A special thanks to my friend and former coworker Brittney for sharing this gem
When describing her own childhood, its amazing how my mother can make you desperately want to live in a time gone by. I don’t mean in the traditional sense, that is, in the Stepford, Pleasantville or Mad Men way. No, my mother doesn’t glamorize the sixties and seventies as a simpler place in time. In fact, her depictions of growing up in New Mexico are often melancholic and broadly laced with grit.
I was about eleven during one of our frequent drives from Belen to Socorro when she told me. “You know, when I was your age we didn’t have an indoor bathroom.” I looked over to see my mother display a mischievous grin that let me know a story was coming.
” Really?” I realized that didn’t know much at all about how my mom and her nine older siblings grew up. It also struck me as odd that the house they grew up in wasn’t always the way I knew it.
“I was so embarrassed that we had an outhouse,” said my mother, almost proudly juxtaposing her former disdain for her childhood home. “I didn’t even want my friends to come over- so I came up with a plan.”
“What did you do Mom?” I didn’t know whether to be excited or frightened by what I was about to hear, but my mother’s stories always completely captivated me.
“My cousin Frances…” my mom started laughing when she trailed off. ”We would get in to so much trouble when she came to visit from Arizona! I feel so bad, because my mom would give us money for the collection at church, and instead there we’d go to the Hilton Pharmacy to buy ice cream.” Mom was referring to one of the many businesses in Socorro, New Mexico that used to carry the Hilton name. Long before Paris and Nicky Hilton lived in Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria, their great-grandfather Conrad Hilton was working at his father’s general store in Socorro- hence the former plethora of stores and events carrying the Hilton name in my parents’ hometown.
“So what happened ?”
“For some reason I thought if Frances and I burned the outhouse down, nobody would have to know that…”
“Mom!” I interrupted “you didn’t.”
“Oh yes we did.” She started laughing again “…and that smoke plumed for days to where every single person in town knew that it was OUR OUTHOUSE.”
“Did you get in trouble Mom?” I don’t know why this was my first question for her after sharing a story with me that I had, until then only thought you would catch Dennis The Menace conceiving in a fictionalized script.
“Nope,” she answered proudly “they thought it was your uncle Phillip smoking in the outhouse, and boy did he get in trouble.”
“When did they find out it was you?”
“Not until just before your grandpa died mijo… and boy was PT (my family’s name for uncle Phillip) mad. ‘I knew it was YOU!” yelled my mom imitating her older brother. I have to admit that I was more than a little impressed by both my mother’s antics as well as her ability to keep a secret for over twenty years. As we pulled in to town, the story was quickly filled with comments like “don’t you ever try anything like that” and “if I ever catch you skipping school or church”, but I was ultimately grateful that my mom shared this story with me. She continued describing things I shouldn’t do as we pulled up to my Auntie Annie’s house, the home my grandparents raised ten children in.
We walked in the front door looking for my aunt with no success. “Hello!” yelled my mom, “is anybody home?” She was answered with a flush of the toilet. Mom turned to me an simply said “oh.”
- Socorro : Mexico (kiva.org)
“Do you ever burp when you’re nervous?” This was the first thing Christine Brewer said to me upon my meeting her following her final summer performance as Lady Billows at The Atomic Grill in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Um, no… I don’t” I replied, “but I do burp inwards.” I immediately regretted my reply to the famed soprano.
“What!? Can you show me?”
“I’m afraid I’m not ‘gassy” I replied.
“Oh, well let me know if its coming” replied Miss Brewer “but please tell me- WHAT should I eat?”
“The chicken nachos are really good here” I answered. I was in a strange state of disbelief that, here I was, at a diner in the middle of New Mexico sitting next to one of the most famous opera singers in the world talking about bodily functions and nachos. I had met up with a friend at The Atomic for a short visit following the season’s final performance of Albert Herring without realizing the Grammy Award winning singer would be joining us.
“These nachos are wonderful!” said Miss Brewer as I nursed my fourth cup of coffee (The coffee at the Atomic Grill in Santa Fe is famous for having the potency of Texas oil). She went on to explain that the entire evening, she had been burping none stop, both on and offstage ( several of her costars agreed with vivid memories of the evening’s eruptions).
