Over the years, one branch of my family has gotten together in different parts of the country. Each year one person takes a turn to pick a spot and organize the event. I cannot make it every year. Sometimes the event is large, sometimes not. The venue is always different: Colorado, Wyoming, Tennessee and this year New Mexico. I used to live in New Mexico, and so this location held special meaning for me. I realized I had been gone longer than I lived there. I felt a sense of sadness I had not expected. I missed it, but you can’t go back either. I took this time to see it as a new place where I didn’t need a map. I had forgotten how easy it is to navigate by large mountains.
My children were able to come with me and experience the desert and the mountains for the first time. They got to leave South Carolina where; it is always green, the trees block the skyline, mosquitoes and humidity are ever-present to experience the West. It was fun to see it through their eyes and mine. I sent them off with a new set of rules: everything bites or stings, don’t jump fences, never tease the livestock or leave the house without water.
The boys found the rattlesnake nest the first day and learned not to poke around in holes. My daughter discovered the hazards of elevation sickness; we had left sea level for 6800 feet. The neighbors learned that no matter what the jet lag; young children will still scream at 6 am on a Sunday morning when they reach the top of a hill.
One new addition this year that I hope will become a tradition: we set up a shared photo album. Everyone can add photos, and use the photos others. Family members who were not able to make the trip can also experience the journey. There were some amazing photos taken that I would love to see again. Some days everyone will go to someplace together, other days we go our separate ways. The shared album allows us to all to see the same things.