I am a new blogger, here it goes. Gratitude, kindness, are words that come to mind when I think of my friend Chris Nunn Garcia, who died in the summer of 2006. Recently, while seeking an article I had seen about her in a regional water newletter to send someone; I stumbled across, a beautifully done, and touching blog post about her here. I was deeply moved by how well the writer caught the character of Chris. That night I had a dream, were Chris in her distinctive, loud, yet merry voice, practically shouted, mirroring the words in the blog, I had read, "get over it and start blogging". I know it is strange, and I am a very pragmatic person, but when Chris Nunn Garcia visits you in a dream, one pays attention. So, here I am blogging. I think Chris knew who I was before I knew it myself.
My relationship with Chris was very casual, and I would call us, a bit more than aquaintances, definately friends, not a great friend or even particularily close or anything. Yet she touched my life profoundly for some reason, and I always looked forward to seeing her. I met her when I was 22 years old, and just returned from a semester in Valencia Spain. I had just finished my bachelors in painting studio. I didn't have a lot of support systems at that momment and was really flondering and at a crossroads of what direction to take. I was torn between joining the Peace Corp or had this small idea to try and paint for a few years by myself. Chris must have been in her early 40's.
I think Chris spotted I was up to something more than TV in my industrial studio. I had taken a secretary job at a local Electrician's company and rented a studio appartment, down the street. I found the place on tip in the neighborhood, above a business in the center of Albuquerque. Kinda behind these bars were there was often prostitution activity and cruising at night. My neighbor turned out to be Charlie who was dating Chris. I think it was the fall of 1986 when I first glimpsed Chris. Charlie and I still talk on the phone and my old boss is in his 70's now. Also Chris happens to have a daughter named Charlie not to be confused with my old neighbor Charlie.
The place I rented was a large 500 or 600 square foot cement floored room with a galley kitchen and bathroom on one wall. It came with a double bed and a fixed large fifties style clam-shaped mirror and strangely a built in vanity. It was unfinished and I set up two wooden vegetable crates with blank canvases. My goal was to paint expressionistic portraits from my imagination. I painted like I read books, often several at once. Leaving them open faced and unfinished. I evenutally completed 20 averaging one a month before I began nursing school a year and a half later. I must admit they weren't exactly Rembrandts yet even trying it had a certain thrill.
I liked Chris right off or I should say I noticed her. She had short boyish hair that she would brush her fingers through and it would stand up sometimes, streaked a little with grey. She chewed her fingernails and they sometimes were a little black, I thought this was due to two things. Either from smoking or I imagined she did pottery work. I don't know why I thought that. She wore jeans and mens button up shirts over t-shirts at the time, and had lovely glittering blue eyes. I found her facinating, hip and cool. She was a little heavy and often walked in a way that she was always looking at the ground and smiling to herself. We would exchange peaceful hellos. As I got to know Charlie a little he introduced me to Chris. I don't remember having a conversation with her during that time. Charlie and Chris didn't date that long maybe a year or less.
Years later, a mutual friend of mine and Charlie's, named Roe-Ann was friends with Chris much closer than me as we had a more of an understanding than a friendship. I sometimes feel my relationship with Chris was always as an observer somehow. Roe-Ann spoke of her often, and seemed to spend a lot of time with her. I still didn't know Chris very well at all then, and was slightly intimidated by her, after hearing from Roe-Ann that she had a Phd in Economics, and was apparently brilliant and spoke a classic spanish and wrote poetry. She even wrote poetry in Spanish. The first time I have a distinctive memmory of her is a potluck at a house downtown she was renting. I couldn't tell you who invited me, or why I was there, or what the event was, I was probally still in my 20's. It registered that she had three children, and I somehow identified with the family. Seeing her at a house party at Roe-Ann's. I do have a memory of giving her this pretty golden-rod colored coat, that was too small for me in the sleeves, and the color suited her better than me. I have no memory of of the exact details of the coat exchange came to be either.
Somehow, this evolved into going to a house she had bought near the University. I think it was her granddaughter Leona's, or one of her three children's birthday. I remember Leona crawling under the table and Chris telling me very proudly, that Leona was quite the personality. She seemed to be dating Albert or maybe they were already married by then, I can't remember the exact chronology of events. This is the next memory that I have of her. She gave me a wonderful book about Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. It was a lovely and unusual book. She later mentioned she meant to have given me that book and Iwas a bit heartsick that I hadn't understood her intentions. I really loved Mark Twain after that. I remember leaving it on the doorstep several days later. I cried how the torture of Joan of Arc was described in the story. I have been a total fan of Joan of Arc since. Somewhere along the way I head the great story about how Chris and Albert met while she was scrubbing the floor at the church in Villaneuva.
Then around 1998 I am guessing I went to her and Alberts wedding in Villaneuva. What a treat. I had been working as a nurse for many years by this time and going to a drawing group and newly divorced. I was very excited because I rode my Vulcan 500 motorcycle to their wedding. I loved the Mexican themed, day of the dead decorations. Having traveled in Mexico several times I was in tune with that interplay between death and life. How our happiest momments are wrapped in our saddest momments. I have some nice photos of the day. The biggest impression I had was Sam, her oldest son, holding his infant son who was covered with spots and his wife was very small and serious, what a beautiful family, spots and all. Chris's children were all at one table and I remember dancing a very small ranchera with Albert. It was a great day. I remember she had this friend who was a radical looking biker chick, and we hung out.
