With so much close-focus attention, it can be easy to lose perspective of how far you’ve come since the trip began. I remember seeing President Obama on a TV interview a few years ago, just after his reelection, his eyes welling with tears as he viewed photos of his daughters from his first inauguration. Even those of us with less demanding day jobs than POTUS can lose sight of how much our children change in just a few years.
Perhaps that’s why “Tumbleweeds Then & Now,” our recent 20th anniversary photo retrospective, struck so many chords. The exhibit paired Tumbleweeds’ photos of children over the years with current pictures of those kids and their families. Many of the guests at the opening night reception at Rock Paper Scissor Salonspa in July had connections to the children in the photos, but everyone shared moments of wonder and wistfulness about how quickly and dramatically kids change.
There is little Zach Caraway, 4 years old, sporting a pair of swim goggles, holding hands with his friend Susie DeLapp. (Why swim goggles? Why not?) Zach’s father, Scott Caraway, who took Tumbleweeds’ cover photos for several years, pulled that one from his archives for our Spring 2003 special “Relationship Issue.” Zach and Susie, now 26, graciously posed for an update, holding hands, Zach with a pair of swim goggles on his head. Susie is now studying for a Masters in Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University and recently biked from Rhode Island to Washington State to raise money for America’s affordable housing crisis. Zach has studied culinary arts and worked in the kitchens of some of Santa Fe’s best restaurants, and is newly married. This particular coupling of photos tells tales of continuity amidst change.
Then there’s Daniel Estrada and Savannah Bolleter, charging down the sidewalk to Salazar Elementary School at 7 years old to start second grade. Daniel’s older brother, Javier Sernas, took that photo as well as the current one of Daniel and Savannah, now 16, a little more subdued, a little more cool.
One set of photos spans a period far longer than Tumbleweeds’ two decades. Back in 2009, in the middle of the financial downturn, Gloria Fournier Valdez contributed an essay about lessons she learned from the woman she called Oma, her German grandma, who immigrated to the US at the turn of the last century and survived the Great Depression. Seeing photos of Oma and her family on the page of that issue, alongside Gloria and her own grandchildren this summer at the Grand Canyon, remind me how a family voyage begins long before any of us comes onboard.
Family portraits are hardly the rarity these days that they were to Gloria’s Oma. But while digital photos are supposedly forever, we are living in an Instagram era, when yesterday’s photos are too old to post. With more photos in “the cloud” than humankind has ever known, we are more embedded in the moment than ever.
So I pulled out, recently, some of our good old print photo albums, to revisit Charles’ and my early days as parents. From my vantage point in what is (perhaps) an interregnum between parenthood and grandparenthood, I remembered the fresh wonder I felt as a new mom, witnessing changes in our son every day. I also remember my uncertainty, a trace of loneliness, raising a child far from my own family, figuring out where I was going. I remembered wanting time to slow down for us to savor it all, and also to jump ahead and know how it would all turn out, to know if Charles and I, newbie parents, were on the right path. I wanted, at times, a map with “You are Here” in a big red triangle. No one could have told us; we had to trace that route ourselves.
Meanwhile, with Tumbleweeds barreling down the road into our third decade, I can look back on how much our community has changed in the past 20 years. Organizations for families have sprung up over the years like mushrooms during a wet summer. There’s a new business in town, My Turn Parents Center, where parents can take time for themselves while their children play in a supervised playroom. One of Tumbleweeds’ coeditors wrote, “Where was this place 10 or 12 years ago??” in the draft of this article.
Twenty years ago, global warming wasn’t on my radar — but then, neither was a fierce young advocate like Marina Weber, a 12-year-old girl who has been spearheading an effort to help the planet since she was 6.
Aaron Leventman’s article on his theater production “Almost Adults,” five one-act plays on LGTBQ issues (lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer/questioning) to be presented at Warehouse 21 in September for teens and up, gives me particular joy. We have come so far in our acceptance of sexual differences in recent years, and I’m thrilled not only to be able to witness this shift but to give space to it in Tumbleweeds.
Check out “Tumbleweeds Then & Now” on the walls at Rock Paper Scissor Salonspa in Sanbusco until September 1, and then on our website, www.sftumbleweeds.com. The photos may inspire you to consider your own points of reference on your parenting journey, to look back on far you’ve come, how you’ve grown along with your kids, how you’ve dealt with the travails, even tragedies, on the way. Take a moment to pull over for a moment and look around at your family and yourself with pride as you say, “We are here.”