(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
When the boys were in grade school we lived in San Diego. In order to get to know her grandsons while they were growing, my mother would spend a couple weeks each summer with us. Living in the Philadelphia suburbs Moma felt that she was unable to have any real Mexican food, which she had grown to love when she and Daddy had first lived in Southern California shortly after World War II. The flight she usually took to visit us would land about noon Pacific Time, so the boys and I would pick her up while Walt was at work. On the way home we would stop at a small restaurant where she could get her first “fix” of Mexican style food. Walt’s palate is more limited than the boys’, Moma’s or mine, so he didn’t feel he had missed out on anything.
One summer when the boys were in upper elementary school, Walt and I decided to take Moma and the boys on a road trip through the southwest. We would call it our “Holey” Vacation, as we would see Meteor Crater in Arizona, Grand Canyon, Brice Canyon, and since we would be relatively close we would stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One piece of the mix was Mesa Verde National Park with the Anasazi cliff dwellings. The only way to access some of the dwellings that we wanted to see was to ascend to the cliff ledge on rustic ladders. The boys clambered up first, then me, Moma followed with Walt bringing up the rear. Though having been cautioned to be careful, as soon as they got off the ladders the boys ran for the dwellings. The Anasazi didn’t have road graders so the floor of the ledge was not exactly level, but the boys were young and nimble. At least they went further into the depth of the ledge rather than to the edge. As I got off the ladder I was debating with myself whether to chase after the boys or stand and give Moma a hand on her way onto the ledge. I ended up calling to the boys, well, shouting, and reaching for my mother’s hand. When Moma reached the level of the houses she was all full of giggles. At that point my mother was in her mid 60s and my brother had taken her ladders away for her own safety. He didn’t want her attempting home repairs while she was home alone. Just like the boys, she was getting away with something that those concerned for her well-being had tried to restrict. The boys picked up on her mood and urged her to explore various houses and a kiva in the village we had reached. Walt and I just looked at each other. It seemed we had three “children” to watch.
New Mexico is a stunning state with stark and majestic geography. Especially in the rural areas many houses are built in the square adobe style and nestled in the brush in such a way as to be almost invisible. These are often very contemporary with energy renewable features. And there are ristras of chilies everywhere. We were there in August when green chilies are still plentiful, but are hung on strings where they turn to red and then a red so dark it is almost black. When we got to Santa Fe, Moma was excited about the prospect of going to a restaurant featuring the local cuisine and lots of those beautiful chilies. We chose a place close to our hotel. It was a single story with classically southwestern flair. When the waiter came to take our order he explained that the dishes could be served with the salsa rojo or salsa verde. Rojo is made with the riper and sweeter and mellower chilies, so is not quite as hot. He cautioned that their salsa verde was extremely hot. He then asked Moma for her order. She chose and then opted for the salsa verde. The waiter must have thought she had confused the two colors and again explained that this was a very spicy sauce. She told him that she had understood and that was why she chose it. He said nothing more, but took the rest of our orders; however, you could tell by the look on his face that he just knew she was making a terrible mistake that would ruin our dining experience. How could this little old white woman, who was obviously not from around there, really want good, hot salsa verde.
As he served the dinners, he gave Moma another chance to opt for the red sauce. She assured him that what he brought looked wonderful and that she was eager to enjoy it. Having served our meals he walked back to the kitchen door, but didn’t enter. He stood with his back to the wall and just watched Moma. He was obviously ready to run to her rescue. There was even a spare basket of bread on the table right next to him. Moma inhaled the heady aromas, readied her fork, prized off the first bite and put it into her mouth. She closed her eyes and sat bolt upright in her chair as one small tear seeped out the corner of her eye. The waiter reached for the breadbasket and was halfway back to our table when Moma exhaled slowly. “Oooh, that is sooo good.” she sighed. “I can’t get anything like this at home.”
At that the waiter’s shoulders relaxed and he really did return to the kitchen as our boys just broke out in giggles. They had been watching the waiter, too.
The last word:
Moma was quite a lady, not often behaving as she appeared.
Keep your sense of humor.