Originally written October 2005 -
"Fall break" for you who are not from New Mexico, is really the school district giving in to the "voice of the people" here. You see, we in Albuquerque are now in the final days of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! It is 10 glorious days of the largest hot air balloon event in the WORLD! Balloonists and tourists come from all over the world to see this spectacle.
Different balloon events are held at the Balloon Fiesta Park during this time. Hotels are filled to capacity. All kinds of languages are heard around the city. It's not unusual for local families to keep their kids home for a day here or there to attend the event. So, in an attempt to cut down on absences happening throughout the 10 days, the school district just decided to give the schools a day off, in hopes that families will just decide to go that day. And it works!
Each day a "mass ascension" is held, with approximately 400-600 balloons taking part. Thousands of people flock to the field at 5:00 in the morning, in the cold and darkness. The stars are bright and shining still. Concession stands line one side of the field, where you can buy and wrap your frigid fingers around a cup of hot chocolate, a steamy cinnamon bun or a green chili and cheese burrito to keep warm. People are dressed in wool hats and mittens and wrapped in blankets.
Small helium "test" balloons (the birthday party kind) are sent up to test the winds, and everyone waits to see if the winds will cooperate. Balloonists unpack their gondolas and lay
out their envelopes on the grass in row after row after row down the length of the field.
The "Dawn Patrol", the first balloonists to go up, inflate their envelopes and take a morning test flight. As they fire their burners and ascend, their envelopes glow starkly set against the black predawn sky. Excitement is building. Things are going well! The perfect breeze is blowing, enough to send the balloon riders on a beautiful ride.
The sky starts to lighten, and soon the sun sends its first rays of the morning over the east mountains. The word is given and everything is go! Burners roar and huge fans push the warm air into the envelopes all over the field as the balloons come to life. Crews and ropes and lines control each envelope until they are all standing upright, bobbing from side to side and bumping against each other, straining to leave the ground.
The huge crowd, men, women, children, seniors, babies....are out there too. No standing at the sidelines required here. Everyone is out there, amidst the raucous noise, the burners and the balloons, the radio announcer and the music, staring up into silk globes and feeling the warmth of the propane flames as they blast the balloons awake.
Special shaped balloons are there too. A cow, a bee, a sun face, a chili ristra, a dragon, a soda bottle, a tree, Noah's ark and the Jesus balloon, the Energizer Bunny....shapes you couldn't even imagine...as big as buildings....all creatively stitched together in rainbow colors of silk!
Then the word is again given. The first row to the south takes off! Then the second...the third.....the fourth....the fifth.....as all down the field row after row of balloons fly up each in their turn. After the first rows take off, the second wave of balloonists lay out and inflate their envelopes as the balloons to the north are taking off. New rows of envelopes bob and bounce against each other, crews straining to hold them to the ground until the given moment. Then the second wave takes off, row after row, until the sky is filled with color. The crowd on the ground watches and points and laughs and smiles in awe and takes another 20 pictures. As the sun warms the morning, coats and hats are peeled off. But the party is not over! Have another cup of coffee. Buy a balloon event pin to add to your collection, and wait for the balloon races to begin! Activity is a buzz until about mid-morning. It's such a warm, happy, pleasant atmosphere! You can't go there and not feel happy.
Last night my husband, Scott, had to work late, so I took Cole and Beana to the Glodeo. This is where only the special shapes are set up in the late afternoon.
Once again the crowds flocked to the field by the thousands. At night, the concession stands sell nachos, smoked turkey legs, and roasted corn on the cob. Envelopes and gondolas again lined the field, waiting for the sun to go down. Teen-agers, hired for the fiesta, hawked calendars, glow toys and a wide array of jester hats! As the sky started to mellow and the western horizon became ablaze in a pink, yellow and purple sunset, the burners and fans roared to life again as envelopes were inflated. But this time, they didn't take off. Tethered to the ground, the envelopes thronging the air around us, the crowd wound through the maze of balloons, collecting trading cards from the various balloon teams, trading pins, asking questions , taking pictures and greeting people.
The sun went down and the sky darkened. Individual burners fired here and there to keep the envelopes up and moving, giving off a warm, colorful "glow" against the night sky. But the best part....the most magical part....was when the announcer started the countdown. Then the whole crowd joined in...thousands of people counting in unison...
