This is Part Three of my pilgrimage to New Mexico after losing my dad in 2001.
Sunday morning, Oct 28, had us at the 8:30 Spanish Mass at San Jose Catholic Church. It had been awhile since I had heard mass said in Spanish and it’s so beautiful. We grabbed breakfast at Pete’s – again great green chile to top our eggs and tortillas! On to Wal-Mart to pick up a birthday cake for Uncle Mando, flowers, and film for my camera. (This was before I got into digital!)
We made another trip by the cemetery for more photos and a little more exploration. And who do we run into? Rachel Fernandez! She invited us over for drinks that evening along with her two brothers, Jerry and Dan.
We enjoyed spending more time visiting with Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando and listening to more family stories. She looked really good that day. We brought out the cake for Uncle Mando, lit the candles, and Yoya held Uncle Mando’s hand and sang “Las Mañanitas” to him – a traditional Mexican birthday song – and as she sang to him, she began to cry….which made us all cry. So touching and so beautiful. Later, Yoya showed us the “Our Town” newspaper with a picture of my dad and his brother Lorenzo (“Lencho”) as altar boys. Such a treasure! We left after sharing cake and promised to come by again before returning to Albuquerque. Then it was on to Vone and Raymond’s house for a feast of carne asado, tortillas de maiz (corn tortillas), beans, rice, potatoes and a great salsa. And always the conversation turned to food and family! Then it was on to Olivia’s for a short visit with her and her girls.
The last stop on our whirlwind day was to Rachel’s apartment for drinks where we met her brothers Jerry and Dan. More cousins! We talked a LOT about food, especially tamales and Rachel remarked about how she was late in getting the tamale making started for the holidays. Her entire apartment was decorated in red and black, thanks to her brother Bobby. He definitely had an eye for décor and celebrating and would always help her with her Christmas decorating every year. Upon leaving, Dan and Jerry invited us to their house for breakfast. An offer we couldn’t refuse!
Monday morning, Oct 29, Kanista and I went to Argus to pick up some Carlsbad historic papers – one of the papers included the altar boy photo of my dad and his brother. Then we headed to Dan and Jerry’s house. We later learned it had been their grandmother Maria’s house. Maria was my grandfather, Tata Polo’s sister. Rachel came by too and we got to hear about their family reunions. Maria had 10 children so you can imagine the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren she had! I love hearing family stories and all the connections. We were able to really fill in the gaps of our Zuniga family tree during this trip! Before heading back to Albuquerque, we went by to say good-bye to Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando. More crying…
Back in Albuquerque, we had to go by Old Town for a little shopping before heading back to Danda’s house for yet another fabulous meal – tortilla soup and stir fry vegetables! More stories and we especially loved hearing about how Danda learned to cook from our grandfather, Tata Polo! She learned by watching him and so many of her incredible recipes are from our grandfather. At the end of the evening, Danda gave us each a recipe book from Albuquerque with a sweet inscription. We finished out the evening looking through a box of old photos with Danda promising to make copies and send to us.
Tuesday, Oct 30, was our last day. Danda prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs mixed with tortilla chips. I haven’t tried this at home but my sister has and cannot get the same result! She also prepared caldio – a mixture of ground beef, onion and chiles. What a treat!We were also thrilled to have a little more time to visit with Bobby Fernandez…he stopped by to say good-bye and we took the opportunity to get a few photos with him. On our way to the airport, we stopped by Danda’s school to visit and see her in action.
We ended our trip together – cousins – at the airport – chatting and enjoying food – a cup of posole…and then heading to our separate planes and back to our lives. This trip gave us the opportunity to walk where our father’s had actually walked, visit the places they had known as children growing up and reconnect with family we hadn’t seen in years or didn’t know at all. I know we all felt closer to our dads as we boarded our planes.
And I know our dads were walking alongside us throughout this incredible week…