Its a universal truth among humans that we all love to see a familiar face. We love the comfort of someone from home. We love the collective, “Hey, long time no see!”
When I lived in North Carolina and went to the gas station, I was homesick for someone who would see me washing my windshield and recognize me as one of those Terry girls from Quay County (we all have such distinguishable noses – nuff said – and deep blue eyes to offset the misfortune of the nose [thank you Granny Terry]) or someone who would ask me how my folks were doing. My heart ached because I knew it would never happen – I was not a familiar face to anybody in North Carolina, and no one was going to ever stop to ask me anything because I didn’t touch their heart with any sort of distant happy memory.
So, unless you’re cheating on your wife or have committed a heinous crime, my bet is that you love to see a familiar face, or hear a familiar accent, or see the name of a place you know by heart. And that’s how it worked a couple of weeks ago at the New York International Gift Fair. On my first day in the Pick Up Sticks booth (www.pickupsticks.net), I rounded a corner at the end of our row overlooking the Hudson River, and there was the Lilly Barrack booth.
I know Lilly Barrack. She’s a New Mexico artist. Okay, I don’t know her personally, but I know her jewelry. And I know that the adorable Phaedra who was running the booth knows my pal Tila Hoffman from Corrales. I know that they used to take riding lessons at the same stable in the north valley where my daughter Johanna took riding lessons. I used to be Tila’s paralegal. And I knew that, in another distant form of human connection, Johanna was at the very moment I saw the booth, studying at UNM in Albuquerque, wearing my Lilly Barrack ring with the pearls and tourmaline.
You can find her work at www.lillybarrack.com. She considers herself “a Southwestern artist whose work has been influenced by life in Africa and Greece.” She’s been living in New Mexico for over 25 years and has been selling wholesale for over twenty years. Luckily for those of you who want to go in search of her jewelry today, she now has several of her own retail stores in Albuquerque. There’s the Nob Hill store at 3205 Central NE, next to the Monte Vista Fire Station, and one in the heights at Paseo and Wyoming (8000 Paseo del Norte, C-2 in Paseo Village).
I have some very small shared history with Phaedra and Lilly Barack, and it made me smile when I saw that booth. “Here,” I thought, “here, so far from home is someone who’s familiar to me.” We know the same turns in the same roads and the same restaurants in Corrales and the same events in the Rio Grande Corridor. We have shared some portion of life. And seeing her name that day gave me a little bit of comfort and joy (I know, I know – so much of what I write sounds like a damned Christmas card, but I’m not sorry for my sappiness. . .sometimes this life feels like a Christmas gift, over and over every day).
I re-introduced myself to Phaedra (we met years ago at another New York show) and admired the jewelry in her booth, and by the end of the five-day show, we were hugging each other and promising to stay in touch and I had a gorgeous new black star dioxide ring created by Lilly, a gift to myself to celebrate one of my favorite New Mexico artists. It reminds me of a star sapphire ring created by another New Mexico artist that I bought long ago at Mariposa Gallery in Old Town. I lost that ring at some point in the middle of a fight with a really bad boyfriend who I suspect secretly took it from my jewelry box, and for years I’ve searched high and low for another like it.
Lilly’s design is prettier and more unique than my sapphire, and it feels like a better replacement. While I sit here and admire the star in the larger stone’ s center, the line from a Mary Chapin Carpenter song is in my head. “There’s no such thing as no regrets, but baby it’s alright. . .” It really is alright. I have a gorgeous ring and I have had the pleasure of seeing Phaedra again, an acquaintance from New Mexico who is now just slightly less like an acquaintance and a little bit more like a friend. The entire incident reminds me of how closely connected New Mexicans are – how familiar we all are to each other.