I’ve done these drives my whole life. This Memorial Day weekend, Dad and I went down to Colorado Springs from Denver, then turned on Platte Drive and onto Hwy 24. With Desert Dwellers as the soundtrack, the expansive Colorado skies and open planes. A place of my family: half land, half sky brought me deep within myself. I remembered being a 4 year old Dragon child, co-piloting the car with my mom, observing my surroundings. Oddly enough, HWY 24 hasn’t changed much, but I sure have.
We arrived at the family plots in the cemetery at Punkin Center. The family plot full of Montoyas with my Grandmother’s plaque on the wrought iron fence my mom and uncles put up a few years ago. Dressed with white rock, the family plot stands proud.
We continued into Rocky Ford and had lunch with my Auntie Sally. Born year of the Fire monkey, her house and food brought comfort, and so many cousins to play with, I was never bored. We enjoyed lunch and went to get coffee at the Coffea Shop, owned by my cousin Evan Bacca, sally’s son. The Coffea Shop is the hippest spot in town: art, music lessons, organic coffee and treats. Uncle Randy and I got iced mocha’s with cayenne and cinnamon; iced black tea for Sally. Sitting in the coffee shop, the locals told stories of the business that had come and gone through downtown. Across the street, the boarded up apartment windows caught my imagination: artist collective. Rocky Ford has so much creative potential! Leaving the Coffea Shop, we played outside with all the little cousins, Evan’s kids.
That night, mom and I stayed in La Junta, like we used to when I was a little girl, co-pilot on our monthly road trips to visit mom’s family. We stayed at the Midtown Motel and I got dinner at Mauricio’s while Mom slept off a day of activity.
Next morning, wake up. The kids upstairs are bouncing a ball like they were the night before. Mom’s been up for a while and I was making up for the hours I stayed up the night before. Meditation then street cloths, we need to be at Uncle Greg’s by 11 am. Mom hadn’t eaten dinner the night before and I needed breakfast. Small breakfast at Lucy’s Taco stand and an errand to Safeway for cold medicine, I had the sniffles, and we took off for Uncle Greg’s house in Rocky Ford.
Uncle Greg lives in my grandma’s old house, thank goodness! I would miss it too much otherwise. Memories of eating Mission Deli and watching westerns on Grandma’s couch. Her terrarium of a front room with plants and folk art. Uncle’s house is more open now, the energy can pass through and it’s comfortable. The kitchen is still the same though. Lunch starting with Mexican wedding cookies, pork chops, hot dogs, Italian sausage, potato salad, beans, and I made squash succotash with guacamole. Auntie Maxine, a water tiger like my Uncle, brought her parents when they all finished at church. Oreo, the puppy who’s feet looked like crushed up cookies, joined us for lunch showing off his intellect and good manners for 4 months old. Raindrops and wind, but no big storms.
It was time to see Maria Lopez, she’s and Artist and friend from the Denver Art Society and lives in Pueblo. Since I don’t have a car, I like to visit when I am in the area. On our way to see Maria, mom and I drove to the cemetery to place flowers and I read astrological signs of the relatives: many born year of the pig, snake, rabbit. My great uncle Saqueo Montoya, buried with his brother – Maxine pointed out “Saqueo” is an Indian name. Thinking that if I ever have a son or another doggy, Saqueo would be the name.
Off to see Maria in Pueblo. Once we arrived, her house and family were warm and inviting. Maria has been commissioned by Eva Montoya to do a mural on the East Side of Pueblo called the East Side Story. She offered to collaborate with me so we talked details of the project. We decided to meet again in June to discuss our plans.
Mom and I stayed for an hour or so with Maria then one last stop to see Auntie Abby. She had been in the hospital due to a bad pneumonia infection. Abby was resting and happy to have the company, no one likes being that sick! We then began our drive home to Boulder for mom, and Denver for me. I am so grateful to live close to my family. Their support makes my dreams of being an artist come true.