When we launched the Centennial Letter Writing Project on Jan. 6, 2012 (the 100th anniversary of New Mexico statehood), some of us at the New Mexico History Museum wondered aloud whether we’d eke out even 200 letters over the next 12 months. Well, it’s early March, and we’re about to zoom past that total. The stack at left? That’s just today’s haul.
Students in the Upward Bound college-prep program in Roswell have written by the dozens. So did a class at St. Michael’s High School, members of a creative-writing group in Taos, and individuals of all ages in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and elsewhere.
(We sure could use some voices from western and southern New Mexico — hint, hint.)
Our request was simple enough (though it seemed a bit of a burden to the Twitter generation): Tell us about your life in the year 2012 so that historians in the year 2112 might have some first-person accounts told by rank-and-file residents. We want to hear what your neighborhoods are like, your houses, your career, what you worry about and what gives you hope. Think about what someone 100 years from now might want to know about you. The type of car you drive, its color, what it can and can’t do. The stores you shop at and what you buy there. Do you visit a farmer’s market? Describe the vendors and their produce. Tell us how you make your family’s favorite holiday food and where you get the ingredients. Do you work out? Where? Do you ride bikes or go hiking? Describe the route.
Over the next few months, we’ll post excerpts from some of those letters here on the blog. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have. And we hope that you, too, will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard; computer printouts are A-OK) and tell us about your life.
Where, pray tell, might you send your missives? Here:
(Isn’t that handwriting about the prettiest thing you’ve seen all week?)
Onto some samples from a few of our friends in Albuquerque. (We’ll only use first names and leave out writer’s addresses.)
“In this centennial year for New Mexico, I am 80 years old. I live in the Northeast Heights in a house purchased in 1958 for $10,500. It was built in 1954 … one block from Morris St. There were no buildings at that time from east of Morris St. to the mountains…just a dirt road named Juan Tabo. My house has 3 bedrooms, one bathroom and a one-car garage. Every home then had clotheslines and I still use mine. …As a single mother of four children, I taught sewing classes as my own business in fabric stores for 30 years. Most women work outside the home today so sewing is more of a hobby than a necessity. However, young people are becoming more interested in sewing because of a TV program called Project Runway. Sewing classes have been phased out in schools. …”
“I am a native New Mexican, born in 1940 on North Fourth Street in Albuquerque. My father came to NM in 1907 from Kansas as a homesteader in Edgewood when he was 18 years old. His father and eight brothers each received 160 acres but later most of them lost their land because of drought and moved to Albuquerque. My mother came in 1912 when she was 12 years old because her father had TB. I was a teacher at Grant Jr. High and Manzano High School. …
“In 2010 I decided to remodel my house, the original part of which was built in 1947. it was cold in winter, hot in summer, a typical uninsulated, flat-roofed house. I decided to insulate it by wrapping the entire house with straw bales. With the stucco on the outside it looks like an adobe house. I also wanted to see the mountains so I added a second floor bedroom and bath with a deck. I remodeled the house to make the garage into an art studio and added a solar green house on the south side of the house. I added solar panels that produce more energy than I use, giving me great satisfaction, especially when I get a refund every month from the electric company. It makes me so happy to know that I am producing energy for someone else to use as well without polluting our beautiful earth. I am trying to have a garden for produce, fruit trees, flowers and foliage without using too much water so I installed rain-water collection tanks. I think of my house as a demonstration of what one can do with an old house to make it really energy efficient. …”
Suzanne, a 71-year-old Albuquerquean, included details of a friend’s upcoming surgery that, in 100 years, may seem like a commonplace procedure. Not today:
“Dear friend Emily … announced she will have deep brain surgery Mon. Jan. 9 to harness and correct hand tremors she’s suffered for several years. This is not experimental but cutting edge. She will be in intensive care two nights, then rehab after having a tiny computer implanted in her chest to maybe take the place of the part of her brain that is malfunctioning. She is frightened and excited. I think she is so brave but she needs to reclaim her life so she can paint and sew and make jewelry again.”
We’ll close out today (don’t worry, we’ll share plenty more in the weeks ahead) with Olivia, a fourth-grader from Hubert Humphrey Elementary School, whose optimism just may be catching:
“N.M makes me feel special because everyone is different and no one is mean or disappointed because this is the Land of Enchantment. Special things can happen, and that’s why I love New Mexico. What I worry about is people doing dangerous stuff. What gives me hope is seeing people happy and people encouraging me.”