Party, New Mexico family-style
We flew out Thursday morning super early, leaving here at 5:30 AM. I drove the kids to the Oakland Airport and parked the car in long term parking since we were getting back on Monday when Mike was at work and would be unable to pick us up. [Here's the coolest thing about that experience: I went for the cheapest lot and they gave me a voucher to park in a closer lot and get the cheaper lot price. This is the kind of thing that I need to document in order to remain a Tsao.]
Everything was smooth sailing with the parking and getting through airport security. The kids and I are professionals at this; we travel a lot. When we got to Albuquerque, we met my aunt Davida and niece Jessica, who flew in from Chicago. Then it was off to the rental car place to pick up our gigantic minivan. I even rented car seats for the kids. Many times when traveling with children, problems *can* be solved by throwing money at them. Try it. It works.
Once we got our car, we were on the road north to Santa Fe, where we stopped for lunch at Dave's Not Here. I had chile rellenos made with New Mexico chiles. The best! After lunch we hit Whole Foods to stock up on goodies for dinner. My cousin lives in a remote, rural area and there are no corner stores.
My cousin Rachel and her daughters Julianna and Louise were anxious to see us so we didn't linger in Santa Fe and soon were on the road north. We passed through Pojoaque, then Nambe, then Chimayo, then Truchas, finally getting to the dirt road that would lead us into the valley of Ojo Sarco, where my cousin grew up and still lives.
After we arrived, there were hugs and kisses all around and the kids had a good time getting to know each other. My cousin had worked really hard getting her house ready for our visit, and everything was nice and shiny. After her boyfriend Matt came home we had dinner and hung out, visiting with some friends (Leanna, her boyfriend, and her baby D) who stopped by.
The next day was Friday and we all piled in the van to go back into Santa Fe. We had lots of shopping to do to get ready for my aunt Paula's party the next day. She passed away five years ago, and the party was a celebration of her life and an opportunity to place her headstone on her grave and to see old friends. In Santa Fe we went to lunch, the party store, Trader Joe's, and the grocery store. While Rachel and Davida were at the grocery store, I took the kids to a park. It was too difficult to navigate busy, crowded Santa Fe parking lots and stores with a group of eight people.
After shopping for our perishables, we had to get back on the road to Ojo Sarco. About an hour later we were home. We ate a quick dinner, then Davida and I took the kids to Louise's basketball practice, leaving Rachel home alone to start preparing the food for the party. While she made pumpkin pies from scratch (yes, that means from actual pumpkins), we watched my 5'4", fifth grade cousin practice with the rest of her team. That was fun. The kids had a good time watching the coaching and sweating from the bleachers.
Saturday was a busy day filled with cleaning, cooking, balloon filling, and finally, partying. Everybody gathered at the Ojo Sarco cemetery to remember my aunt. My uncle David spoke, starting out with, "Five years ago today I lost my best friend..." My aunt Paula was a wonderful woman who touched many lives. The last time I visited New Mexico she was alive. It felt rather odd to be there and to have only memories of her.
After the cemetery, we all piled into Rachel's cozy house to feast on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, red chile with pork, posole, salad, black beans, pinto beans, bread and jam, and a whole table of desserts including homemade lemon cheesecake, brownies, pumpkin pie, and tiramisu. A feast in a Thanksgiving style, which was fitting because my aunt Paula was the queen of Thanksgiving. She even raised and butchered her own turkeys. As one guest said on Saturday, "Thanksgiving died with Paula." We did our best to bring it back with her spirit gracing the party in our thoughts, words, and actions. It was a wonderful way to remember her.
On Sunday the kids and I took a side trip to Los Alamos, to visit Krisco of Crib Ceiling and her family. What a treat! It was nice to have my rental car and to be able to break away from the family for half a day. The kids played dress up while we chatted, and our visit was over way too soon. We had to leave to get back to Sarco, and it was a good thing we left when we did because we got caught in a snow storm on the way home. Crazy, typical New Mexico weather. On Saturday it was 70 degrees and sunny. On Sunday it was 35 degrees and snowing.
We couldn't do much on Sunday night because of the weather, although we did manage to celebrate my cousin Ben's girlfriend Melissa's birthday with a cake that Davida baked. Our family believes in two things: celebrations and desserts. No snow storm can stop us!
Monday morning we had to leave Ojo Sarco by 8:00 AM in order to make it to Albuquerque for our afternoon flights. Even with the snow on the ground, the sun was out and we had no problem getting out of the valley and onto the highway. Northern New Mexico was particularly beautiful with a light powdering of snow on the mountains and on the trees. It was a fine way to end our special, whirlwind vacation.
I'm so happy I got to take my kids to this place that I've been visiting since I was five years old. I hope to take them back some day and to spend some time exploring more of the area. I'm also happy that they could meet that branch of my family and play with their cousins. Today we're back here in San Mateo, doing our thing, but we are all thinking about our latest adventure and, yes, looking forward to the next one.
As always, pictures on Flickr.