Friday, December 20, 2019


It began in the pre-dawn of our first December 25th in Santa Fe, NM, when our physical bodies were in the southwest, but our sleep patterns were still on Eastern Standard Time.

Some of you may have heard part of this before. We came to northern New Mexico for the first time in 1992 to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. We wanted to go someplace special, but stay inside the United States – and recently had seen a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective in New York City.  So we decided to visit the desert southwest and see what inspired her abstract paintings.

And we made the first two of our three Santa Fe discoveries. (1) Her artwork was NOT NONrepresentational. (2) This was where we belonged.

Not being in a position to drop everything back home in Connecticut we satisfied our Santa Fe fever as best we could by vacationing here at least once a year – usually in mid autumn. And hyped our new favorite place to M and B (our daughter-in-law and son.) They visited a couple of times – once on their honeymoon at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Spa – quit their high-pressure Washington, DC jobs – and moved to the City Different in May of 2005. We still were not able to pull the plug on our CT residency, but as soon as they moved, we began spending our Christmas vacation time our here every year.

Since M & B were initially living in a small apartment and had busy work schedules, we chose to stay in one of the compact casitas located ten minutes from the town plaza. We returned to the same compound each December thereafter through our last vacation visit in 2016.

At first, since all four of us were basically tourists, we did some of the touristy holiday things – such as Christmas Eve dinner at a fancy schmancy downtown eatery followed by the “farolito walk” with 15,000 of our new closest friends up Canyon Road; Native American dances at pueblos in northern New Mexico (which Jim wrote about in 2008); and an evening hot tub at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa. Somewhere in there we also added “Jewish Christmas” with M & B’s friends of that ethnicity, and Boxing Day game night with two other of their BFFs from Canada.

The first of these new “traditions” to go was the pre-walk Dec 24th dinner out – which was deliciously replaced by bowls of Monica’s homemade posole (a Mexican soup/stew of hominy with pork, and optionally garnished with chile peppers, radishes, avocado, sour cream and limes) served after the holiday hike. 

So this time we prepared ourselves for the mass march with mugs of hot Mexican chocolate, and took in the launching of the “flying farolitos” on what would prove to be their last appearance at the event. As well as M & B’s. Next year they skipped the walk, but kept the posole pot boiling for a warming, post-prowl repast for the four of us – which thereafter became the new normal.

Christmas day itself was brunch at M & B’s beginning at around ten a.m. The problem was that the two of us were still basically in a time zone two hours to the east – which meant that we were up sometime around six. To which Marsha’s first Christmas morning in Santa Fe words were, “let’s walk into town and have a Starbuck’s coffee.” (She had checked and knew that the coffee house opened at seven.)

We wondered as we wandered whether anyone other than us and a tired-looking barista would be there. But to our surprise there was a line of ten or twelve people waiting for the doors to open – along with a couple of canine companions, this being Santa Fe..

By their clothing we concluded that some of our fellow coffee-seekers were folks on their way to the local ski slopes; others were guests at nearby hotels looking for a Starbuck’s to go; and the remainder seemed to be carrying most if not all of their life’s belongings with them. We queued up – and ordered two tall, skinny, decaf, egg nog lattes, with whipped cream. Then settled into an available table, opened up our copy of the Santa Fe New Mexican from the machine outside the store, sipped, read and people (and dog) watched.


After finishing we strolled around the plaza where Marsha noticed the way the rising sun lit a portion of the square – and took the first of what became our our annual post-egg-nog-latte-Christmas-morning-in-Santa-Fe snapshots. The last one was taken in 2016 before we moved out here the following May and decided that a warm bed and some home-brewed joe worked just as well now.

Which leads us to Santa Fe discovery number (3). Traditions may change. But the best ones still include the people and places that are special to you. And, if you are really lucky, a warm bowl of posole, and a good cup of java too.

Felices Vacaciones! (Happy Holidays!)

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