Home for the holidays

Snow on the Sandia Mountains

This time of year makes me think of Albuquerque, of the road trip from Phoenix through Flagstaff, Arizona and Gallup, New Mexico  to this mountain town dominated by its peaks in the east, tinged an unusual shade of pink at sunset (hence their name, meaning watermelon in Spanish).

It reminds me of struggling to find presents for nieces and parents-in-law; of sewing felt ornaments in the form of stockings with stitched names during the car ride, scissors, glitter thread, and scraps of felt scattered at my feet; of favorite road trip music (country stations, Allison Krauss and Union Station, Gordon Lightfoot, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Journey and more) and holiday tunes by Jewel, Michael Buble and Nat King Cole; of a crowded, packed car and fast food lunches; of taking the same route through town to my in-laws house each time we came.

But here we are.  In Albuquerque.  Now.

No Christmas road trip necessary.  We can see family easily, scant preparation and only a few minutes of travel required.

I like road trips.  I'll miss taking the one between these southwestern sister states.

But, if pressed, I must confess that I like living here more than driving hours to be here.

It is a very good sign, I think - an indication of openness and happiness - when you move to a place that reminds you of every other place you've held dear.  While walking or driving around in Albuquerque, I have been reminded of the expansive park near my grandparents home in Idaho and of the many small towns in that state where my relatives yet reside.  I have recalled Tennessee, because I finished the first book about my childhood here, and I am again in an environment where the leaves on broad, beautiful trees hail the seasons. Of course, Arizona is present in my thoughts: the culture, history and landscape of both states are similar in several regards, and Arizona and all the loved ones there are just a reverse trip across state borders.

So this is Advent, and here we are already, in what could be characterized as our Christmas town.  The first snow has already come; snowmen were promptly built by my snow-starved children.

Gifts for relatives this year will be delivered on Christmas Day with smiles after traveling but a few miles from our own home, taking a fresh and already oft-traveled route.  Over the hills if not through the woods, to my in-laws house we'll go.

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