“If you love something, let it go, and if it’s meant to be, it will come back to you.” Isn’t that the pearl of wisdom that’s supposed to help us manage breakups?
In 1994, I broke up with my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I packed up my life and told Albuquerque, “Listen, it’s not me, it’s you,” and started a torrid love affair with New York City. To be honest, my affair with NYC began long before I arrived. I knew it was where I was supposed to be. I dreamed of being an actor on Broadway, and while there is a Broadway Boulevard in Albuquerque, it didn’t hold quite the same allure.
But after living in NYC for a few years, I began to see my former hometown through rose-colored glasses. On visits to see my family, I realized I’d never stopped missing the big, open skies of the southwest, the charming shops of Old Town Albuquerque, or the tangy heat of freshly roasted hatch green chilies.
Was it possible I wasn’t done with New Mexico?
When I moved to Los Angeles to work in television, the frequency of my visits to Albuquerque began to increase. The flight was shorter, and I was dating a guy named Justin (who I would eventually marry), and we explored the region in ways I hadn’t before. Ironically, Justin, who grew up in Southern California, spent a lot of his youth admiring the beauty of New Mexico, after his family took him on a trip to Taos, Angel Fire, and Santa Fe. He even had a small collection of kachina dolls and Kokopelli creations.
I have the good fortune to have been born in October, which is the most beautiful month in Albuquerque not just because I was born, but because that’s when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place.
A few years ago, Justin threw me a weekend-long birthday party in Albuquerque and invited my closest friends and family, with the balloon festival as the main event.
Most of us stayed at my favorite place in Albuquerque, Los Poblanos Inn. A magical oasis set among lavender fields where, if you’re lucky, alpacas and peacocks will greet you in the morning.
The neighboring farm shop sells delicious pastries, coffee, and pantry items, including a green chile jam that became an inspiration for one of the dishes my cooking partner Julie and I put in our cookbook.
Food was a big part of the weekend. I was excited to introduce my friends to the green chile chicken enchiladas and the sopaipillas I grew up eating at Sadie’s, where I worked as a teenager. And I had to take them to the Frontier Restaurant, a hole in the wall that’s perfect for people-watching over a breakfast burrito.
The biggest draw, however, was the balloon festival. The mass ascension takes place just before sunrise. So, my groggy, slightly hungover crew (thank you, Sadie’s margaritas) gathered in the dark parking lot of Los Poblanos to board a shuttle bus to the festival grounds. My husband, who thinks that arriving 15 minutes before an appointment is “cutting it close,” got us to the fields about an hour early.
I know my friends must have been thinking, “Why did Jesse and Justin drag us thousands of miles to hang out in a cold, dark field at 5 in the morning?” We huddled around heat lamps and sipped our Piñon Coffee, waiting for the first balloons to take off.
Then, right before the sun broke over the mesa, the magic began.
Balloons began to slowly inflate, glow, and rise up from the field. Soon, hundreds of massive, candy-colored orbs were filling the early morning sky. I watched as my friends transformed into children, running into the field to get as close as they could to this phenomenon that I had taken for granted for so many years.
On that day, I had a new love by my side my husband, Justin—but I was so happy to be back in the arms of my old hometown, with all these people I cared so much about.
So, I guess it’s true. If you love something, let it go. If it’s meant to be, it just may come back. I will always find myself going back into the arms of my first love, New Mexico.
Next Up: The Takeaway: Jill Scott