Friday – yesterday as I write this – was my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My sisters who live in Albuquerque where my parents live had planned a celebration for the occasion. But they had convinced my parents that the only people celebrating would be my sisters, their families, and my brother, his wife and younger daughter. This latter group were on their way through while taking the daughter to San Diego where she will be starting at San Diego State.
But in reality a few more guests were planing on stopping by, including my family, my aunt – my father’s older sister – and one of my cousins. So, for a few weeks, we’ve been planing on heading to Albuquerque this weekend, leaving Thursday after work.
As for most evening departures, Tara and The Kid picked me up at work – after I’d walked to the bus station in the morning. We made a quick stop at the UTC food court for an early dinner and headed to the airport. Check in and security went quickly – helped by flying out one of the two or three gates for Southwest that are isolated from the rest.
Our flight was ready to load on time – except our flight attendants were coming in off of another flight at the other end of the terminal. So we were a bit late heading out.
Once in the air, our flight was smooth. We had a non-stop flight, but did fly over a corner or two of the Phoenix area. For about the first half of the route once the lights of Phoenix were no longer visible, I could see storms to the north – probably by a hundred miles or so – mostly because I witnessed at least half a dozen cloud to ground strikes – and a few cloud to cloud strikes. I was, more or less, comforted to know that we were encased in what is essentially an ungrounded faraday cage – and that the updrafts near such as storm would pose a much greater danger.
We arrived in Albuquerque about ten minutes ahead of schedule, and started working our way to baggage claim. After leaving security – and passing a large group gathered to great some returning warriors – we very unexpectedly ran into my younger sister who was there with my aunt picking up my cousin who’d flown in from Minneapolis. Talking with them and, once she arrived, my cousin delayed us enough that our bags had been pulled from the belt by the time we picked them up.
Since planing the trip, we’d been debating whether we should stay at my older sister’s house, or get a hotel room. Finally on Thursday afternoon, Tara convinced me that it would be much easier on my sister if we got a room for the weekend. After a brief stop at the Marriott corporate website, I remembered to look on hotels.com, and found a very good price for a room at The Nativo Lodge. The Nativo Lodge was built about 30 years ago as a major brand hotel – I don’t remember which one – and over the years has change affiliations a few time. But within the last ten years it was purchased by Heritage Hotels of New Mexico who did an extensive – and very nice – job of both refurbishing the property and giving it a tasteful native American themed decor including a number of Navajo rugs and other native American artwork. This hotel is also fairly close to my parent’s house.
On Friday we ended up sleeping later than we’d both intended and realized – I’d misread the time someplace and reset the room clock to Pacific time. So it was after ten when we headed out for breakfast, forcing us to walk to the Starbuck’s next door. After a brief stop back in the room, we headed to the mall on the West Side so Tara could get some jeans. Once done we got a late lunch at the Flying Star in Coralles and did some browsing at other stores in that center – including the Humane Society where we fully admitted we were just admiring the potential adoptees.
We then returned to the hotel so that The Kid could take a nap. Tara and I then headed to Trader Joe’s to get our contribution to the party which we then dropped at my younger sister’s house.
We ended up staying there longer than we’d planed before arriving. My aunt and my sister’s boyfriend’s father were there when we arrived, and the boyfriend’s mother and my cousin came just a couple of minutes later. Over the next hour or so while we talked and listened, we learned that the boyfriend’s father is a retired physician and that my aunt was having some trouble breathing possibly related to a cold and bronchial infection she’d been recently suffering. It was fairly quickly determined that she needed to go to an urgent care center – but it took a little while longer for a household with no current Albuquerque residents (albeit three former residents) to locate the nearest urgent care center. My sister, her son and boyfriend had headed to my parent’s to do some final setting up by then.
So we left at the same time as the other four headed to the urgent care center, returned to our hotel room and got The Kid and Tara ready for the party.
The party was planed to start about 6:30, so we left giving us about 15-20 minutes to get there a few minutes after 6:30; which is just about when we arrived.
Before we got there, my parent’s had already had most or all of their monthly dinner gathering – who would have normally been elsewhere that night – show up. (This group is made up of people who were the younger parents 35 to 40 years ago at our church – so many if not most were known to me, but not seen for over twenty-five years). My older niece and her three kids had also arrived from Colorado (having driven down and hidden out shopping until their arrival).
But our arrival was another very welcome surprise – and very appreciated.
One of my sisters had shared that in the weeks leading up to this my mother had expressed regret that we and their church dinner group wouldn’t make it – and even with a five-year-old in on the conspiracy she’d been completely taken in.
Over the next couple of hours we had dinner – pulled pork provided by my brother, ham provided by my younger sister, side dishes and deserts provided by many of the remaining guests. There were also a few quiet discussions in the entry way among members of the conspiracy about the state of my aunt and an expected arrival time.
For various reasons, my sister’s boyfriend’s parents had headed down – another unexpected arrival – so we thought someone was going to have to sneak out and get the last two guests once released.
It was during or just after one of these discussions that my brother and I observed my sister’s boyfriend going out to the field and lighting a ring of candles – and as he was heading back in he told us what his plans were, so we quickly returned inside and let him fetch my sister.
Shortly later they returned inside, with my sister now sporting a new engagement ring – an event that most of the family had been hoping for and expecting for quite a while.
I’ll admit that, at first, I was thinking that this was kind of a strange place and risked upstaging the main event, but then I realized that proposing at a fiftieth anniversary party was actually very romantic.
By this time we’d also gotten in touch with my cousin who let us know that my aunt did not have the feared pneumonia, but just a bit more bronchitis, and had been treated with a nebulizer and was feeling fine. We also learned that the doctor who had been treating her was going off shift and felt that getting them to the party was important enough to drive them down herself – saving someone else from having to disappear.
So not much later – but after a few of my parent’s friends had had to leave – my aunt and cousin finally arrived finishing out an evening that made both of my parents very happy.
On Saturday, the family had planed to gather back at my parent’s house about 9:00, so we headed down to get there at that time. As it turns out we didn’t end up helping with clean up as much as we might have since we ended up talking and eating a bit of additional breakfast, but it started a very good day with my extended family.
Even before the previous night was over, my parent’s offered to take the very extended family out to dinner. They had been planing on going to El Pinto which is very close, and has been a favorite of the family for close to fifty years. But once my mom was able to get through, we learned that for a party our size we’d have to eat at 4:00 – when some people wouldn’t be available – or at 8:00 which would be too late for many of us. So, a different restaurant was selected – Casa de Benavidez – which was a bit further away. None of us had eaten there, in spite of their nearly 40 years in the same area, but it had a good reputation.
So about six-thirty all twenty-two of us headed over and got a very good dinner. I had a carne adovada stuffed sopapilla (which is about as distinctly New Mexican as any dish can be) with green sauce – and both the meat and sauce were a bit hotter than I’m used to as a California resident.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel with plans to stop by for one more morning at my parent’s with the extended family before heading to our mid-afternoon flight.