The Roots of My Raising Run Deep

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Part V, and the conclusion of a five part series.

It was a short plane ride, take off, cruising altitude for something like a minute, then get ready for final descent into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas. My kind of town. Vegas and I go way back. Now you know my not so secret secret, I wasn’t actually born in New Mexico, I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada.

My dad was working out at the Nevada Test Site and one thing led to another and…

Growing up some of my friends liked to tease me that my parents took a gamble and lost. Oh! Hey! Good looking crowd. We’re here all night. Tip your waitress.

My folks loved living in Las Vegas, but for various reasons moved back to Albuquerque when I was very small. Really too small to remember much of life in Las Vegas. All I’ve ever known is New Mexico, so I still rightfully call myself a native.

I scrambled off that Southwest Airlines jet, through the jetway, and hit the carpet in McCarran Airport. I walked without hesitation to a bank of slot machines that were unoccupied and pulled up a seat.

My family likes to gamble. A trip to Vegas was my present for my twenty-first birthday. My folks used to get out there at least once, maybe twice a year and we kids often went along. I didn’t grow up in Vegas but I grew up an awful lot on the many casino floors through the course of my life.

The Vegas I know is an old school Vegas, from the 1970’s, and it always feels a little right to be there.

With twenty dollars in the slot machine, I managed to make it play for a little over a half hour. I’d get down to the last dollar then the machine would pay off again. I was on a nice hot streak. Not hot enough to cash out, but hot enough to have some fun.

When that was gone, I picked another machine and chased another twenty dollars around for about fifteen minutes.

When that was gone, I got up from the seat with a sigh. I felt hungry and went in search of something not airport-awful to eat. Over a really disappointing slice of Sbarro’s pizza, I stopped chewing for a minute and smiled.

A thought occurred to me. In that same day, I had been in New Mexico, I was in Las Vegas, and I’d soon be in California. Those are all of the places I have ever lived. Those are all of the places I know.

Those are all of the places I belong.

Kind of cool, really. Kind of a nice way to end my journey. A full circle kind of a thing.

My trip to New Mexico was, all in, pretty good. I was so glad I made the trip, so glad to see my best friend and my goddaughters, so glad to go home and immerse myself in memories (and make new ones too).

My trip to New Mexico was also a little difficult. You see, my dad died in 2005 and he’s buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. There was no way I could live with myself if I was in Santa Fe and didn’t go to the cemetery. And yet I really, really didn’t want to go to the cemetery. It’s not a joyful thing.

The last time I had visited was in 2009 and I was without a job and had lost my mind a little bit. I was scrambling to find a way to get back on my feet. That year I took a trip home to New Mexico to see if going back to my roots could help me find my compass needle.

I had cried a bit when my dad had died, but I was also a little stoic. My mom had asked me to be strong so that she didn’t have to be, and I agreed. I was as strong as I knew how to be back then, and a few years later there may have been some pent up stuff that needed to come out.

In 2009 when I found the stone that marks the place where my dad’s ashes are stored, it was a surreal experience. Gray skies opened up with rain and I stood there with my hand tracing the letters in stone and I cried, I keened, I howled. I scared the grounds crew. I honestly did, I freaked out this nice man taking care of the row of headstones nearby.

I guess back then I had some things I had to work out. On that recent spring day in March 2014, I was afraid that monster was still inside of me. I was terrified I’d find myself keening again at my father’s graveside. When considering going to the cemetery, I balked, I stalled, and finally I borrowed the keys to my friend’s new Suburban and set up Apple maps on my phone and took off on the highway, dreading it all the way.

Apple maps led me on quite a merry chase through the streets of downtown Santa Fe. That is a very old city, built by the Spanish Conquistadors so the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are high to accommodate horse drawn carriages.

With a little bit of axel grease and a shoehorn, I was able to navigate a huge Suburban through the streets, getting more lost by the moment.

Eventually, Siri found her head and I found my way, and there I was again, at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, both ready and not quite ready for what lay ahead.

That cemetery is always a difficult place for me. Rows upon rows of headstones mark all of my fellow New Mexicans who served in the military and who passed on, either in service of their country or later, as my dad had done. It is quite a humbling place for me, and that is even before I get to the place where I have to face my personal sorrow.

