The New Mexico Spanish Great Grandmother Story
July 31st, 2014
By John Wright
This story begins at a high school graduation party in June of 1988 where I live here in San Jose, California. I was only eighteen years old. The party was thrown at my best friend’s house. It was a typical 1980’s upper-middle-class northern California high school party in June of 1988. Another really good friend was the DJ at the party. I remember a year later he asked me what I thought of the name he had chosen for the new DJ company he started. The name was “Peanut Butter Wolf”. It was a really weird name so I had no problem telling him it was the dumbest name I had ever heard in my entire life. It seemed like every kid I met back then wanted to be a DJ. I kind of feel bad all these years later because I realize I was not a very supportive friend when it came to one of my friends wanting to be a DJ. It had nothing to do with my friend not being good enough though. He was really good. I just thought it was too competitive an industry. I remember at one point all my friends ran into the living room to dance to one of our favorite songs at the time after our DJ friend put on “Sally – That Girl” by Gucci Crew. The music was bumping. The DJ lights flashing. The beer was flowing.
It was during this song I realized it would probably be the last time I would see most of these friends. I figured everyone would go their own way after graduation. So I just stood there with my beer bottle in hand looking at each one of my friends’ faces. I stared at them one by one because I wanted to remember them “forever young“. The song was actually the theme for graduation and was printed on our drinking glasses.
I remember I could see all the excitement and optimism in their eyes. I stared at each one of them. I could see something else too. I could see the fear in their eyes. I could especially see the fear in my best friend’s eyes. He and I had the same birthday. He was born on the same day in the same year and in the same hospital within the same few hours I was born. I could tell something was wrong because he was sitting on the floor with his back up against the wall all by himself away from everyone else. I sat down directly right next to him with my back against the wall and put one arm over his shoulder and asked what was wrong.
John Wright: “Hey! What’s the matter!? Why do you look sad!?”
High School Friend: “I am sad because I am moving with my family to New Mexico in two weeks and I am going to miss everyone. We are moving to New Mexico because my mom has family there I have never met and she wants to be close to her mother. She is from a really small town in New Mexico called “Abiquiú“. It’s a small town. It’s nothing like the Bay area. I am scared because I have lived in California all my life and I don’t think I can do it. (Tears started running down his face as he slowly looked over at me.) I don’t know anyone there. It is going to be so different. It would be different if I was not going to New Mexico alone but ….. Wait a minute! John! You should go with us ! It would be perfect for you since you don’t have a home or a family ever since you ran away from home when we were fifteen! My family would love you! You would have a family that loved you! We could get an apartment two hours away in Albuquerque! John let’s do it! You want to move to New Mexico with me and my family?”
John Wright: “I don’t see why not. I’m going to be miserable now that I am an adult and cannot have as much fun. I guess I could be just as miserable in New Mexico. Yeah — okay — I will move to New Mexico with you. ”
High School Friend: “Seriously! You would do that for me!? John! You would do that for me!?”
John Wright: “Yeah. I would do that for you. There is only one thing. You have to promise not to be sad anymore and have fun with the rest of us at the party.”
High School Friend: “I promise. However — John — before we go back into the party I have to say something to you. I am so sorry I used to come home late from parties and find you sleeping on the cold ground outside waiting for me to come home when you had nowhere to go when you ran away from home. I would always feel bad because you looked so cold and hungry. I know you had a hard life when you were growing up and I am sorry. I feel ashamed. I should have come home early every night just to make sure you were not sleeping on the ground waiting for me to come home. This is especially considering what you are willing to do for me right now. John — do you forgive me?”
John Wright: “I forgive you. It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize. That’s because there was no way you could have known what night I would come to your house. I have a question though.”
High School Friend: “What?”
John Wright: “Is New Mexico a country or a state.”
High School Friend (laughing and crying): “It’s a state.”
John Wright: “Okay. I just thought I should ask.”
The next thing you know — BAM — two weeks later I was in the back of a pickup truck getting drunk with my friend heading to New Mexico with his family.
This is where the story begins with the old New Mexico woman and her angel. It was my friend’s Great Grandmother whom he had never met. New Mexico was uniquely different than the rest of the states. It was definitely different from northern California. It is called “The Land of Enchantment” because of it’s scenic beauty and rich history. Abiquiú was uniquely different from anything on the planet. It was out in the middle of nowhere in the New Mexico desert. However – just to give you an idea — the population of Abiquiú today is 735. The opening shot of the 4th Indiana Jones movie was filmed in Abiquiú. It was also where the famous New Mexico mountain painter Georgia O’Keeffe lived from 1949 until 1986 when she passed away at 98 years of age. My friend’s family lived here. I was told my friend’s Great Grandmother had been Georgia O’Keeffe’s maid. His Great Grandmother was ninety five years old. Her house was a very modest and small adobe home that sat up on top of this hill above a little community below. This tiny community was comprised of homes encircling a small horseshoe shaped area accessed by dirt roads. The neighborhood was surrounded by beautiful New Mexico mountains as far as the eye could see in all directions. The entire community was related to my friend and his Great Grandmother.