I was heartedly amused that I had brought one of my best friends, Kim Garley to Santa Fe that evening to experience her first opera, Benjamin Britten‘s Albert Herring. I also couldn’t decide if I was getting a bigger kick out of the fact that Kim’s first opera was Albert Herring, her randomly dining with a world famous opera singer, or the fact that Christine Brewer was so funny and provided such a humorous experience for Kim both on and offstage. Regardless, I was thankful that Kim actually really enjoyed the performance AND that we both got to meet one of the stars of the evening… even if it was over nachos discussing gas.
- Castleton troupe bungles Britten’s comic opera (sfgate.com)
- Rossini Festival celebrates 10 years of food, fun and opera (knoxnews.com)
- Are there mountains in Santa Fe (wiki.answers.com)
- Castleton Festival Opera at Cal Performances (sfgate.com)
- Rossini Festival draws a crowd to downtown Knoxville (knoxnews.com)
You know the term “single serving friend”; these are the people we meet while in line for a prescription at the drug store, a coffee at Starbucks, and thanks to Fight Club (more…)
What is it about the thought of an impending snow day that sends everyone into a flurry? Yesterday, I decided for whatever reason that it would be smart to take a cab home from school. I know- traveling by car is exactly the type of thing you don’t want to do in a weather-induced state of emergency. Hey now, I was tired, and I was really missing a friend of mine I’ve been neglecting lately… Sleep.
Anyways, I hailed a taxi from the corner of 122nd and Broadway, from where my driver decided to turn right/ uphill so we could take Riverside Drive. We almost made it to Claremont when the vehicle started sliding all over the place and inevitably backward towards Broadway. I nervously pattered a catalogue of four letter words as the taxi’s rear bumper neared our starting point with impressive haste. When my driver finally, and thankfully regained control of the vehicle I asked him if he could take a different route, to which he replied “Get out, we’re going to die… please take a snow mobile!”
Its moments like these that make me miss New Mexico, and also make wonder why my friends ever question my desire to stay inside when the white stuff pays a visit. Luckily for me, my good friend Danielle (see Vampire Jacob? for pic) was able to do the impossible this afternoon in making me join her and several of our friends for a snow day visit to Central Park.
Initially intended to be a sledding adventure, my friends and I decided to wait for our friend Adele in an untouched snowy patch of awesome near the West 72nd street entrance to Central Park. While she made her way to join us, we began building snow men, and of all things, a fort. After about an hour of sculpting (and laughs from passersby), a group of elementary school children enthused by our architectural efforts ran inside our fort.
The children quickly suggested a snowball war against the female members of our group. In retaliation, our girls unsuccessfully tried to claim a giant evergreen to hide under as the munchkins attacked them fiercely with impeccable aim. Mind you, my group totaled 6- Lindsey, Adele, Nicole, Danielle, Tyler and me. This left me and Tyler to deal with about 10 children setting up camp in our fort while charging after the girls.
After watching what seemed like a mash-up gone wrong between Lord of The Flies and Gossip Girl, we convinced the children that, since they worked so well together, to be on their own team, with the understanding they were free to take our fort when we abandoned ship. With a wicked smile, the self-proclaimed leader, and Jacob-proclaimed Lord of The Flies agreed.
Now that the girls were safe behind our fortress walls, we were able to rightfully declare a snow war. Hey now, I know what you’re thinking… six college students against a group of seven year olds seems highly unfair, but I must impress upon you the old adage that dynamite comes in small packages.
We must have lasted about five minutes while the children feverishly attacked us. Each of us was targeted and successfully hit in the head with several snowballs as onlookers laughed and added sports commentary while taking pictures and video. After we realized that we had clearly been beaten… and pummeled, we retreated, and gave up our fort for the children to occupy. Before we took to the yellow stained road, several of the munchkin’s parents and babysitters thanked us for playing with their kids as well as entertaining them.
As we were about to head back toward the street, we all decided on an impulse to continue with our initial plan to go sledding. After about fifteen minutes of wandering about the beautiful winter wonderland that I wish Christmas could be, we found ourselves at the Bethesda Terrace cheering a group of daredevils (and eventually Tyler) as they raced down a makeshift hill and ramp on the steps which lead down to the famous fountain. Finally, just east of the terrace, we found ourselves claiming an empty pathway to sled on.
After about thirty minutes of laughs, failures and screams, we slowly meandered back to Central Park Park West where I bid my friends goodbye out of sheer necessity to thaw. I’m happy to report that my toes still number ten and they are indeed now warm and dry
So guess what!? I didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot after all, and instead of sleeping so I can get up early and spend some quality time with my father in Santa Fe (believe me, my alarm is still set for 8 am), I’m sitting writing to all of you about my now over-caffeinated nostalgic thoughts, that is, whoever YOU are.
