Albuquerque Summer 1995. It was a hot night and I was in the den putting pieces of a puzzle together when the phone rang. I had been anticipating this call for over a week. My sister had called and told me to be expecting it. I was excited.
Many many years had gone by and we both had long ago scratched each other off our Christmas Card lists. But lost time and scratched lists are no match for childhood memories. This was my Auntie Lois's daughter. One of only two first cousins from Mothers side of the family. Not a Fringe at all but she was a Thomas. My first name was her last name. Her maiden last name. She had married years ago and had three children. Mother had been the one to tell me my cousin had The Big C. Breast Cancer. Her mother my Auntie Lois had also had IT. As had Mother.
I picked up the portable and said hello. "hi Thom it's Robin". "I'd recognize that sweet voice anytime" was my reply. This voice was familiar and friendly yet at the same time nervous and reserved. My sister had also told me to be expecting this. Robin went on to tell me how she had just finished her Chemo treatments and needed to get away from her husband her children her home her mother but mostly her life. Her life that was filled with cancer and chemo and change. "when you gonna land" was my reply.
A few weeks later she did. I was waiting at the gate as she entered the terminal and she was laughing. Hysterically. I didn't know why she was laughing but I joined her. We made it all the way to the baggage claim before either of us really made any sense. I knew this was gonna be a fun week. Talk came easy like it does with old friends and family. Robin was actually surprised when I told her I had taken off from work for the week she would be in Albuquerque. Surprised and happy.
I kept Robin very busy during that week. Up to the snow covered Sandia Mountains, out into the hot Albuquerque deserts, up to Santa Fe for shopping in the Indian village & further up to explore The Toas Pueblo.
Mexican lunches and Margarita Dinners. Walking thru a Zoo and sitting thru a movie. Up The Sandia Peak Tramway and back down to Old Town. Everytime we'd get ready to leave the house I'd say "put your big hair on". Her wig. And the laughter would start again. It really never ended.
I always had a puzzle table set up in my den and when I needed to escape I would sit down and put a few pieces together. I had just started a new one right before Robin arrived that I knew would take me a long time to finish. Christmas Ornaments. 2000 pieces of nothing but Christmas Ornaments.
Rob got hooked on it. Whenever we weren't out and about we would be searching for pieces that fit together. And we found them all. On the night before Robin would fly back home. I reached for the puzzle glue and together we sealed it. This one was a keeper. When I got home from the airport that next morning there it was. The puzzle. Sealed together. I knew that something else had been sealed together that week. A friendship that would last forever. That puzzle had put the pieces together. I smiled. Because I knew that soon I would be receiving a Christmas card. From Robin.