I am sitting, this early morning, in my mother’s cheery sunroom across from Women’s Pioneer Park on Las Cruces Ave, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. My vantage point could not be more advantageous in writing a piece for a publication spotlighting collecting, family heirlooms, and memories. This park was donated to the City of Las Cruces by the Women’s Improvement Association. The WIA dates to at least 1894 and was built using their own money, no small feat considering the times. This was a women’s group of which my very own grandmother was president when I was a young girl.
My brother and I stayed summers with my grandparents and of course, my Memaw took great pride in showing off her mostly well-behaved, blonde curly-headed granddaughter at her weekly WIA club meeting. My dark-headed, boisterous, not so well-behaved younger brother stayed with Papaw on the farm to feed the chickens.
My collected memories from this time began with the necessity of sitting quietly during the particularly important business meeting of these perfectly coifed and well-meaning WIA ladies of the city. Matching heels and handbags were a given fashion statement by all in attendance. As for my youthful fashion statement, my skinny but very summer tanned legs were crossed at the ankles and my gloved hands lay in the lap of my yellow eyelet dress until such time refreshments were served.
Pretty cut-glass dessert plates with a perfect indention to hold the punch cup of a young girl safely in place, was just waiting to be filled with dainty finger sandwiches with the crust cut off and fresh ambrosia fruit salad. I can still taste the lime sherbet punch, just fizzy enough to make your nose tickle. My memory is crystal clear about the best reward for the important work of the day… prettily decorated, straight from the bakery, petit fours! These sweet little miniature cake morsels were definitely worth the wait. At the time, I did not realize I was learning the value AND the rewards of patience. How sweet it was!
As I look across the park to the old WIA building that now belongs to the city of Las Cruces, I wonder if there have been other little girls whose idea of what the important work of women could be was shaped as mine was by these dedicated women. Most were housewives, homemakers, mothers, and grandmothers with a shared sense of duty to their community. They intimately understood the impact a group of women, with a common goal, could have on their community. As I watch from mother’s wrap-around sunroom, I am witness to this. Young and old alike are walking their dogs, greeting each other with kindness and inclusiveness, for this is their community park and still plays an important part in their sense of belonging.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and though the weather was crisp with freshly fallen snow, a bride and groom were sharing their vows under the gazebo. On Christmas Eve, the park is aglow with traditional luminarias the whole neighborhood makes, sets out, and lights to share their holiday spirit. On Mother’s Day, a neighborhood potluck honors the special mothers and grandmothers, past and present, is truly a feast to behold.
I wonder if those early women had any idea just how long-lasting their gift of this park would be? The collection of memories made and yet to be made are a legacy I think they would be proud of. What simple idea do you have to share? Imagine what your collection of memories and legacy might be. As Cesare Pavese said, ”We do not remember days; we remember moments.”
Let us each make every moment count in our collection of memories.
Article written by Debbie Nix and originally published in Focus on Artesia 2021 Spring edition.