Shortly after I compared the numbers on my multiple losing tickets, to the Mega Millions website, I started going through an old photo album of mine from my senior year of high school. You know, those things we documented our memories in before Facebook ..? What I found were not just memories, but dozens of little promises I had made to myself. No, I’m not talking about anything like curing cancer or single-handedly battling world hunger, I’m talking about all those little “maybes” we had whirling about our seventeen year old heads.
I have spent my life on the verge of becoming a hoarder, prevented only by an obsessively clean mother and stern roommates. While going through my photo album, I came across the graduation announcement of a classmate of mine who I had never really been friends with. I opened the invitation and realized that I had graduated high school and gone about the last five years without even realizing what our class song was. Apparently we had voted “Our Lives” by The Calling as the musical representation of our various public school careers and relationships. I do remember however, that our student body president had been disgruntled by the selection and decided to play another song over the stadium speakers, which I was too distracted to pay attention to, thanks to the beach balls, silly string, and alcohol that were exhanging hands and pockets around me. I decided to Youtube (or rather VEVO) the song originally intended to be played at my high school graduation, and out of nowhere, that sickening and uninvited nostalgia started creeping in.
As the video played, I continued to go through the pages of my photo album, and out fell various business cards of people I had met at local, state and national student retreats and conventions… again, this was before you could just Facebook somebody and decide from their wall and photos if you actually wanted to extend your friendship beyond “liking” the occasional status. I was also amazed that within my mounting piles of scrap was actually a little map that pointed out the location of my favorite gelateria in Florence, Italy ”Perche’ no!” (why not!? in Italian). I have been telling every friend and acquiantance of mine who has since traveled there to try the pistacchio gelato at this fantastic little gem of a shop.
Still looking through photographs of my senior trip to Italy, I kept seeing pictures of myself with other students from another school. At the time, I was convinced I would become lifelong friends with these randoms… I haven’t spoken to any of them since. I also found photographs of places and things I promised that I would someday take the time to enjoy, like Venice’s Cafe Florian in the piazza di San Marco or the Rialto Bridge, which (due to an annoyingly short city tour) I never got the chance to walk on.
I also promised myself when I graduated, that I would one day live in New York City. I thought that by virtue of making it to Manhattan, I would somehow have it all figured out. I’m realizing now that while my location has changed, I’m still trying trying to get to point B… although point A+/9, or wherever it is I currently am is giving me more life lessons than a book of soul food chicken soup or Oprah power secrets could possibly manage. What I have gained is the ability to realize that family is not bound by blood, that people can come into your life and somehow present more value than an aunt, cousin, or in some cases as equally as a parent or sibling. I am so lucky to have gained this type of family in both old and new friends.
In closing, I am giving my resolutions and promises to myself- not for the new year, but for the next five yeats by using the lessons I’ve learned from the last five.
1. In the last five years I have gained and lost fifty pounds. I am promising myself to continually strive to improve my health so that I may not only fit into those amazing $19.99 jeans they sell at Uniqlo, but also so I can be around for as long as possible.
2. I have continually made excuses to myself as to why I couldn’t be in a serious relationship “yet”. I keep telling myself that I’ll be ready for commitment when I get to a specific point in my life, but honestly, I don’t even know what that is! I’m not saying that I am going to move in with the next guy I date, but I do promise to stop making excuses and to let whatever happens in that area of my life take it’s course. What I do know, is that I have definitely been on at least 50 first dates in the last five years, and I am exhausted.
3. Since I have five years, I do promise to order lunch at Cafe Florian… after a walk on the Rialto.
4. I promise to try and think more positively about others when my first, second or even third impression of them is not so savory. I am saying this because when I first got to New York, there was a group of people who I strongly disliked, and finally after years of mutual distaste, we realized that both parties were to blame. I was the new kid, they were trying to protect the fort, and since we were all dealing with our own various insecurities, years of whispering, rumors and REALLY dirty looks ensued. Needless to say, we are all now friends and I can’t believe that I have missed out on having these folks in my life. But as they say… better late than never.
5. Finally, I will try my hardest to keep the excitement and curiousity that I had when I graduated high school. Since life is a journey, I promise to never be disappointed in where I currently am in life, because even if I’m not there yet, I’m on my way to something, and I’ll tell you what that is when I get there.