I met Vivian while camping at Miguel’s Pizza at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. A single lady traveling alone tends to stand out amongst a bunch of dudes living in their vans in the parking lot. We hit it off as soon as she asked about my dog — “Chalupa, that wouldn’t happen to be short for Chalupa Batman would it?” Holy shit….I thought to myself. This lady watches The League?! “Sure is!” I responded.
From there, we were fast friends. Vivian, or “Mama Grass” as she first introduced herself is I would guess, about my parent’s age. From the way she talks about him, I think her son is about my age, in his mid to late 20’s. Mama Grass is a blonde, smallish woman, but she is fiery. She’s an army veteran, a mother and I’m sure she would agree with this statement, badass southern lady.
Two ladies alone in the parking lot already had a lot in common, I asked her what brought her down to the Gorge. She said, “well, my son lives here at Miguel’s. Rather than disown him like other folks seem to do with their kids when they run off, I followed him here since he seemed so passionate about this dirtbag stuff.” The fact that she knew what dirtbag meant impressed me, we continued to chat.
It turns out, that Vivian has a few kids, but the one who lives here has been here a while. She was skeptical at first but was impressed with the counterculture, the honors system that actually works (not many places you can leave your $2k laptop charging and not worry about getting robbed!), and the overall palpable passion for outdoors that is felt here.
What really impressed me was that not only has she visited, she spends a week here in a tent every month just to see her kid and cheer him on at the crag. EVERY MONTH! That’s insanity. And, she’s learning to top rope. Which in her words; “for a lady pushing 60, is pretty damn impressive!” I agreed. Mama Grass is indeed a badass.
We ended up continuing our conversations over the course of a few days, running into each other on the way to our campsites, talking about the Gorge, my dog, her kids, her upbringing in a family full of girls and her close relationship with her dad. The fact she and both her sisters went into the army and that she can joke with her dad that he really did get the sons (through some very tomboy daughters) that he wanted after all. The fact that depending on what people call her (Mama Grass, Mama [other name I forget], Mama [yet another name I forget] even if she’s never actually met them, she knows which part of her life they’re from — turns out she raised a few nieces and nephews and hosted more than a few of their friends on her couch during some rough patches in her family life. She keeps a close network of kids and their friends and it’s clear why. She strikes me as someone who was always there when you needed her. What I loved so much about meeting her was here willingness to throw herself into a completely foreign culture and environment and just roll with it. She was new to the gorge and learning all about it and she owned it.
Perhaps the reason she struck such a chord with me is that she reminds me a bit of my own mom, Mama Bachesta. It’s her birthday today and maybe that’s why she’s on my mind more than usual. Robyn is also a total badass. She has also thrown herself into countless unknown territories and environments and just rolled with it. She also has done things way out of her comfort zone in the name of bonding with her kids. She also goes (way) out of her way to spend quality time with my sister and I individually (and all the friends we’ve ever brought home). I guess what’s coming out of this post is, thanks Mom for all that you do to be there and present in our lives. Thanks for being a friend and a mentor and a parent, and thank you for being a constant source of support while I chose to quit a perfectly good job and live out of my car.
Wishing you the happiest of birthdays. 56 never looked so good!
Love you lots,