I had a bit of a false start, stopping at the wrong row of stones and realizing I was off by a bit. It didn’t take me a long time to find the right row and my father’s stone.

His ashes are in what is called a columbarium and it’s covered with a lovely piece of what I think is marble and secured to the wall with these connectors that look, to me anyway, like conchos.

They are so beautiful and so New Mexico appropriate.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth


For personal reasons, I will decline to post the entire stone, but I wanted to share a nice photo of that fastener. It stands on its own as a useful reminder.

On this visit I didn’t keen and I didn’t wail, but I sure did cry an awful lot. I put my hands on the now weathered stone and I traced his name and the word “Korea,” the war in which he participated. I felt the cold marble and I noted the sand blasted wear and tear and laughed at the unyielding New Mexico elements that caused the letters to already become faded. It’s only been nine years.

“Well, dad, I guess I’m doing a lot better than I was the last time I was here,” I said aloud. And I was.

Seeing my father’s name carved into stone never fails to break me on some level. After pacing a bit and having a pretty hard cry, I walked up the row and sat on one of the benches. It looks out over the valley and has a gorgeous view.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth



The mountains at my back and the dried grass and valley in front of me. The New Mexico unrelenting wind dried my tears the moment they slipped from my eyes. I laughed as the wind whipped at my hair. “Goddamn springtime wind,” I said to no one as I sat there alone.

Tumbleweeds of thoughts bounced in my mind. Through tears of sorrow, I smiled, because of that view, that place, that moment.

I had spent the past three days wondering I was even a New Mexican anymore. Sitting there, letting the climate steal my moisture and feeling grounded, I remembered that I always was and will always be.

I can never not be a New Mexican. Just as I can never not be born in Las Vegas. And I can never not be a damn near twenty-year veteran of California.

I am all of that. I am none of that. I am more than that.

I am greater than the sum of all my parts.

My version of New Mexico may not exist anymore but it’s mine. My particular brand of Las Vegas may not exist anymore, but I own it. My California is still telling me its story.

There is a lot left to learn about all of those places and as I gaze forward to the celebration of another revolution around the sun, I humbly admit there is an awful lot yet to learn about me.

What started as a fun trip to see my best friend in the entire world and my gorgeous godkids turned out to be something of a journey. A grounding moment in time that changed me, humbled me, reminded me and helped me grow.

I had no idea that was going to happen. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. To paraphrase one of my oldest goddaughter’s favorite songs (that dates back to my college years), I might have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss that dance.

And there is no way I’d ever miss out on a good dance with some of my most favorite people in the world, back home where I belong.





Both photos Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The fastener photo was further edited in Instagram.




Running My Own Traditions Here

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I think it’s time to re-run what has to be THE most popular post ever in the six years of this blog.

It originated in a fit of the holiday blues and a massive case of homesickness back in December 2007.

It’s all still true. Every word on this list applies in 2013. Pretty much all of the links were broken, so they have now been updated. I also gave 2007 me a light edit. Who was I with the two spaces after every period?!

Special thanks to @NewMexiKen on Twitter for recently tweeting out a link the 2007 post. You rock!

————


Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico


1) Annual shopping trip to Old Town. A mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out an ornament that was mine. I now have all those ornaments in a Thom McAnn shoebox that, yes, Sunday night I opened and hung them all on my tree. They are like a history of my life. I remember buying most of them and it gives me a good sense of continuity to have them on my tree.

2) Luminarias. I was the one who made them at my house. My mom would drive me to an empty lot to dig up two buckets worth of dirt and I’d fold bags, place candles and light them. It was my job and I loved every second of it, every folded bag, every candle that caught the bag on fire. So beautiful.

3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a Christmas Eve walk in the evening to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. When I would go to Winrock Mall to shop, I’d always swing by the Bugg house to take a look. I miss it so much.

4) Neighbors bringing a plate of fresh made tamales as your Christmas gift. When you get three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and some shredded pork (and lard, gotta have lard), magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would come to work with tamales in a cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a half 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 in the Bay Area, and that makes me sad.

