Nobody in my family can agree what age I was, or any of us kids were, when we stopped coming to Taos, New Mexico for the summer. My dad taught graduate art school there, so every summer my parents would load up the station wagon with everything we’d need for 6 weeks. We rented a house from a local woman or stayed in a condo in the ski valley and had the kind of experience people complain kids don’t get anymore.
We built a “dirt slide” (does what is says on the tin) in the forest and spent an entire summer ruining our jeans on it. We picked wild strawberries and discovered centipedes (Don’t touch it or it might kill you!) and when our parents were with us, we went to the Tastee-Freez for ice cream cones or hiked up Wheeler Peak or visited galleries that officially were “boring” even if we had fun once we got there.
Like all good things, it came to an end. Now for the first time I’ve returned to Taos with my parents and brother and his family. So many things are just like I remember from childhood. We’ll round in a corner in the car and there is the post office where I spent, like, *hours* waiting for my mother to post something. There’s Michael’s Kitchen with chocolate covered crullers as mouth-watering decades later. There’s the hotel outside which my sister got the autograph of Dennis Weaver, who played TV cowboy detective Dennis McCloud.
Of course so many things are different: There’s the mountain looming up and it’s more beautiful, the sky more striking than I ever recalled. The laundromat where we used to see the hippies washing all the jeans from the commune has been torn down in favour of a new shopping centre. The Tastee Freez has been replaced with a burger joint. The school where my dad held classes looks familiar but we circle round, trying to find something that looks like the picture in our minds.
Life goes on. We grew up. My children experience a whole new version.
Yesterday we visited the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge as a family. The bridge stands 565 feet above the Rio Grande, the 7th highest bridge in America, with awe-inspiring views over the gorge and the mountains. Shadows of clouds pass over the stark landscape. From miles away you can see the streak of rainstorms moving in.
As a child, I found it exciting. As a parent, my ankles went all funny. Watching the children race ahead, only a railing separating them from the drop, I felt decidedly peculiar. As my father made his way across with his cane, I took his hat to keep it from gusting off and dying a death on the black jagged boulders below. The kids looked over the railing and felt no fear.
On the drive back to the rented house in Arroyo Seco, I describe how unnerved I felt to my mother.
“I know,” she said. “I used to feel that way with taking you 3 kids there. I’d tell you, your sister and your brother, no climbing on the railing…and y’all didn’t.”
“Yes,” my husband said. “But you used to have 7 children.”
And parents all, we laughed.