Abe Observes

abe villarrealAbe Villarreal is the Dean of Student Success at Cochise College. He enjoys writing about people, pastimes, and the small things in life. 

By Abe Villarreal

I'm going to Baltimore for the first time this coming March. I'm looking forward to it because it's a place filled with history and delicious food. It touches the water, and I read that it is the birthplace of our national anthem.

I like going to places I've never been before, but not as much as going to places where I have been a time or two. They seem to be more special to me, but you had to have been there at least once for that to happen, so going to new places is part of the process.

Visiting familiar places is like seeing people you met once or a few times before. You remember their first names or at least the name they are known by. You think of those characteristics that make them stand out in your mind. Like the guy who tells stories that seem too hard to believe or the lady that you know is always going to be behind the old diner coffee counter because that's where she's been since anyone can remember.

By Abe Villarreal

Dates and calendars are love 'em and hate 'em kinds of things. In some ways, they are imaginary numbers and periods of time. How would our lives be different if we didn't have them or believe in them? Maybe we would behave like every day was our last, or every day was our first.

Because our lives are temporary, we obsessively focus on time, goals, and tomorrows. We set ourselves up to realize accomplishments. We put ourselves in positions of failure. We forget that we are in control, not the calendar or the clock.

No matter how hard we try, time forces us to face realities. This all comes to mind as we begin new days, new weeks, new months, and now a new year. "Time don't wait on no one," a friend once told me, and neither do deadlines, life pressures, to-do lists.

By Abe Villarreal

When I have a day off and nothing on the schedule, I like to get in the car, grab some snacks, turn on some 70s lite rock on the radio, and make my way down one of those lonesome desert highways that seem to lead to nowhere.

I've never liked it when people say there isn't anything to see out in these places. Those same people make it down to our neck of the desert to do nothing but see things. The open skies, the majestic mountains, the wildlife, and the places that seem forgotten to time.

Those are the places I like the most. One of the best things about living in the Southwest is driving with no plan, no schedule, and no time frame. You just keep going until what you see forces you to stop.

Like those gas stations with little convenience stores that try to sell more than just gas and soda because they know this is the last stop for a good while. If you need bathroom supplies, canned beans, flashlights, or homemade burritos, they got it.

By Abe Villarreal

Whenever Christmas is around the corner, I think of my abuelos and how the tios and primos gathered around at their place for this important holiday.

We got together at nana and tata's house not just because their house was big enough to host us. We did it because it was the warmest, the homiest, the most loving, and the yummiest.

We all have houses. Some are in town in neighborhoods surrounded by other homes and parks. Others are in cities next to big buildings and businesses. And then there is nana and tata's house where what matters is on the inside not on the outside.

By Abe Villarreal

When I go to the donut shop, I always give a chance to that original, plain looking cake donut. There are fancier and more attractive looking donuts. Crème filled kinds and those with powdered sugar on tops. The long ones with the funny name. The bear claws and all those others don't seem too much like donuts and more like desserts. But I like the old-fashioned cake donut with its cracks and ordinary shape.

I also like it when there's a sign out front that mentions that old-fashioned offering, and I like it when the spelling is doughnut. When I see all this, I know I entered a place that knows what it has to offer and is proud of it.

I like coming up to a counter where there are lines of donuts waiting to be picked. The simple kinds of counters that you know the store hasn't updated since the day they opened. The Formica tops are faded in sections where donuts have long been passed from store owner to happy customer. The display a bit too high for toddlers to easily see all the offerings.

By Abe Villarreal

I like to recite the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas even though I don't know all the words. The poem's real title is A Visit from St. Nicholas. Sometimes I just hum it in my head. Other times, I fill in the lines with other words that feel merry enough to make it work.

I like this 19th century poem because it still feels relevant. It's almost 200 years old and when I hear it in commercials or in children's school plays, I see how it makes people feel happy. With all the change that is pushing us forward, sometimes into a world unknown to us, it's nice to connect with something as old as a pre-civil war era poem.

We still do many of the things said in the poem. Kids go to bed on Christmas Eve, hoping to be awakened by old St. Nick during a quiet night when not even a mouse could be heard stirring. We still hang stockings over the chimney with care.

By Abe Villarreal

Even as I write this, I'm thinking of sitting outside my second floor apartment and just staring out at what seems like nothing. Thoughts of seeing little movements of almost somethings happening are making me happy.

The sounds of cars passing by or doors closing in the distance only happen after long stretches of hearing almost no sound. Still, there must be sound happening all around. I just can't hear it, and I like that there isn't much of anything to hear.

When I think of the happiest people in the world, I think of older men sitting outside their front doors and looking out into the world with appreciation that there are moments to do just what they are doing in that moment. They've lived their life. They've heard a lot of noise, sometimes too much noise. Now, they want to sit and appreciate what they see around them.

They aren't waiting for a parade to pass by or hoping for a ride to pick them up. They know what time it is because it's about the same time of day that they come together for a whole lot of nothing. They aren't listening for the phone to ring. The TV set is inside and turned off.

By Abe Villarreal

I miss seeing pictures that showed people in not-so-perfectly practiced positions. Like the ones that capture us in uncomfortable moments and those with friends and family members making faces that weren't meant to be photographed.

How we want to be remembered for eternity seems to change with each generation. What we used to try to memorialize in a Kodak moment has now become a filtered-Instagram post. Today's photos make it difficult to know what is real. I think what I miss seeing on printed little squares of glossy paper is people simply being people.

When I look back at pictures from throughout the last 100 years, the kinds of feelings that run through my mind give me a sense of knowing who people were and what they were thinking. I could tell when the photo was taken because it looks a little too yellow or a little too brown.

The furniture patterns, the height of the rug, the width of the TV set. What we wore and how we wore it. They were all giveaways to knowing how we lived and what was happening at the time.

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