I also remember going to some event at the Community Center she helped get going it was a big project and it was because of her organizational abilities that brought that to life. Also, a Christmas following re-enactment of the Virgin Mary, on the donkey seeking shelter and caroling. Seeing her once or twice around. Her struggle to stop smoking. Also Albert turned out to be my postman so I saw him sometimes. Would see her son Sam various places, at a laundry-mat with his son now a small boy. Playing his violin at a cafe, I can't remember having a conversation with him or any of her kids. In the past I had seen her youngest son Ben on his special made bicycle and the middle daughter Charlie, out and about shopping. I was older than them, and I otherwise had seen them at potlucks a few times maybe, my interactions with them were non-existent and more like atmospheric sigtings, although, I talked to Sam a few times. The last time at our neighborhood laundry mat.
When Chris and I really had the chance to talk, our first talk really, since I mentally fade in and out everything feels like a first talk sometimes, was when I, and my now husband spent one night in their guest house. It felt like our honeymoon night for whatever reason. Chris had done so many neat things to the guest house; one was that she took this abandoned piano and had made a coffee counter out of the wooden frame. Also this funny velvet blue couch she had made the pillows. I and Chris shared her thoughts about her mother, writing a chapter in a book.
I told her a long story about this family, I had gone to highschool with at Albuquerque Highschool, where the father was well thought of and turned out to be dangerous. She thanked me profusely for telling her that story, I never asked why. I loved to bring Chris and Albert special gifts. I can't remember what I brought Chris that time, but I had brought Albert an ink stamp with the King of Hearts on it. I loved the few times I had the chance to stop by, when taking out of town guests to northern New Mexico. We mostly talked about what we were reading. We loved to regale each other with our impressions of our reading material. Kind of a minature liars clubs of our inner lives. We always got the details mixed up about the books we were reading. It made us laugh.
The last time I saw her was with my friend Larry the summer of 2005. He was in town and also an economist like Chris. We went up just for a visit I think, maybe overnight? We had a wonderful conversation and visited these really cool guys that lived down the street. Very sweet event. I hope to get to see those next door guys again someday. I never thought that would be the last time I would see Chris. I always hoped that her and Albert would visit me in Paris someday, and suspect they would have eventually. She did call me one more time that summer. She had found a pair of old fashioned eyeglasses and thought they were mine. I called and left a message that they weren't. Thats the last I heard from her except emails. I can still remember the sound of her voice on my answering machine and laughed and was somehow flattered she had attributed the characteristics these old fashioned lady glasses, to be mine.
I moved to permenantly to Paris fall of 2005 and emailed back and forth once or twice. I had never been much of an internet person previously and was just getting used to it. Then I heard from a mutual friend Roe-Ann that she was very sick. I received one more email and we talked a little about medicine. Our last emails were about me imploring her to put pills in her rectum if she was too sick to swallow them with water in her advanced stages of lung cancer. She emailed back very funny Christine. I knew from being a nurse I was not being funny. Than the next news I heard was from Roe-Ann that she had died. I can't remember when I got the news.
I sent condolence cards to Albert her second husband. I never talked to her much about her first marriage. Most of her stories about her life to me brought up images of her as a startled doctorate teaching assistant with three little kids or coping with parents who were local celebrities in her youth. Charlie had mentioned that he thought of that song by James Taylor "Fire and Rain". In it is a line about a Susan, something like the plans they made put an end to you. As her first name was Susan although she went by her middle name Chris. Charlie told me that. What I found so fun about her was how rich her life was. She was neat. It was a big shock because I just imagined she would have lived until her 80's. When she died at 62 I felt that it was way to soon. The next time I visit New Mexico, I would love to see Albert and those two guys who lived down the street again. She was really pleased with her three children and I am certain that they will continue that cool-funkiness. For me the song I associate with her is that song "Wishing Well", with a line from an even older Laurel and Hardy movie about two ghosts who vanish in a wishing well, Jim Croce. Sorry barely functioning in French and Spanish; language rules are not my strong point, my spelling is often terrible.
I wanted to describe what she looked like the last time I saw her because in retrospect nearly 20 years had passed since the first time we met. Her hair had gone a startling white, still short and boyishly cut, and still capable of expressing her emotions when she ran her hands through it and made it stand up or go sideways. She had very expressive hair. The effect of her white hair made her blue eyes stand out more. Now, she habitually wore very precious A-line cotten dresses, they kind people take enjoyment in. My last memory of her is wearing a light colored, short sleeved dress, with bottons down the front. She had slimmed down, and her skin tone was excellent. I would have never guessed that one year from that time she would be gone. In a strange way she brought me to this site. Still continuing her good works and always thinking of others. For my my husbands 50th birthday I made a photo album of our trip around New Mexico and in it are several photos of Chris and Albert in it. She is wearing a lovely dress.