And every balloon on the field fired it's burner......every envelope filled with light.....and there we were......smack dab in the middle of 300 balloons.....all glowing and warm and jolly! It's like a huge, magical toyland.....supersized! A roar went up from the crowd as it shouted its approval! This same countdown happened 10 times or so over the next hour. It's quite a time!
Then, as propane tanks burned towards empty, envelopes were deflated. Gondolas were packed away for the night. Now all the people took out their blankets and found a comfortable place on the ground. Snug and warm as the desert night's chill started to settle in, hot chocolate in hand, sharp reports started to echo through the sky, and the fireworks began.
Ohhhs and Ahhhhs rose from the crowd with each blast of light and sound. Beana, Cole and I cuddled together on our blanket, watching this event with our stomachs full of smoked turkey. They had their share of comments to make about the fireworks. It was funny to listen to Cole's. For some reason, as the explosions blossomed in the sky, they reminded him of Beana's hair falling in braids around her shoulders. Numerous suggestions came from him such as....
"You should do Beana's hair like that, Mama."
"Ohhhh look at that one! It looks like a waterfall! That would be a nice way to braid Beana's hair....huh, Mama."
"Huh, Mama." Pronounced as "HUmuma", like it was one big word with the stress on the first syllable. Such a sparkling little boy. I like how he sees things, like his sister's hair as beautiful and tempestuous as fireworks! We snuggled deeper under our blankets, our bodies curled up together for warmth, sipping hot chocolate, as we settled in to watch the magic erupt across the darkening desert night.
My daughter, Beana (nickname for Gianina) , has discovered my essential oils and scent combinations. She likes the less chemical smell and the musky aromas of amber and sandlewood. So on a recent grocery run to the local health food store, she found a scent she "knew" I'd like and "bought it" for me. Of course....Papa was paying for the grocery bill. The bottle of Vanilla Amber happened to make it's way into the cart along with everything else. None the less I appreciated the thought, and she was right. I do like the scent. So does she.
Now it's become a regular part of our routine to share my oils, which I don't mind at all. I love that we have this relationship and she wants to share things with me. She winds her way into my room most mornings.
"Mama, can I put on some oil?"
This morning she was running a bit late. I'm on "drive them to school" duty on Wednesdays, so I was headed out the door for the car. She was headed toward my room to put on Vanilla Amber, but the door was shut, which meant Papa was in the room, possibly dressing. They know better than to just bust in.
"Mama, can you go into your room to get the oil? Papa's in the room and the door is shut."
"Yes," I said, and headed toward the room.
Our master bathroom is off our bedroom. I entered the bedroom and the bathroom door was closed, which could mean Scott, my husband, was in the beginning, middle or end of could be anything!
I knocked and asked, "Are you sitting?"
"Yeeeeeeeeeees," was the response.
Well, I'm not interrupting THAT!
"Okay, never mind. Bye!" I left the room and started heading out to the car.
"Sorry Beana, Papa's in the bathroom 'sitting'."
Her response: "What, and that stops you?" She was totally serious.
"Yes that stops me! "
"Why?" Again, totally serious.
"BECAUSE HE LIKES HIS PRIVACY WHEN HE'S TRYING TO USE THE BATHROOM!"
What is it with teenagers? Just because they now know their parents actually have seen each other naked does NOT mean that we share other personal intimate moments, especially those that require a modicum of privacy ! They're so funny! You have to cherish these exchanges.
September 21, 2001
Dear Cole and Gianina,
It is a different world today.
A week and a half ago, on September 11, 2001, four commercial planes were hijacked. Two slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City causing them to both implode within 30 minutes of being hit. One plane slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. And one plane crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania. The world was different from that moment on.
I had been out for a morning walk around the golf course across the street from our house here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in the sunshine and thinking what a beautiful day it was. As I entered the house, your father was watching the news. He quickly called me to come in and see what he was watching. I remember how serious his voice sounded. And then his voice cracked as he told me, "A plane just crashed into the Pentagon."
I watched the pictures on the TV for a moment. My sister, Dee, works in the Pentagon. Everything seemed so surreal....like I was just watching a movie. A thought crossed my mind that Dee was okay, wherever she was. That this did not effect her. Then it all came screaming home to me that indeed she may have been hurt or killed. I called Grandma and Grandpa Parlato in Oneida, New York. They had not heard from her yet and were watching the events on television. Then I tried to call my sister, Lisa, but she was not at home. As I hung up the phone, it rang. It was Dee.
