Noah Cohen, Guest Writer
I jolted awake, the incessant noise of my phone startled me, as the sound reverberated through my ears. Feeling groggy and in a haze, I rubbed my eyes with one hand and turned off my phone’s ringer with the other. My alarm had gone off – seemingly too early, as it so often does. I stood beside my bed, eyes glossy and only partially open, staring at the clock that read 3:00 a.m. With a big inhale, and an even bigger and more dramatic exhale, I begrudgingly began what I knew would be a very long travel day.
Lynden, my boyfriend, and I arrived at the airport at 4:40 a.m. I can only imagine how terrible I must have looked to the lady helping us check our baggage. In addition to the early wake up that morning, I don’t think I slept very well to begin with; thoughts buzzed through my mind like bees within a hive. This was an important day for me. For us. It’s 5:30 a.m. now. Having checked our luggage and made it through security, and with time to spare before our flight, we plopped ourselves down at a generic airport restaurant. Lynden ordered a Bloody Mary. I ordered an IPA. The server’s facial expression changed, as our order took her a little by surprise. She gave us a half-smile as she prepared our drinks, only slightly giving off the impression that she was judging our life choices this morning. The expression is “it’s five o’clock somewhere” but nowhere in that expression does it specify it has to be five in the evening. In fact, I think we were extra responsible for waiting until 5:30. The drinks are placed in front of us and I give a half-smile back. Thanks, Susan.
The tires screeched; a bumpy landing sent everyone shifting in their seats before the pilot announced that we had arrived. We touched down at the smallest airport I’ve ever been to – Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico. “Where is the baggage claim?” I asked Lynden. “This is it” he said. Is he messing with me? I’m looking all around and don’t see any signs or indications that this would be the place our suitcases would arrive to. Suddenly, a metal gate, about the height of a standard suitcase and maybe four times the length, opened upward, and slowly we saw hands pushing the bags through from the other side of the wall. We picked up our bags, got in a car and began our two-hour drive to our destination. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Roswell, there is a history pertaining to the belief by its residents that the small town had been the site for alien and UFO visits. In the late 1940s, a United States military balloon crashed near a ranch in Roswell, and some 30 years later, this balloon crash became quite the topic of speculation and conspiracy, as many believed it was actually a flying disk – a UFO. If I’m being honest, I felt a little like an alien after landing – unfamiliar and feeling out of place, having never been in such a small town before – maybe it was me who had emerged from a flying disk?
The significance of this trip was enormous for my relationship. This was the first time I would be meeting his family. When I say I was meeting his family, I mean practically everyone in his entire bloodline. This was also my first time ever being “brought home to mom and dad” and meeting a significant other’s family. It was Thanksgiving Day when we arrived at New Mexico. Lynden’s father was the first relative I met. He picked us up from the Roswell airport and the three of us drove several hours to Fort Sumner. He taught me a lot about the different types of animals that inhabit New Mexico, his encounters with rattlesnakes, history of the state, history of the people and much, much more.
We had discussed animals a lot during that car ride, yet, having been looking out the window for most of it, I really didn’t see many. I knew it was going to be rural before I came, but I was shocked to discover how desolate the land was. As far as the eye could see, and in any direction, was vast. Like the feeling of being on a boat in the middle of the ocean and seeing boundless openness, looking out at the landscape here made me wonder where the next remanence of civilization was hiding. I also kept checking the gauge on how much gas we had, as the other thought that crossed my mind was if we were to break down, how long it would take to receive help and how would we even describe where on this sole road we were located. To put it into perspective, in roughly 100 miles of driving, we passed one other car.
We arrived at Fort Sumner where I met the next of the relatives: Lynden’s sister and her kids. I should specify that “kids” in my last sentence was referring to children, but there were kids as in baby goats living there as well. In the yard, I got to meet some of the locals – goats, a massive fluffy dog who protected them and some pigs who, when I went to visit them had flung something at me, leaving me to quickly exit their pen and not return. Luckily, there was no visible mark on my sweater. Hey, some people are built for it, and others are not. We spent a couple of hours at the house before the real test: Thanksgiving Dinner.
I come from a relatively small family and I’m used to very small Thanksgiving celebrations with maybe 6-8 people. This was not that. Stepping inside the house, there were so many people all around, I didn’t even know where to start. Each person I met was so friendly and welcoming. The tension in my shoulders eased a little, and though a bit overwhelming, I felt like I was slowly losing the nervous jittery feeling I had when we were standing outside the front door. After a few hours of self-loathing for eating that third massive plate, even though I was already so full, we all had gone our separate ways. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little relieved because it meant I survived the meeting of my boyfriend’s family and that going to sleep was eminent. Might I remind you that we had been up since 3 a.m., it was now 11 p.m. in New Mexico, which felt like 1 a.m. for us. It had been a day.
Over the course of the next few days, I felt much more at ease, and felt I really got to know everyone on a deeper level. I was able to spend more intimate time with different groups of relatives and family friends. Much of our time was spent helping with the set up and preparations for Lynden’s grandmother’s 100th birthday. From grocery store runs, to making a few hundred cake ball pops, to decorating tables and windowsills and everything in between, we had plenty to do. I enjoy things like that, and to be honest, I appreciated having activities to keep me busy.
The birthday party finally arrived, and if I thought Thanksgiving was a lot of new people to meet…well this party took it to a whole new level. From meeting more relatives to meeting Lynden’s childhood school bus driver, it was a lot of socializing. There must have been 200-300 people, and I’m pretty sure I met almost every single one of them. By the end, I felt so drained and my lung capacity was depleted from expanding and contracting so much while talking. I can only imagine what Lynden’s grandmother felt, as she was the star of the show!
Coming to rural New Mexico was a culture shock, but it was also really fascinating to see an entirely different kind of landscape and lifestyle than anything I’m used to being around. Luckily for me, every person I met was kind, open and didn’t mind explaining and teaching me informative and interesting things about their home. This trip was a gigantic step for me and my relationship, and I feel honored that I was included in Thanksgiving and a 100th birthday celebration. I thank all of Lynden’s family for their hospitality and welcoming me in, and Lynden for sharing the experience and his home town with me.
From moving to a new city, moving in with a significant other and now meeting his family, the last 10 months have proved to come with lots of surprises, personal advancement and growth. Reflecting on what is new and has changed in my life recently, I’m excited and eager to see what all will happen next.