Homebody : |16

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A granddaughter of mine recently celebrated her birthday. My husband and I emailed her an animated Amazon gift card. Our daughter sat her soon to be six year old in front of the computer and told her “Pick out some things you’d like with the gift card that Grandma and Grandpa sent you.”

Forty-three pink and purple items totaling $1800 later, our daughter luckily caught her little one’s excitement before that “Buy Now” button was clicked on, and trimmed the shopping cart down to three sparkly choices within our gift card amount. Phew!

If I have to buy something, I enjoy shopping for it online. I’m a homebody, and would buy groceries online, but my supermarket is only five blocks away from my house, so…….except for the six years I lived in a larger college city, I’ve lived in a small town for most of my life.

Before the advent of computers and online shopping, I poured over catalog pages of merchandise, picked out my kid’s birthday or Christmas presents, filled out the paper order form, folded and stuffed it and a check inside the included envelope, attached a postage stamp to the upper right hand corner, and mailed it in. If I was in a hurry and feeling bold, I’d actually call the 1-800 phone number and place my order with a customer service rep. I’m bashful, and had to drum up a lot of courage to speak to a complete stranger. Calling people on the phone is still hard for me, whether I know the person or not. What can I say.

(Homebody Song)

I was seven years old when my family moved from the California San Fernando Valley to Taos, New Mexico, where my Hispanic mom was raised and most of her side of the family was living.

Taos was home to about 2500 residents, one stoplight, two grocery stores, a lot of art galleries, and a gas station on each corner at the intersection of north and south pueblo roads, Kit Carson road on the east, and the road circling the plaza on the west. If you couldn’t find what you needed at JC Penney where my cousin, Bernie Garcia assistant managed, you’d go to the Montgomery Wards catalog store and place an order. (See? I learned how to shop from my parents!)

Bernie’s daughter, Bernadine, was my age and I was lucky enough to be in the same second grade class with her and our cousins, Jeanie and Sharon. Bernadine and I were also in the same Girl Scout Brownie Troop, which met in the cafeteria of the Catholic School across the fence from our elementary school. After our troop meetings, I’d walk with her to JC Penney which was just around the corner from the plaza, and wait for my dad to come and get me.

Her dad, Bernie was always friendly, and didn’t mind my roaming the shoe and clothing aisles. And, my dad was always so busy and most of the time didn’t come for me right away, so…. It was really nice of Bernie to let his eight year old relative linger.

After working there for thirteen years, the company wanted to transfer him to Texas, and he and his wife, Connie were just about to do that, when they decided they didn’t want to raise their three kids there and that they’d open their own store. So, they did, fifty years ago. Connie had grown up living close to the plaza with her family, and for five years had managed a store there, called Fry’s. She sold my mom some beautiful heavy ceramic dinnerware called Frankoma, that I didn’t inherit when mom passed away, come to think of it. Which one of you five siblings got the Frankoma?…

Where am I going with this? On April 30th of this year, 2019, the Taos Plaza experienced the end of an era. The store that Bernie and Connie Garcia opened decades ago at 110 North Plaza, which they named the Village Shop closed its doors. But the plaza wasn’t the first location of their family business. They first rented from (the late) Rumaldo Garcia, next to Michael’s Kitchen, a very popular restaurant owned by another cousin of ours.

The Garcia’s sold, at their first store, The Pueblo Shop, dry goods, clothing, furniture and appliances. This was while Bernadine and I were in junior high and high school. She was always the best dressed girl in our grade, if not the whole school! The red, white and blue polka dot dress that I wore for my 10th grade school photo came from the Pueblo Shop. Don’t go and look it up. I still had braces on my teeth and didn’t know how to smile for pictures until I married into the Murset family, so, just don’t!

Anyway, the business continued to grow, and the Garcia’s moved it to the plaza, and renamed it the Village Shop. They paid close attention to their customer’s needs and adapted and changed inventory as the times continued to change through the decades. They were blessed to be able to raise their children, Bernadine, Mark and Janette at their home away from home place of business.

You’ve heard how those big box retail stores coming to town can impact your community and its retail businesses? One of those mega stores arrived in Taos, and Bernie and Connie, with the aid of another wise cousin, Felix Miera, who taught me New Mexico history at the junior high school, shifted the clothing inventory to include discounted jackets, pants and shirts for school children through a special federal program at the Taos Municipal School District.

Let me tell you about the dress codes while I went to school during the 1960’s and the 1970’s: girls were only allowed to wear dresses. We could wear slacks, not blue jeans, only on PE days in elementary school, or on Fridays in junior high and high school. Boys wore pants and buttoned down shirts that had to be tucked into their pants. If their shirt tail was hanging out, the assistant principal, Mr. Selso Martinez reprimanded them. T-shirts were underwear. I’m not kidding.