"Where are you?" I screamed into the phone. "Where are you?"
She was in Texas. She is the personal photographer for the Secretary of the Navy and she travels with him wherever he goes. They were on travel this week. She was safe.
But so many people are gone. The twin towers of the World Trade Center lie in heaps on the ground. Rescue workers, police and firemen who responded immediately to the attack were buried when the buildings collapsed. Many people were able to evacuate the buildings, but many were not and died in the attack and collapse. Immediately, airports all around the nation were closed and all planes grounded. Government buildings and labs were evacuated and people told to go home. Our nation ground to a halt. Everyone is immobile and in a state of shock. Suddenly, "home" does not feel so safe. Everyone feels like a target. And we are. Osama bin Laden, a very rich Saudi man who now lives in Afghanistan, has been identified as the main organizer of the terrorist attacks. He has made it clear that his wish is for all Americans to die.
Our government has gone into overdrive. It has declared "war" against terrorism and has focused on what it needs to do to protect our country. Our president, George W. Bush, has suddenly been catapulted into a global spotlight. Our military has been deployed to Asia and the Middle East, and may soon attack military targets in Afghanistan in an effort to close down terrorist camps and oust Bin Laden. Nations have come together to rally an organized effort to fight. Locally, we see signs of increased security all around. Soldiers wear green khakis and carry weapons at our airports and bases. Even the armory just down the street is now cordoned off with razor wire, cement barriers and soldiers on 24-hour guard. And our nation has been brought to its knees in prayer. All over the TV, media, radios, billboards, etc, the call has gone out to pray. Signs are everywhere, invoking the name of God in a very open and public outcry. People, in the sudden realization of their vulnerability, mortality and grief, are understanding their need for God. And they are seeking Him. Prayer vigils and religious services are being held all over the country, in houses of worship and in public stadiums and plazas. Churches are filled to over-flowing. Our president called for a national day of prayer on the Friday after the attacks. Two minutes of silence were observed by people in nations all over the world, to exercise a moment of reverence toward the impact of the attacks and the people effected. The news showed footage of major cities in numerous countries where traffic, movement, and activity came to a complete stop, as nations observed the moment. We all, as a global whole, are effected. May God hear us.
And you, my precious children, play at my feet, unaware of any changes in your small lives. You still play, and eat, and sleep, and cry, and laugh. I watch you with very, very different eyes. Suddenly, you seem so exposed. You seem so small and fragile, and I in a mother's fierce desire to protect you, cannot. All I want to do is hug you and kiss you and keep you close to me. Since the moments you were born, I have prayed for your protection, and for God to keep my eyes vigilant over you. I will continue to pray for this, and for God to use me to maintain your safety as much as is humanly possible. You have only been loaned to us, your Papa and me, for a short period of time. Ultimately, you belong to God, and I must remember that. You are His. And for that, I am thankful. He loves you even more than I could imagine myself loving you. He's concerned for your safety, and has ultimate ability to keep you within His loving gaze. What I can only wish to do for you, He is able to accomplish. And I am learning, through all this upheaval in our world, to release you into His trusted hands. I know that this insures nothing while we live on this earth. That as I sit at this computer and write this, we are still in danger of more terrorist attacks that may effect us personally and could very well kill us. It is frightening, knowing so much is out of our control. But ultimately, you are in His hands, and He is still on His throne. And He is still in control, no matter what we see, no matter what we hear, no matter what anyone says. Nothing escapes Him. I must remember to "walk by faith, and not by sight".
I don't know at this moment, if you will ever be old enough to read this letter on your own and understand it. But I write it in hope for the future. I hope one day you can read it, and take in this eye witness account of a period of your own lives. Grow, in love and submission to the Lord our Father, knowing how fragile and fleeting your lives are. Seek Him. Find Him. Trust Him. Follow Him. He will lead you. Live in the present, with your eyes on the future. Not just an earthly future, but an eternal future in His heavenly kingdom, in His heavenly presence.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
"Be still, and know that I am God."
May God help me to remember this; to trust Him with you, and with Papa, and with me. That no matter what happens, He is still my Lord and Savior and loving Father. And you, are His.
Your loving Mama,