It is true what they say about small town life… it is simple, or so it used to be. Everyone knows everyone else. Sometimes better than they should. I was raised in one of those small towns, nestled in the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. From grade school on through high school there was always someone growing up along side you from that same small town. I had a very special one of those people, Annette, a petite dark complected Spanish girl with a beautiful smile.
Her home was a couple miles down the dirt road that connected our rural homes to the only street in town. She, along with her sister, would walk to their grandmothers house which was a stones throw from where I lived. She would always stop and we would talk, joking and kidding, I always looked forward to her visit you can say. At the time I didn’t even realize I had a crush on Annette and thinking back I think it was mutual. All I knew is she was sweet, pretty, and fun to hang around with. She was my friend, and I really like that.
Our friendship continued throughout the years, both traveling ‘up the hill’ to high school. She would ride with me when I started driving to school, sometimes we would just go into town to hang out with our friends. She was just part of my life, and I never once questioned it or thought much of it other than I knew I enjoyed her company.
We spent a great deal of time together, during school breaks, sporting events, socials. Annette was my Junior Prom date, one of the most memorable events of my life. See being in the mountains you never knew when it was just going to snow. We traveled to the city (Santa Fe!) and had dinner, spent some time walking around the city, then made our way to Penasco. (A good 50 miles north, it was not unusual to travel distances just to enjoy a nice dinner… traveling is just a way of life when you live in the country!) We arrived and a winter storm had just set in, already knocking out the power to the school gymnasium. As you would expect from small towns people, that did not hold anything back. Before you knew it the entire event was running from generators set outside in the snow. We danced, hanging out with our friends, and had just an amazing time. At the end of the night as the doors to the Gym opened, all we could see was white all around! We made our way back down the hill in what was the most beautiful moon lite night without a cloud in sight. I remember feeling like it was a dream! The vision of that night is just as clear in my mind today as it was back then. Annette, always so sweet and kind, smiled ever so contently. An end to a perfect night.
Things did not remain the same though, as I was determined not to remain in the small town I was raised. We continued our friendship for a few years after graduation but we drifted apart when I moved to the big city (Albuquerque) in pursuit of a different life.
I would visit my family for the holidays, we would run into each other at Sunday mass, or one of the church functions. We would talk, but our talks became ever so brief. I had married and started a family, and she a couple years later did as well. She remained in that small town… the one I left behind.
It is not until now that see how much a part of my life she was, as I ponder the times we had. I heard the sad news that Annette had passed away… and I was speechless.
Annette, I hope you find peace and happiness in the afterlife. You are surely to be missed on this earth, but you will always live on in my memories. I thank you for being such a great part of my childhood, you helped me to grow into the person I am today. I will never forget you.
– In Loving Memory of Annette Griego (Sanchez)