The very first day we arrived my friend’s Aunt pointed to the Great Grandmother’s house sitting by itself up on a hill. The Aunt told us the Great Grandmother had been waiting a very long time to meet both of us. I remember feeling somewhat perplexed. I had agreed to move to New Mexico only two weeks earlier and even though I understood why the Great Grandmother had been waiting a long time to meet her Great Grandson — I did not understand why she was waiting a long time to meet me. The Aunt said the next day all three of us would be walking up the small hill to meet the ninety five year old Great Grandmother.
The following day my friend and I with his Aunt walked up the small hill to meet the Great Grandmother. It was a small hill but quite a hike in a hundred and something degree weather. The Aunt had to go with us because the Great Grandmother only spoke Spanish and the Aunt would act as our translator. On the way up the hill I came up with an idea. I told my friend we should play a joke on the Great Grandmother. He had never met her before so I said we should pretend I am her Great Grandson and he is the friend. The Aunt started laughing and said — “Oh come on you guys. She is ninety five years old. Give her a break.” I did not care. It was just too funny. So I stood in front of the Aunt and my friend and knocked on the door with a big smile on my face. The door opened and there stood a tiny old woman hunched over smiling at me. She reached directly out in front of her and grabbed my hand and pulled me into the house with my friend and his Aunt behind us. Then she grabbed both my hands and started rubbing them on the walls and immediately began speaking Spanish to me. I was so caught off guard I looked nervously back and forth at the Aunt and the Great Grandmother while she rubbed my hands on the walls.
John Wright: “What is she saying?”
High School Friend: “She is saying you are the dumbest white boy she has ever met.”
The Aunt: “Oh shut up. That is not what she is saying. She is telling you that both she and her husband built this house with their own hands.”
John Wright: “This has gone too far. She thinks I am her Great Grandson. Tell her I am not her Great Grandson.”
The Aunt: “She knows you are not her Great Grandson. She is saying your eyes are as beautiful and blue as she remembered them in the dream where the angel showed you to her.”
John Wright: “I don’t understand. The dream? The angel?”
It was at this point the Great Grandmother began pulling me behind her by the hand to another room in her house. My friend and his Aunt followed behind us. We ended up in this ten by ten room with hundreds of tiny carved wooden statues set next to each other outlining the entire room. There were hundreds of them. I could see candles burning next to a Catholic rosary. It was at this time I determined the Great Grandmother was very religious. I just stood there staring with amazement at all these little wooden statues lining the room.
Great Grandmother: “Santos, Juanito.”
Once translated it meant: “Saints, John.”
The Aunt: “She wants to know if you are pleased with her religion.”
John Wright: “Um — yeah — I guess.”
The Great Grandmother began pulling me into her living room behind her as my friend and his Aunt followed us. The living room had windows that looked out over the New Mexico desert from her house on the hill. The Great Grandmother sat down on the couch and motioned for me to sit right next to her. I looked over at my friend and started laughing.
John Wright: “I think your Great Grandmother is hitting on me.”
The Aunt: “Oh stop it. Sit down. She wants to tell you a story.”
I sat down right next to the Great Grandmother. She reached over and grabbed my hand and began rubbing my hand as she looked into my eyes and smiled as she told me a story. I still remember what my young eighteen year old hand looked like in contrast to her ninety five year old hand. I just sat there looking back at her as she began to tell me a story of her youth. The Aunt translated the story for me.
Great Grandmother: “I was a very beautiful young lady in my twenties. All the boys in town wanted to kiss me but I would not kiss them. That kiss was meant for my future husband. I used to pray to God every single day and every single night. One night an angel came into my dreams. The angel would visit me every single night for many years. One night the angel showed you to me in my dreams. The angel told me that you and I would meet in my older years. The angel said you would introduce me to my Great Grandson. I have been waiting to meet you all my life. Your eyes are as beautiful as I remember them in my dream.”
The Aunt: “She is saying you must stay at her house tonight.”
John Wright: “I am not sure we can. Your nephew and I were planning to leave for Albuquerque today. It’s a two hour drive.”
