Print Story Happy New Year
By blixco (Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:19:35 AM EST) (all tags)
The past ten days seem like a month, but in a good way.  Mostly.

First things first: pictures are located on my flickr page.  I'm editing them using picnik, which is perfectly suited to the editing I need to do. Pics are mostly of scenery, some of family.

So, back in September my stepfather called my brother's house and talked to my sister-in-law Kim.  He never calls, so she was put off a bit initially., thinking the worst. Turns out that he wasn't calling about my mother being dead or maimed, he was calling to start arranging a surprise birthday party for her 60th birthday.

My mom and my brother both were born on December 26th, twenty years apart.  My mom swore she'd never have a kid near Christmas because the bigger holiday wins, and the birthday is lost in the noise.  Imagine being a kid and never having a birthday party. You get combined gifts. You get some relatives over, but most are recovering from Christmas.  It sucks.  So of course, her first child was born on her birthday.

The plan was: my stepfather would fly my brother and his wife and two kids to El Paso, rent them a car, and put them up for as many days as they could get off.  My brother and Kim work in retail; my brother is a butcher and runs a meat department in a grocery, and Kim works in a separate grocery.  They can hardly get days off, much less on the busier holidays.  Thus the advance notice.

I heard from my brother a few days later, then got a message from my stepfather. He offered to fly us out, but we were planning on being there anyway (driving in to see Laurea's family as well as my mom and stepfather) so we'd drive out. 

The months crawled by.  My brother and I schemed: we'd meet up beforehand somewhere in Cruces.  We toyed with calling the house first, talking to my mom and then knocking on the door mid-conversation. My brother and his wife ended up getting the 25th through the 29th off. My stepfather got the tickets, my brother Ren got the car lined up, and we planned to meet on Christmas sometime in the early afternoon.

In the interim I had to get hotels arranged and time off myself. Got a pet sitter for the dogs who'd visit twice a day for an hour each session to play with the dogs and feed them, let them out, etc. Got tires for the car, an oil change, all the mundane crap, plus shopped for everyone.  My plan was to send food to my mom's house (which I normally do) via New Braunfels Smokehouse, since we figured they'd not have any food ready for us.

I emailed my mom, because no way could I lie to her on the phone.  Told her that I couldn't get the time off for Christmas or Thanksgiving, and we'd try to be out there in January. Her response was curt, both my brother and I talked about how annoyed and disappointed she was that I'd not be out there.

So the time comes, and on December 22nd we drive ten hours across Texas and some of southern New Mexico to Truth or Consequences. Laurea's mom and dad live there. We stayed at the Comfort Inn, which cost $30 more than it was worth per day, but wasn't bad at all.

I love seeing Laurea's parents, her mom saved my life at one point and her dad has been a friend and protector for years. Her sisters are great, and Maria and I never have enough time together. Her younger sister has three kids who were there (minus their mom) when we arrived.  They're pretty rowdy to say the least, but are well behaved without their mom around.  These kids take a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals (except the girl, who is feisty but very bright and creative) and have too many issues to list. Their mom does her best, but they really act out around her.  I have theories and such, but they aren't my kids, I've never had kids, and I'm unqualified to offer anything other than support where I can provide it.

Anyhow, we spent the first three days there, just long enough for me to screw my back over.  The worst it had been since this past summer, I was twisted spasms but it was bad.  I'd brought celebrex, though...something I'd never have done.  Not sure what sort of premonition / setting myself up for failure I'd stumbled into.

Christmas eve and Christmas day were great. Maria got in on the 24th in the afternoon and the kids dragged her into the house so they could open presents. It was a rush of wrapping paper, dinner, and some conversation...a good visit but I could have used more time.

Christmas day, we drive to Las Cruces, get in at noon.  The hotel (a great old hotel recently renovated) had out room ready already...we were one of five rooms being rented on Christmas...the hotels around never more than 20 percent occupied, apparently. Hotel room rental should be an economic indicator. The guy at the front desk was happy we'd shown up earlier than check-in.  They'd upgraded our room to a suite located near the indoor pool / atrium thing. It was a great room.

I paced the room for two hours or so until my nephew called...they'd just landed and were getting luggage and car.  An hour or so later they called again, having sped well over the speed limit to get to the hotel.

Seeing my brother and Kim and the nephew I see every year or so, but my brother I had not seen in six or seven years. It'd been 13 years or so since he'd been to Las Cruces.  Seeing  I had no idea how much I missed the guy. My brother and I were very, very close growing up. It's a damn shame we're not physically closer now, but I plan on making a trip to California at least once a year now.

So, we stopped briefly in the room to plan, then headed up the highway to my parent's house, Ren following me. Unknown to us, my step-brother's daughter had just called my mom to make sure they were home, since she was driving by on her way to Alamogordo and would be dropping in.  We got to the door and I knocked.

My mom, inside, I could hear her say "Oh, she's here already," thinking the knock was my step-niece.  The front doors to the house are smoked glass, so I can see her walking to the door, puzzling out the shapes behind brother and I and his family are pretty big, so we're a gang of bodies at the door.

She opens the door, and starts to say "Jace...."and just stops....her mouth drops open...  For the first time I can recall, my mother is completely speechless.