6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented. (2013 edit: I made a huge batch on Sunday and shared them with coworkers today. Now they are cookie zombies asking me if I have more. 505 represent!)

7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. 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 then when we came home after church, we could pick one present and open it. The rest had to wait for Christmas morning. Gah! The torture of picking just one!

9) New Mexico piñon, gappy, scrawny Christmas trees that cost $15 at the Flea Market and were cut from the top of a larger tree just that morning. Look, to my mind, it ain’t a tree unless you are using low hanging ornaments to fill the obvious gaps. These fluffy overly full trees just ain’t my bag. If you ain’t turning the ‘bad spot’ to the wall, you paid too much for your tree.

10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the chicken broth flavored just right. So amazing. And posole to bring you luck with red chile and hunks of pork. Yum!

Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now, but sometimes I feel melancholy.

Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love and miss you so.







Image via The Vintique Object Blog.




Who Is -phile’ing Who Here?

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As long time readers of the blog are aware, last year my very multi-national job had me on the phone at all hours of the day with coworkers and suppliers across the globe.

While I have always enjoyed dealing with people from every country around the world, I do have a certain affinity for the good people of Britain. One might even call me an Anglophile. Oh yes, visiting the motherland last year felt so right, like coming home. My ear always perks up to the sound of a good British accent and over this past Fourth of July weekend, I found myself maudlin remembering how I’d spent last year’s fourth by the Thames.

I changed jobs in January and I now work for a very, very American centric institution. Doing business with other countries is rather, ahem, foreign to my coworkers.

To be honest, my global background is part of the reason I was hired, but in moving to this job, I had to let go of my dreams of further global travel. It was a tradeoff I was quite willing to make in order to salvage any auspices of a work-life balance.

So imagine my delight when, yesterday morning, I had a call scheduled with a counterpart in Cambridge, UK.

And not just a call, but Skype video call. Big fun.

I smiled broadly to hear my very British counterpart discuss important matters of business. I giggled to myself at “Cheers, Karen!” when I’d made a useful point. And as the nice gentleman spoke, I found my eyes drifting over his shoulder and looking through the windows of his office and out to the green hills just beyond.

Oh England! How I miss you!

And maybe England misses me too, you know? Because damn, I am the one who walked away, and look, here it is again, loitering about, hoping to get my attention. We were only apart for a scant six months.

Cheers, Britain. We’ll be together again someday. Hopefully soon.





The Thames, taken just one year ago from the Westminster Bridge. *sigh*




Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.




Time To Be The Grownup

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Amidst one of the craziest couple weeks on record at any job I’ve ever held, I do have a wonderfully bright spot ahead. I get two days off for vacation this week, both Thursday and Friday.

But that’s not the bright spot.

I’m taking those two days off because my wonderful, adorable, amazing eldest goddaughter is making her first solo voyage on an airplane to come see her Nina Karen.

Now that’s a bright spot!!!

This is big doings for both teen and adult. Her Uncle Good Man and I are so excited to have her in our home and to show her around the Bay Area. There are lots of things to do here and we’re planning big fun.

I did have pause last night as The Good Man and I had a little supper. We were discussing plans for the visit and I reminded him that we have to be the grownups.

“Why?” was his response, so beautifully typical of my spouse.

And I laughed and replied, “Because we are responsible for her!”

He shook his head and said “aw, we’ll be all right.” And I’m quite sure we will.

But for as excited as I am to see my girl, I’m also feeling the responsibility for being her Nina, for being a good Nina and for making sure she has an awesome time.

Uncle Good Man says, “She can have cheeseburgers at every meal if she wants!”

Clearly we’re gonna have different approach to this. Then again I’m the one that yells at the cat for drinking out of the toilet and he says “she’s just thirsty!”

*sigh*

May I be a good co-madre to my precious girl. The kind that makes room for both cheeseburgers and safety.







An Oh Fair New Mexico Tradition

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In what has now become an annual tradition in my almost six years of this little ol’ blog, it’s time to bring out something that was first published back in 2007.

It’s as true today as it was back then.

Without further ado:



Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico (in no particular order):

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. And in a weird way, that’s what the holidays are for, right?



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 New Mexico Magazine