The Buddy System, Part I: Field Trip

Today I’m going on a field trip!

Remember field trips? Remember choosing a buddy who would sit with you on the bus, cross the street holding hands with you, and eat their sack lunch with you? As long as your buddy knew where you were, you would not get lost or left behind. I remember walking alongside Patricia Ortiz as our kindergarten class walked from Bell Elementary School to Deming Pastry on Ruby, across the street from St. Anne’s, where Pat and I and most of the kids in our class attended mass under the watchful eye of Sister Rosalie, who would call every kid by his or her last name. Our classmate David Uzueta, whose grandparents owned the shop (and whose family still makes the best glazed doughnuts in southern New Mexico), got to climb up on a chair and demonstrate how to roll the dough into a smooth ball. Each of us got to make and eat a glazed doughnut hole.

From Deming Pastry, we walked downtown to the fire department and Deming Office Supply, where my dad worked and where our teacher’s husband was the owner. The building had a basement with rickety stairs and one light switch each at the bottom and top of the staircase.

DHS Jazz Band, Anaheim, Spring 1987

I don’t remember many field trips after that. I transferred from Bell to Chaparral School, but still saw most of my kindergarten friends at catechism. When we were preparing for our confirmation, we visited Baca’s Mortuary, owned and operated by St. Anne’s parishioner and longtime mayor, Sam Baca. By then, we were in high school, and the buddy system had evolved into an elaborate system of constantly shifting cliques and clans. I traveled with student council, choir, the drama club, and band. A few times a year for jazz, marching, or district band competition in Las Cruces, the buses would park near the intersection of El Paseo and Utah, where we had our choice of a trio of fast food restaurants, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Long John Silver. Our band director, Mr. V. could never remember the restaurant names and called this “the Silver Fish, three-island area.” He always reminded us as we were getting off the bus to pick a buddy.

Holy Family Seniors, Roundhouse, Viola Abeyta

Today my buddies are my elderly Atrisco neighbors. We’re getting a guided tour of the Latino/a Visual Imaginary exhibition at 516 ARTS. I wrote a few posts ago that the exhibition features a piece by Albuquerque artist Santos Contreras, who incorporated the elders’ stories and photographs into the work, after he and I co-facilitated a series of art and storytelling workshops for the seniors who were transitioning from their meal site at Holy Family Catholic Church to a brand new senior center.


The center is a lively place, with ceramics and workout rooms, live music a few times a month, Wii tournaments in the main room, and buena gente with stories of childhood in rural Atrisco, World War II, driving in the north valley before the roads were paved. For many of the seniors, the center and Holy Family Church are lifelines, links to community, where they can drink a cup of coffee and share a meal with one another. Even with these wonderful resources, many of our seniors spend hours each day alone.

You can change that. You can be a buddy. Next Tuesday, on this blog, Valle Encantado launches the Buddy System, a network of friends and neighbors who visit our elders, help them get to the grocery store or a doctor appointment, share a meal, and just like a good buddy, ensure that no one gets lost or left behind.

Coming Tuesday, March 15: “The Buddy System, Part II: Be a Buddy”

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 8:52 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Easy to find you in the jazz band–always had a smile that filled the photo frame!

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