Her eyes well with tears, she just...stares at us, starting to cry. My stepfather walks up to the entryway, and I step in and hug my mom as her tears flood her face.  "Merry Christmas! We're here!" I stepfather says "and Happy Birthday!" and starts laughing...we're all just laughing and crying at the same time.

Takes a good ten minutes of laughing and tears of pure freaking joy for us to get ten feet in the door.  Definitely the best Christmas in recent memory.

The rest of it now seems like it happened a month ago. We had a lot of great food, exchanged some gifts (I'd brought some stuff for my mom, whiskey for my stepfather, and birthday presents for Ren and my mom) and tried ouor best to catch back up while filling my mom in on the planning that we'd done.

During the next few days my mom would just sort of spontaneously start crying at the memory of us all at the door.  She'd just been telling my stepfather that it had been years since my brother and I had both been home at the same time (close to sixteen or so years, I think), and that she's not seen Ren in years.  She had been lamenting how many miles separated all of us. She'd been sort of down.

The birthday, my stepfather had a chinese restaurant make a bunch of food.  My stepsister showed up, and it'd been twenty years since she and Ren had seen one another. She'd lived at the house for a while during my early teens, and was instrumental in my interest in guitar.  We partied, though my back took me out of it at around midnight....we'd gone for a walk in the brief snowfall that hit us, and Laurea and I headed back to the hotel.

Ended up at the Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, which was cool...talked to a former astronaut (and now astronaut "coordinator") for a while, listened to some talks, saw some neat stuff.  The parents and my brother's family drove up through the 9 degree cold and tiny amount of snow to the cabin in Timberon (another hour into the Sacramento Mountains from Alamogordo) and Laurea and I headed home.  On the way, we picked up a flat back wouldn't handle changing it, so I hit it with fix-a-flat. Bad things happen, but hey.

Then White Sands the next day...see my flickr page for some neat pictures.  Several thousand people showed up the same day.  The sky was a perfect flawless deep blue, a swatch of which now makes my desktop background.  It is hard to believe that this expanse of blue is the is perfect.

We lamented the lack of mountains, the lack of small town culture, the lack of good Mexican food in Austin.

My brother and family headed back very early Monday morning. He'd caught a cold by then, so hopefully he's feeling better.

A lot happened.  Guitar playing, some singing, a lot of reconnecting, and all in all it was an amazing visit. We spent a couple more days in town to see our old friend Gordon, tried to get in touch with some other friends. Seeing Gordon is a story in itself, but it was excellent to see him and there was an instant reconnection. It could have been twenty years earlier, sharing stories and such...all we needed was cheap coffee and more angst. And less gray hair. Gordon looks great, though, and he's...content? He's very confidently happy.

Finally left on the 31st at 6am. Nine hours of highways, one solid hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic in south Austin, and home to dogs who were so happy to see us that they barked themselves squeaky.

My back is still fucked, but hey. Twice a year is no big deal.  There's a stack of laundry, and no food in the house. And I'm wiped out. But the whole trip was one of the best trips...probably the best trip...home that we've taken in the last ten years.
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Happy New Year | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Have by Pasofol (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 10:31:26 AM EST
a cousin born xmas eve.  Which is more like xmas day around here.  

Also have a coworker who's wife is/was due this week.  He wanted to avoid the birth as much as possible around xmas days but I guess the little guy will have more of a say. 

Cheers all the best this year and hopefully your back will be good enough to get back on a bike.

That thing you do by bruno (4.00 / 1) #2 Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:21:21 PM EST
Thanks for writing all that out for me to read.  It made me happy to read it.  Any chance you two will ever move back here?  The Rail Runner now goes from Santa Fe to Belen.  I know how much you like Belen. 

Well, see, that's the thing by blixco (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 07:14:51 AM EST
is that it all depends on the wife. That and I'd like to keep my current set of skills, which would mean working for a potentially evil government contractor or a definitely evil government branch.

"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
lack of good Mexican food in Austin by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 02:51:14 AM EST
Damn good que however.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Very true. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 07:13:35 AM EST
Mexican is our home food, though. El Paso and Las Cruces have some excellent food.

But yeah, the bbq around here is freaking wonderful.

"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
sounds like a great time! by clock (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 07:37:02 AM EST
nothing quite like surprising your mom with a good visit.  i would do that if she didn't spend two weeks per quarter camped out in the dude's room.  and thank all that is good that she does it.

as to the birthday, well, stacky's b-day is the 27th and our new niece's is the 23rd.  i always make sure there is no x-mas wrap near her gift(s) and that it is a completely separate deal.  anything less would be uncouth.

good deal, bro.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

One of our students just had their kid by notafurry (4.00 / 2) #7 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 08:10:00 AM EST
Christmas morning, around 7 AM. A boy.

They're pagan, though, so there was much joking about it actually being four days after the big event... but still, that's going to be a rough birthday for the kid. They're already talking about making his Day his six-month day, just to avoid the problem.

[ Parent ]
one of by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 09:53:05 AM EST
your ethereal White Sands sunsets is now my desktop background.

I love the way you translate your experience into other people's minds. I'd be envious if I didn't enjoy the results so much.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

Hey thanks. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #9 Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 11:03:34 AM EST
And happy new year!

"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Happy New Year | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback