Tucson gets under your skin and into your blood. Once it’s there, you will always call this city home.
Like many of my murals, this is a love poem to Tucson. My childhood in Connecticut was filled with my mom’s tales of growing up in the Old Pueblo. Part of a post-war migration, made possible by the allure of newfangled air conditioning and a promise that the desert air “would cure what ails ya,” twenty-six-year-old Richard Norton followed the siren call of the Sonoran Desert and moved his family west in 1951. Alas, the climate could not cure nephritis, and Richard died shortly after arriving. But the family stayed, and so his mother, Joan Norton, continued to make the long journey from her farm in Switzerland to visit her grandbabies here in Tucson. The photograph used in the mural was captured on one such visit as she tried out the “cowgirl look,” posing for my eight-year-old mother off camera.
It’s funny how we end up calling Tucson home: part luck, part history, part circumstance. A car breakdown, an irresistible job offer, kidney disease. We may try to leave, but we always come back. Tucson becomes us and we become Tucson; together our stories create the colorful, complex pattern that is life in Southern Arizona.
Joan Norton c. 1958 posing during a visit to her grandkids living in Tucson.