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.




Where Credit is Due

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For all the ways she made me who I am…


Today is the celebration of the birth of my own dear mom. I don’t think she would mind me saying that today she is 79 years old. If you met her on the street, you’d probably guess her age was much, much younger (like early sixties). That alone inspires me.

If you have read my blog for a few years, you will have learned a bit about the patience and understanding of my mother.

Here are a few choice places to get caught up:


There was the time I threw a snake at my mother.


There was the time I shot her in the arm with a BB gun.


Or when she thought I’d drowned in the bathtub.


And one of the many times I crushed the aspirations she had for me.


But mostly, a story about when she was just being, quite frankly, awesome.


I am the sum of all my parts and much of the good stuff I owe to my mom.

I am proud of her and I’m lucky she was kind enough to give me life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! You deserve cake!





Easter 1976, Albuquerque, NM. We are a good looking crew! Thanks mom!




Image from the family photo albums.




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.







Live From Under The ‘Over

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There is no such thing as ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ sangria. Sangria is a party drink designed to get your guests drunk really cheaply.

— Damian Corrigan, About.com Guide

Well, what Damian lacks in tact he makes up for by being right. Isn’t truth the best defense? Yes, I think so.

I found this quote when I Googled “how to make traditional sangria” because all of the sudden I have noticed that sangria has become cool. Except, the sangria they are serving in bars and restaurants these days cost $15 a glass and doesn’t taste right. It has become something hipster and these children are tinkering around.

What happened? No one knows how to make sangria right anymore!

In the folds and recesses of my mind, I remember someone’s mom or abuela telling me “Oh, Sangria is easy, just buy the cheapest sweet red wine you can find, pour it in a pitcher then cut up a bunch of fruit and drop it in there and let it sit for a couple days.”

That’s it. That’s how I recall it being told and that’s how I recall sangria should be made. Sweet, fruity, and inexpensive. It takes a few days to make it right. Land of Mañana. A little slow and easy on a hot summer day.

These days bars make “sangria” on the spot, mixing some red wine, some other hard liquor (brandy, vodka, rum or in the case of a restaurant in San Francisco, I swear it’s everclear) and tossing in a couple orange slices.

It doesn’t taste right. It wasn’t given time to do what good sangria should do.

I remember as a child, my mom confiding in me that the best sangria she’d ever had was at La Tertulia** in Santa Fe. I remember dining with the folks and all the adults at the table seemed to love the stuff, like kids and Kool-Ade.

Later as an adult I got to give a pitcher of La Tertulia’s nectar a sip for myself, and by god mom was absolutely right. Ab-so-loot-lee. Mom knows her sangria.

So all this sangria angst was dusted up because over the weekend while at my local Trader Joe’s, I picked up a bottle of Maria Ole Sangria that had been touted so highly in the sales circular.

I put that bad boy in the ‘fridge to get nice and cold and last night on a really mellow evening, I cracked it open and poured some out.

It was pretty terrible. Really terrible. I finished the glass and decided to give it a chance. Sometimes crappy wine needs a second glass. That’s my theory anyway. Second glass didn’t do much to improve this swill.

Very disappointing.

And the worst of it? Today I am slightly hungover. Not in a big way but in that “shoot, I drank some crappy wine last night” and now I’m mad. Good old fashioned aged sangria is usually mellowed out enough that it doesn’t hurt the head.

This new era of not really sangria not only hurts my head, it hurts my heart.

____________


**Sadly, La Tertulia is no more. I shall always remember their indian tacos and their sopaipillas and yes, their delicious sangria. *sigh* Pour one out for a NM institution…..











Image found here.




Who Is The Grown Up? Huh?

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So of course, I’m the jerk.

Friday afternoon after a long week at work and dealing with more than the average load of dung, I was ready for the weekend.

The Good Man was working in a town quite a bit farther away and we had plans to have dinner with friends. Because we live in a place that has too damn many people, managing commute time traffic is “a thing”. This means that I eschewed my car and instead got my shoes on. Late Friday afternoon I found myself walking to the nearest BART station about a mile away.

I had been too lazy about getting ready and was up against it in terms of time, so I walked at a pretty fast clip. I was keeping up a good pace so I could catch my train.

Now, sideline comment here, I haaaate when I’m out walking on trails and tracks and as someone approaches from the opposite direction, they don’t get over. So then I’m run off into the weeds in my haste to make room. Me, always me. So few OTHER people make room.

I also hate clueless people who don’t move over on sidewalks. Who stop dead center in front of the door into a business. Who stand in the middle of the aisle at the supermarket. It’s all about lack of awareness of surroundings and lack of caring about what is going on in the world.

My folks taught me to be polite and taught me to be considerate. This lesson is strong in me and I can see other parents didn’t value this quite as much as mine did.

So of course, as I walked down a long sidewalk past many shops and restaurants, I was already steaming a bit about the lack of consideration from fellow mankind. I had already been run off of the sidewalk and out into the very busy street by a group of “ladies who lunch” who refused to move from dead center of the sidewalk. By a youngish guy riding his bike on the sidewalk straight at me who wouldn’t move over or into the street. By a guy with two huge dogs who could not have given less of a damn. By a lady with two toddlers who are clearly fine unattended on a very busy sidewalk.

So I was steamed. I just wanted to get to the freaking BART station. And to see my husband.

Finally I found a stretch of clear sidewalk and I kicked in what tiny afterburners I have and picked up my pace.

It was about this time that a pretty little goldilocked girl, aged maybe twelve or thirteen, came toddling out of a building. Her friends followed behind. Clueless, of course. She walked right in front of me then stopped. My big ship does not veer that fast, especially at speed. I tried to avoid her but instead I glanced into her shoulder. As I passed, I said a rather stern “excuse me!!!” and kept walking.

Except…I heard the notebook that she had been carrying under her arm hit the pavement. I’d jolted her so hard she dropped her book. I wanted to keep walking. Screw it! I thought. She had stepped in front of me. Cut me off! Not my fault!

But I realized analysis of any outsider (and certainly her helicopter parents, had they been present) would say that I am the asshole in that situation. I am the jerk. I am the grown up and precious little curly blonde sunshine teenager is the in the right.

Even if I am right, I am wrong. The court of public opinion says “think of the children! It’s all about the children!” even though special snowflake was clueless and in the wrong. Nope, I’m still the wrong one.

So I stopped. I turned around. I saw three little shocked wide eyed little girls with bow lipped mouths registering disdain. I leaned over to pick up her notebook, but one of her friends already got it. I said, “I’m sorry, darlin’, I didn’t mean to run into you. Are you ok?”

She said, “I’m fine.” And I said, “Ok, again, I’m sorry,” and she said “It’s ok” then I turned around and walked off quickly, now later than ever for my train.

As I walked I now felt sheepish and mad in equal parts. Sheepish for slamming into a little girl so hard she dropped her notebook. Mad because what the hell!? Get out of the way!

Argh!

When I was a kid the world did not revolve around me, but now as a childless by choice adult I have to revolve around other people’s ill mannered kids.

Not something I can solve. Just wanted to air it out. Thanks for the group therapy.






Image found here.