Once dress standards loosened a bit and wearing T-shirts became the norm, Bernie and Connie sold them, and included custom t-shirts to outfit town sporting leagues. Once other businesses caught on and followed suit, the Garcia’s once again changed focus this time, to a completely different offering.

The town of Taos had become an art colony in the early 20th century. The Garcia’s decided it was time to sell southwest and Native American art, and feature only local and New Mexico artists, and cater to the art community. People from all over the world have purchased their ceramic nativity sets and other wares. Connie worked on the creative end and Bernie worked on the business end of the business. Bernadine, Mark and Janette spent after school time, holidays and vacations at the shop, but as they grew up, they became an active part of the business. I’ve enjoyed visiting with Bernadine at the shop during my visits to Taos.

Read Kathy Cordova’s in depth article about the Garcia’s closing their fifty year old family business in the weekly Taos News, probably the second week in April issue, and learn how they have been very involved assets to the community.

Now that the Village Shop has officially closed, will the Garcia family become homebodies like their cousin, meaning, me? Nope. They’ll go fishing at the lake as often as they can.

In order for me to get myself out of the house, I have to be in a play, or join a band or a choir or agree to a solo gig. These activities give me a social life. I make friends, and improve my brain function by forcing myself to learn how to play a new instrument or memorizing a song or script.

While acting in a theatrical production a couple of decades ago, I met Lauretta, who I introduced in my podcast episode #15, Paint Me a Picture. We became fast friends and learned that we had many interests in common. About a decade after we were in that play, she invited me to join a Gospel Choir that was just giving their first concert. My parents had recently passed away, and I was taking a theatrical break, and needed a new diversion to take my mind off of my grief.

I sang with John Houston’s Gospel Choir for six years, and it was a blast, especially when I got to play lead guitar for a couple of the songs. During my choir years, Lauretta and her husband, Pat were forming a band with their friend, Wayne, and needed a mandolin player to join them. I owned an $80 mando, knew a few chords, and joined them. I also brought a guitar and a cajon with me to our practices at Lauretta and Pat’s house, and later, Wayne’s garage. We were a garage band, and I was the youngest member at 55 years of age. In a minute, I’m going to have you listen to one of my songs that our band played. In it, Lauretta sings backup, Wayne’s on lead guitar, Pat’s on rhythm guitar and I’m playing cajon percussion and singing.

During the next couple of years, we played at various venues, either giving concerts or participating as continuous entertainment for various events or festivals. One concert was at the Hurricane City Pioneer Park, which bordered a home with chickens in the backyard, and another home with goats in the fenced backyard.

We were in the middle of our first set when we heard bleating in direction of the audience. There was an accidental, (I’m guessing) opening in the fencing which allowed the billies to escape and wander around the camp chaired and blanket seated audience. Was it funny? Yes. Did they bleat on pitch? Once in a while. Was it memorable? I wouldn’t be telling you about it if it wasn’t. We were probably singing one of our bluegrass numbers, “I’ll Fly Away”, and the goats may have thought we were giving them permission to escape. Who knows. One advantage of being a goat is that when they do want to escape, they don’t have to pack a suitcase first.

(Suitcase Sorrow Song)

Have you ever been unexpectedly interrupted while performing or speaking in front of an audience, like my band having to compete with the goat distraction, or like the time I was in a Christmas play, had a huge monologue, but one of the audience members was wearing a large jingle bell necklace that kept well, jingling, and I was so distracted that I skipped an entire page of the script? If so, what did you do? How did you handle it?

Come back next time and learn about Memorial Day, and how it’s much more than placing a wreath or flowers on a loved one’s grave.

Look for the writing prompts in my podcast episode notes at my website, mycarolynmurset.com, and check out my digital music store and my events page.

My one-woman musical, Tales of Tila is returning to St. George, Utah this September 9th, 10th, 16th and 17th, 2019, this time at Brigham’s Playhouse. Those are Monday and Tuesday nights, by the way, when their production of Man of La Mancha is dark. Showtime is 7:00pm. Tickets will be on sale shortly, and season ticket holders will get a discount! Let me know if you’d like for me to bring this somewhat easy to travel production to you.

Until then, subscribe to Song Stories, Quiet Stories either at my website, or on your smartphone podcast app on iTunes or Google Play. Thanks for listening. Thanks for writing. I’m your host, Carolyn Murset

20 episodes available. A new episode about every 20 days averaging 21 mins duration .