During the annual Las Fiestas de Taos, I found myself thinking about my grandma again. All weekend, I saw multi-generational families at the festivities, sitting under shade trees to watch the parade and walking along just chatting and laughing. Grandparents, parents, kids, aunts and uncles, cousins and babies…it was nice to see. I’ve talked about grandma being put under some kind of spell and having her money stolen by the Gypsies ( read here ) and about how she was a curandera / native healer ( read here and scroll down ), but I've never shared how...in spite of an austere, work-filled life...she was the rock, glue and heart of our extended family in Nambe.

I was very close to my grandma, Luisita Rivera (1871 - 1956) , and in the mid to late 1940’s and 1950’s, I spent lots of time with her. They lived a hard life – "simple" and “rustic” are probably nice ways to describe it. The house had dirt floors, and there wasn't ANY electricity, indoor water or plumbing. I remember bringing water into the house from a rusty well pump in the back yard. Worse was having to visit the rickety outhouse (especially at night) and firing up the lanterns that gave a warm glow but little light. There was a large wood-burning cook stove and only one fireplace to heat the whole house. It was drafty, and, in the winters, it was downright freezing in the bedrooms. Grandma piled so many thick quilts on me that I could hardly move or breathe…quilts sewed by hand of course.

In fact, practically everything in the house (and the house itself) was hand built or crafted. My grandpa, Pedro, built the house and made the furniture, while grandma sewed all their clothing and bed linens, canned and stored food from the large garden and made necessities like soap and candles from butchered hog fat. The two of them somehow made it work. Day in and day out, they planted it, grew it, made it, saved it or repaired it. Rarely (and I do mean rarely), they would sell an animal (like a hog or a lamb) to get money to buy things like sugar, flour and fuel for the lanterns (remember…no electricity).