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I’m a little late in getting this posted, but the sentiment is all the same. This list is an annual tradition here at Oh Fair New Mexico.
As I post this, I’m thinking about making a batch of biscochitos. Only, I couldn’t find lard at the grocery yesterday. What the hell kind of place do I live that doesn’t sell lard? Just gotta shake my head.
Anyhow, biscochitos or not, I wish happy holidays to you and yours.
Without further ado:
Originally published December 11, 2007
1) An annual shopping trip to Old Town in Albuquerque. This was a longtime mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out my own ornament that would eventually be mine when I became an adult. I have every one of those ornaments stored in a Thom McAnn shoebox and they go on my tree every year. They are a glitter and glass history of my life. I remember buying each of them and it gives me a beautiful sense of continuity to have them on my tree.
2) Luminarias. I always was the one to make them for the family. Someone would drive me to an empty lot and I’d dig out two buckets worth of good New Mexico dirt, then I’d go home and fold down the tops on brown lunch bags. Each would get a candle inside and then at night I’d light them. It was my holiday job and I loved every folded bag and every bulk buy candle (and every small emergency when a bag caught on fire in the wind). I miss real luminarias.
3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a walk in the dark on Christmas Eve to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. On the way to Christmas shop at Winrock Mall, I’d take a detour to the Bugg house to take a look. No one does lights like the Buggs did.
4) Neighbors bringing over a plate of freshly made tamales as a Christmas gift. When there are three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and shredded pork, magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would bring tamales to work in a battered Igloo cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a dozen or more.
5) A ristra makes a good Christmas gift. I’ve given. I’ve received. I love ’em. They’d become a moldy mess here, and that makes me sad, cuz I’d love to have one.
6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented.
7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. Growin’ up, I think one year there was actually snow on the ground for the 25th, but it was melted by the end of the day. Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love your weather.
8) Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Spanish with the overpowering scent of frankincense filling up the overly warm church. Pure torture for a small child, but oh how I’d belt out the carols. And when we came home after, we could pick one present and open it. Gah! The torture of choosing just one!
9) A New Mexico piñon, gappy, scrawny Christmas tree that cost $15 at the Flea Market and was cut from the top of a larger tree just that morning. Look, to my mind, it ain’t a tree unless you are using a few low hanging ornaments to fill the obvious empty spots. These overly fluffy trees just ain’t my bag. If you aren’t turning the bad spot toward the wall, you paid too much for your tree.
10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s, both served with homemade tortillas. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the broth flavored just right. And posole to bring you luck with red chile flakes and soft hunks of pork. Yeah……
*sigh* Now I’m homesick.
Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now…but sometimes I feel melancholy. In a way, that’s what the holidays are for, right? To remember.
Finally, in order to just really drive a homesick knife into my heart, I give you this, the beauty of Old Town Albuquerque:
Image via Delta Skymag
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Subtitled: An Open and Passive Aggressive Letter To A Jerk
Dear Festering Canker on the Butt Crack of Society,
On the weekend after the American Thanksgiving holiday I see that you managed to find yourself, and maybe a few of your slackjawed mouth breathing friends, in my neighborhood.
I can’t blame you because I live in an awesome neighborhood. Those houses that line the block are old, pristine and outrageously expensive.
It’s a neighborhood so nice I can’t afford to live here. Well, I mean own here. My economic status is evidenced by the nearly fifteen-year-old vehicle that I have to park on the street in front of the building that houses my teeny tiny apartment.
One of my neighbors who also lives in a small but well appointed apartment had parked her nearly decade old Volvo behind me on that fateful day. I know her, she knows me. We park near each other a lot.
So yeah, there are some really rich people who live on my block, but my neighbor and I are not among them. We managed to slip our middle class selves unnoticed into this nice neighborhood and enjoy the benefits of tree lined quiet streets and a walking score of an outrageously high 93.
I can see how you might show up in this neighborhood and see the opulence and think to yourself, “I need to mess some sh– up.”
And so you started with my neighbor’s Volvo. About eight months ago this same very nice person had a different Volvo, but a drunk college brat came careening through our street and bounced of her car and several others (thankfully I had parked across the street from her on that night) thus totaling her beloved old Volvo. That thing was a classic. She was heartbroken.
But her insurance kicked in and she lovingly replaced it with this used but in good shape model. You decided to be “cool” and rip the side mirror off of her new/used car. Ripped it clean off and left it dangling by the electrical cords. Aren’t you so clever?
Then you set your sights on my Jeep. You popped the passenger side mirror out and folded it over. It’s an SUV so it’s okay to do that. It’s a tough offroad vehicle and I’ve moved past bendy Willow branches that were stronger than your weak sauce.
It appears you wrestled with it a little bit because the case is cracked but your underdeveloped arms weren’t strong enough to twist it off of my Jeep.
Pause here, hand to heart in honor of my Jeep people.
