Night Glow

“Join us for a weekend of fun in Santa Fe,” the email read, but it wasn’t as corny as it sounds. If anything, Family Weekend at SFUAD—student showcases, awesome food, and a trip to Albuquerque—was just a front. The truth? Parents wanted to see their kids and the kids (admit it!) wanted to see their parents.

I was still reluctant when my mom asked if we could do Family Weekend. I’m a senior, I thought, it’ll just be freshman families. Or I’m from Santa Fe, I’m not far enough to miss them.

But it wasn’t just parents of freshmen who attended this weekend and as soon as I saw my mom, dad and brother Friday night, I couldn’t wait for the events to start.

My mother, Jeanette, had attended the College of Santa Fe for a year while pursuing a degree in landscape design. When she read the email about Family Weekend, she turned to my dad, Edward, and said, “would you like to see your daughter?” He was in. My brother, Jesse, graduated last year from New Mexico Tech and is now a full time employee of the Los Alamos labs. He wanted to see his sister. He didn’t care what we did.

Art, in general, is not discussed much in my family, but after checking in on Friday and drinking some wine (or sparkling water in my mom’s case) and eating some cheese in the library, I sent them into the Garson Theater to watch Middletown. Afterwards, they had the following to say:

Mom: “You’re born, you die, it’s about everything in between.”

Jesse: “It’s the little things in life.”

Dad: “It was different.”

Saturday began with a good lunch and it ran into some student showcases, including a visit to the “Harvest 2” Art Show and a film screening. My mom, dad, and brother enjoyed lunch, as usual, thought the art show was yet again “different,” and was fascinated by the unusual styles of the film shorts (they ranged from vampire comedies to college serial killers).

At 4 p.m. the visitors, including my family, packed into a luxurious travel bus, I’m talking about personal air conditioners, TV screens, and cushioned seats. We rode for an hour to the Albuquerque Balloon Park.

In Albuquerque, the annual Balloon Fiesta displays hundreds of hot air balloons that launch over the course of two weekends. In its 42nd year, the 80-acre field stationed 555 domestic pilots and 30 international pilots.

We arrived by 6 p.m. to watch the “balloon glow,” thirty minutes or so of grounded hot air balloons, firing up their valves. The balloons themselves ranged from checkered patterns to teddybear faces. There was even a scarecrow, noodle arms and a carrot nose, that “stood up” from his deflated sleep. Once night set in and the valves shot light into their balloons, the field looked like a giant bowl of flickering candles, being lit and blown out.

Afterwards, I asked my family and some students which balloons they liked best.

“The one with the curly cues,” my mom said, “because it was the prettiest one.”

“The Wells Fargo wagon,” my dad said, “‘cause I like Westerns.”

My brother said, “Wait, what’s the definition of a balloon?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Something that floats.”

“Then I like Venus,” he said, pointing to the bright star behind the balloons. I smacked him.

Freshman studio arts major, Laine Pittock said she liked the balloons with advertisements. “But I like commercials, so I’m weird,” she said. “I didn’t like the bear, though. It was creepy. He had no neck!”

Jackalope photographer Amanda Tyler said she liked the panda balloon and “the one that had a stripe of red that faded into yellow.”

My favorite was the balloon advertising the musical Wicked. It had the characters Elphaba and Glinda on one side and “Defy Gravity” written on the other. It was a wicked balloon, to say the least.

After the glow, the balloons were all deflated and the fireworks began. Pretty nice, as far as fireworks go, but once the country song “I’m Proud to Be an American” came on, we knew it was time to go.

We slept on the way back to Santa Fe, my dad and brother on one side and me and my mom on the other.

Sunday morning we ate again, but now it felt bitter sweet. If anything, the weekend felt like a giant breath of fresh air, but now I would have to return to my campus housing and bury myself again in books.

I would have to admit, for a family, they didn’t embarrass me at all. In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing it again.