New Mexican traditions beat strong in our Southeast corner of the state. One of my favorite local customs is the cross wall. Many homes, businesses, and churches display a vibrant wall full of unique crosses. Before it was Kith + Kin, the local coffee house, the Jahva House kept the wall behind the counter loaded with crosses. The First Presbyterian Church in Dexter also has a formidable 10 foot wall with a stunning feature of individual crosses.
Every cross in a collection has a story for the owner. Some were gifts and some were souvenirs. The crosses form a striking mosaic and absolutely beg to begin conversations about where they are from and who they’re from. In the spirit of conversation, I recently asked cross wall owners Amy Dornblaser-Mathews and Cindy Carpenter about their collections.
I asked, “when did your collection begin? What does your collection represent/what does it mean to you? And which cross is your favorite?”
Here are their responses:
“I have a great story about my cross wall, says Amy Dornblaser-Mathews. Our house in Hagerman was destroyed by a huge hail storm in the summer of 2019. Everything was destroyed. Except for my wall that had 54 crosses on it. ❤ God is good, and God is real. My first cross was given to me in the summer of 2000. It’s a silver cross with sunflowers on it. It was given to me by my grandmother to help watch over me as I went to college. I don’t have my full collection anymore. I gave a cross to every helper that helped us clean up the wreckage of our house in Hagerman. I really saw God’s love through others, and I wanted to share it.”
Cindy Carpenter explains that her collection started in November 2011, “when we purchased our house. The realtor gave us the first cross in my collection as a house warming present and as a reminder to keep Christ as the center of our home. Every cross was given to us or purchased for a special event like a birthday, anniversary, or a trip. The collection as a whole represents love. The love that others have given and shown us through the past 9 years as we got married, had children, experienced death of those we cared for.
I have several favorite crosses, this white one came from Tommy Sanders, my husband’s great aunt. I loved that woman like she was my grandmother. She passed away last November. The one with the mirror came from Jim Norman, a Vietnam Veteran, I knew my entire life. He added joy, fun, and adventure to life. He passed away three years ago. And this red one from my mom. It’s rugged and plain, and it’s beautiful. It shows that there is happiness and life even in the everyday things. I keep it in the dining room to remind me to be grateful for the small things and ordinary things in life. She passed away six months ago, so it means more now than ever.”
By: Kaity Hirst
Our upcoming Spring issue of Focus magazine will continue to share the stories of weird and wonderful collections across NM, if you have a collection you’d like to share please email us! firstname.lastname@example.org