out, so we went on. We asked about five people before someone pointed to a house three away from where we were.
We parked the car and walked up to the door... and the Curandera opened the freakin' door before we even knocked!!! She looked at us like she was expecting us and invited us in.
Her house was a shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Every level space had candles (many lit), and statues of Mary and Jesus... they were everywhere. It was very dark in the tiny space even though she had the curtains pulled aside. She sat us down at her table that had two chairs and talked to us. I caught about every third word, but the gist was we were to begin praying to the Virgin Mary for guidance. She knew we were looking for guidance? Hmmm.
In my broken Spanish, I explained to her about our conflicts in becoming midwives. We had little kids. We were getting older. We didn't have money for school. The Curandera waved off each concern. In no uncertain terms, she told us to suck it up and get ON with life already.
Then she brought out the Ball Jar. It held a pink liquid and was about a quarter full. She turned to Charon and said that she was the one that was most scared, so she had to drink some of the liquid... it would make her fears go away. Hesitating, she finally reached out and took the jar. She took a small sip and her face scrunched up tight and I thought she was going to throw up. "It tastes like transmission fluid!!!!!" She tried to give the Curandera back the jar, but she pressed it into her chest/heart and said anytime she felt fear, she was to drink some of the liquid.
Charon kinda laughed and said, "I don't think I will be afraid of anything ever again!"
The magic worked!!!
It was time to leave and we brought in our meager (and terribly driven by old Westerns) gifts and the Curandera followed us back out to the car and tossed the cigarettes and popcorn back in. She began rummaging around and found the fruits and water and took all that we had. We helped her carry everything back into the house. I realized, because it was getting darker, that she had no electricity and no running water. It was sad to leave... she gave us huge hugs and kisses on our cheeks.
Then we got back into the car and looked at each other; how do we get home? Drive North! So, we headed out and just depended on divine intervention to get us back to the States.
We drove a lot longer going home than getting to the Curandera's house. We drove on a mountain (that we never even saw going down!) with terrifying winding roads that had no barriers on the dropping side of the mountain. I dared to look down and EEK! There were buses crashed down the hill. Cars. Oh. My. God. If we fell off the side, NO ONE would know where we were! We hadn't told a soul where we were going. We would have just vanished. We started laughing about it WOOSH! our car was picked UP by the wind and set back down again with a thud. We stopped laughing. She then drove about 30 miles an hour the rest of the time on the mountain... cars lined up behind us. We didn't care.
To this day, I have no idea how we found our way back to a US highway, but we didn't go through Border Patrol that time, either. Just all of a sudden, signs were in English. We drove home, glad to be back on American soil.
When I get scared, I think about Charon's jar. I wonder if she still has it.