The Aunt: “You both can leave for Albuquerque tomorrow. You must not say ‘no’ to the Great Grandmother. It would be a huge insult. You must stay as a guest in her house tonight. ”
High School Friend: Yeah man. We can’t say ‘no’ to her. We can just leave tomorrow.”
Therefore — without argument — we stayed the night at the Great Grandmother’s house.
I remember that first night clearly in my mind. My high school friend and I sat on the front porch of the Great Grandmother’s house at sunset. The porch had a view of the Abiquiú Valley below surrounded by the beautiful New Mexico mountains. It was Monsoon season in New Mexico. This is a time when states like New Mexico and Arizona experience a pronounced increase in rainfall after an extremely dry period. I could see storm clouds directly in front of us coming in over the mountains. I remember the black clouds over the mountains and the red and blue sky from the sun were like something out of a painting. It was no wonder the famous Georgia O’Keeffe chose these mountains to paint. It was an incredibly surreal feeling. The storm would end up directly over us at one point. The rain began to fall and you could actually see the lightning striking the ground. The thunder would rattle the house like an earthquake every time it struck. I remember the lightning was so bright I could see the tears running down my friend’s face when it flashed. It was clear he realized his life in California was officially over. We both went to our beds that night with our past behind us and our future before us.
The next morning I woke up and sat on the couch in the living room. The Aunt came in and asked me how I slept.
John Wright: “I slept fine but I had a weird dream. I had a dream the Great Grandmother was rocking back and forth over me chanting with her rosary beads in her hands. She was wearing some kind of religious attire. The lightning and thunder struck violently outside the window of our room while she did this. The thunder was so loud it woke me up at one point. Then when the lightning flashed I could see you were in the room with her. You were assisting her with some kind of ceremony over me. She began doing the sign of the cross on my forehead while she chanted something in Spanish. It was one of those dreams where it felt like I was awake.”
The Aunt: “It was not a dream. It was real, Juan. That is why the Great Grandmother insisted you stay and sleep at her house last night. The angel told her to bless you for your journey. The angel told her you are going to have something to do with helping people save their homes. She says you are going to write something many important people will read in the future.”
The next day I moved two hours away to Albuquerque with my high school friend. A few months later a Navaho Indian Medicine Man said something similar to what the old religious Catholic woman said.
Indian Medicine Man: “In the day of the Great Storm you shall write with a pen that has no ink.”
The New Mexico story ends with me moving back to California at the end of 1989. The high school friend I went to New Mexico with still currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife and four children. I would end up owning and operating one of the largest chain of driving schools in northern California. This is along with starting one of the first Teen Drivers Ed Online Courses in the State of California.
Twenty two years later in May of 2010 I started a blog after one of the greatest economic and mortgage collapses since the Great Depression hit our nation. I named the blog “Piggybankblog”. It was not until six months after starting my blog I remembered the Navaho Indian Medicine Man and the old religious Catholic woman stories. It was at this time I began to think about the first day I met the Great Grandmother. I immediately pulled my hands off the keyboard and put one hand on my mouth after I remembered the Great Grandmother story. The tears rolled down my face as I just sat there staring at the computer screen. It now made sense why she was rubbing my hands on the wall telling me about how she and her husband built their house with their own hands.
At this time I am unclear as to whether or not I have written what the angel told the Great Grandmother “very important people” would read. Nevertheless — it is clear — however — that very important people indeed read PiggyBankBlog.com.
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I now often find myself thinking about that graduation party back in 1988. One day I was thinking about it while sitting in my black convertible Benz at a red light. I had three teenage boys from my family in the car with me. I had played a major role in raising them. My peace was only interrupted with the boys arguing. It was right about then I started thinking about how the three boys were now the same age as me and my friends at that graduation party in 1988. I just do not remember me and my friends being this stupid. I am sure we were though. Then at one point the three boys became instantly excited when a major radio station here in the San Francisco Bay Area made an announcement. The radio station announced that some of their favorite bands were going to be performing at one of the largest New Years Eve parties in San Francisco.
Radio Announcer: “Join us in bringing in the New Year at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco with the help of ‘The Eternals’ and ‘Peanut Butter Wolf’ and ‘The Mars Volta‘ for the biggest party of their career on New Years Eve! We are simply thrilled to announce that legendary Peanut Butter Wolf will be in the house!’”
That’s Right! They said — “Peanut Butter Wolf”– because the high school DJ friend became a world-renowned DJ who signed with Hollywood BASIC. Hollywood Basic is a division of Disney’s Hollywood Records. In 1996 Peanut Butter Wolf became the founder of Stones Throw Records. Stones Throw has consistently released critically acclaimed records since its inception in 1996. My high school friend was then featured in a documentary on Fuse TV.
I guess it was not the “dumbest name” after all.