I grew up in a place of harsh, deadly beauty. It is the allure of the distant and forbidden – one glimpsed, but not studied; visited, but not lived in – except for a unique and often gleefully destructive breed of human, the desert-dweller. This includes my sprawling family, which was born in the desert and returns to it as often as possible, their visits brightening my life twice a year for as long as I can remember.
There is undoubtedly Viking blood in the Lacy Klan – the men are huge, with blonde shaggy manes and beards and a great fondness for fire and beer. The women raise hoards of monster-children, sacrifice chickens to the gods, and drink mead.
Well, not really. But we could. And we do raise chickens. And I don’t know how to make mead, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out one or two of my uncles do.
My matriarchal grandmother had six sons and two daughters. Most of them had children, and some of their children have had children. New Mexico is our personal Mecca, and once or twice a year we all gather together and have the most epic, adventurous party-time imaginable. We don’t fight with each other – we’re one of those families whose gatherings are always memorable and always too short.
What makes the LK so great above all is a collective open-mindedness to collaborate, create, and work hard in the pursuit of fun and supporting each other.
(I originally had a graphic made of the phases of the LK and their subsequent child-producing waves, but it got way too complex too fast. I’ll suffice it to say that there are a ton of them, not including family friends and fellow adventurers, and that we can’t fit a quarter of them in the house, which is why all our gatherings either happen outside, or in a Mexican restaurant.)
The cast of characters is vast and immensely interesting – and we all make an effort to stay connected and carry out our random traditions. One of the largest of these is the New Year’s Eve party, which has been happening in my parent’s backyard since Y2K. It was never meant to grow into what it did, but in an intense pot-luck way, it took life of its own.
Everyone contributes something. One year my dad and an uncle got together and built a 20 foot tall trebuchet out of old tractor parts and painted it lime green. The kids and a selection of uncles film family space operas and westerns during the summer, and then premiere them at New Year’s, at which is a huge bonfire and a stage, on which my cousins and I have performed one way or another for as long as I can remember.
It’s all very
Last year we decided to have a Sasquatch-themed party because, um, Sasquatch-themed party. One of my uncles, who both takes Sasquatch very seriously and also has serious wire-forming skills (he was very adamant about calling it a Neanderthal, as apposed to a Cro Magnon, and used a picture of an actual Neanderthal skull as a guide), created a 20 foot-tall Burning-Man style Sasquatch out of wire mesh, with details like toes and fingers and a spear, then filled it with fireworks and then covered it with pieces of bark and paper so it looked like it had hair and was wearing a loincloth.
It was, quite simply, redonk’.
If that wasn’t enough, in the days leading up to the party at one of our (also traditional) green chile slathered beer drinking Mexican restaurant evenings, someone said,
“How about… instead of just setting the Sasquatch on fire, we have a fire-ball-asteroid that flies over our heads and slams into it?”
So, yeah. That happened.
The actual asteroid was on a zip line with fireworks placed like rockets at the back so, when lit, it would shoot down the zip line and slam into the Sasquatch. But the way it was hanging it was able to swivel, and instead of going forward it just spun furiously at 500000 mph, and my dad had to go into the sparks and poke it forward with a giant pole and try not to get set on fire.
One of the many things we do is to go to White Sand’s, the 144,000 square-acre graveyard of a pre-historic sea, now endless shifting dunes of gypsum. We’re also a group of more-or-less talented photographers, ranging from a professional film maker and a master-level space photographer to a very excited dad who takes literally thousands of pictures with his Canon Rebel. Putting all these pictures together into something beautiful is my contribution to the growing body of LK heirlooms.
I’ve been thinking a lot about home, family, and the nature of wanderlust. Settling into a foreign country means daily adventures, diving into the complexities of a new kind of people, true autonomy and the fear and thrill of being 6000 miles away from the nearest support net – and it means being far, far away from family.
This is the second time my entire life I won’t be in New Mexico for New Year’s. I don’t know when I’ll be there for that again, not to mention Christmas and the Gila Hike. It’s sort of a deep, resigned sort of sadness. I chose this, and it’s the nature of growing up that you leave to create a new home of your own, but living through it is more difficult than I imagined. And it’s only September! I’m sure it’ll be way worse on Christmas Eve.
I guess my goal here isn’t to feel sorry for myself, but to celebrate the awesomeness that is my family on the other side of the world, and to say this:
Family is the only constant, and thus, of utmost importance. Treat it that way.