So, since you weren’t able to complete your impotent act of vandalism, you then moved to my radio antenna. Yes, my Jeep is so old it still has an old fashioned non-retracting antenna that stands tall, reaching far into the universe to pull down radio waves and send them to the interior of my vehicle.
I have listened to hundreds and maybe thousands of baseball games on that radio using that antenna. Jon Miller’s voice so deep and bassy that it vibrates the cheap factory installed speakers in the doors. Well, speaker and door, singular. The driver’s side speaker hasn’t worked since 2005 and I never bothered to get it fixed.
But that’s not the point.
You got your giggles satisfied by ripping the antenna off my car. I can see from the clean spot in the dirt on my Jeep you had to lean in a little to get that done. I hope my antenna gave you a valiant fight. I hope you tore some skin when you ripped the metal and then carried it off.
You know, I grew up in the kind of place where there was really nothing to do on a weekend when school was out. My friends and I did some seriously stupid shit, too.
The quest to steal lawn ornamentation comes to mind. As young bucks we’d get a little sloshy and then go on the hunt for lawn ornaments. The people and culture of New Mexico tend to lend themselves to neighborhoods littered with plastic and clay items purchased over the border and brought home then proudly displayed on patchy grass and dirt lawns.
So yeah, we took stuff, but we always treated it nicely and often we’d go out on another night to return the things we took. Not always to the same lawns, granted, but the intentions were good.
All that by way of saying that I get it, the need to be young and dumb and act like an idiot.
But for eff’s sakes! There is A LOT to do in this town. We live in a hotbed of unique things to do, and not even all of them cost money.
Nah, you wanted to leave your little limpy mark on the world by destructing the property of some people who value our tired old hoopties the most.
Congratulations. You win. You got me.
I will rebuild. I will eventually have my antenna replaced. For now I listen to either scratchy FM stations or I pop in a CD. Yes, my car is so freaking old it still had a CD player.
And as the Christmas seasons dawns merry and bright, my wish for you, dear vandalist, is that Santa Claus takes a giant squat in your stocking while smashing your favorite ornament to bits.
And that someone takes something that you value very much and vandalizes it.
Image found here.
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If we make it through December
Everything’s gonna be all right I know
— Merle Haggard
Every year “If We Make It Through December,” a classic Merle Haggard song that was released for the first time all the way back in 1973 becomes the theme for my holiday season. I have been playing it on repeat in my car as I drive back and forth to my job.
I also play it when it’s dark in the morning and when it’s dark in the evening. As the rain comes down. As protestors shut down access to my home and helicopters hover in the sky. As my feet ache and my head hurts and I wonder why, for another year, I’m anxious, depressed and overwrought during the happiest time of year.
Every year I look forward to December and the holiday season, hoping to capture some small bit of that childhood joy and anticipation and magic. I watch movies like “White Christmas” that are filled with optimism and dancing and songs about snow.
Every year I feel crushed by an avalanche of end of year business activities. It’s the nature of the profession I have chosen that December is just always going to be craptastic.
And then current political events put a little exponential anxiety to this year’s festivities.
Now I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year
Happy, yeah. Full of cheer. Ho, ho, ho. Yesterday should have been a really good day. My boss held a breakfast holiday celebration for all of her team. Then one of my main client teams had a holiday luncheon for us too. A day of eating? Hell YES!
But in between those two events, I had a bunch of other meetings. I was late to most of them and got chewed out. I was running hither and thither to get to these “fun” events where my attendance was fully expected.
At the end of the day I had an inbox full of emails and angry voicemails from people expecting me to get my other work done.
So I stayed late at work (again!) and tried to get somewhat caught up. I worked off most of the code red items and left the code orange for another day.
Then I went home exhausted and emotionally shut down. I was not a good spouse to The Good Man or a good human to my Feline.
Hell, I didn’t even plug in our Christmas tree yesterday. Yes, last weekend I managed to get our fake tree put together, but it is not decorated. I usually love to make cookies for the holidays, but not this year.
Instead I made toast for dinner and then went to bed. Feliz Navidad.
If we make it through December we’ll be fine
But as I whine on and complain loudly, I suppose all is not lost. This year I introduced The Good Man to December’s theme song. This happened while we were taking a drive to go see Merle Haggard play a live show at my favorite concert venue in Napa.
How bad can my month be if I get to see one of my all time favorite musicians play live? A musician who has written songs that make up a lot of the soundtrack of my life.
The Good Man is going through his own turmoil this December and so the lyric we most often repeated to each other on our hour long drive was this one, “If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”
And we will. We’ll be fine. This hell and highwater (literally, one of the highway exits in our town was flooded out so we had to seek an alternate route) will recede and we’ll find our way back to level ground.
I don’t mean to hate December. It’s just sometimes it feels like December hates me.
Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014
Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014. Taken with an iPhone 6 and run through Instagram. Photo subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right column of this page.