customs/rituals, folklore

God Laughs While Women Plan

Giving Thanks to the 4 Directions.  Curanderismo Conference, July, 2014. ©Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Honoring the Sun and the Sky.  Curanderismo Conference, July, 2014.
©Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

One year ago, I read about a convention of curanderos (traditional holistic healers from an Hispanic heritage) taking place in Albuquerque. I sent the article to a dear friend I’ll call “Raquel” who lives on the East Coast. Since she and I share a passionate interest in folk healing, she became as excited as me and ordered a book authored by the course organizer, Eliseo “Cheo” Torres, an administrator at the University of New Mexico.  Raquel met him the next time she was in Albuquerque. Stimulated by her encounter, she insisted, “We have to attend next July.”

Enthusiastically, I agreed. She would fly to El Paso, take a shuttle to Las Cruces, then drive us in my car to Albuquerque and back.

The first obstacle was an ignition problem with my car, so over six weeks before the course, I visited a repair shop and explained that although the key turned on, I often could not remove the key after the car was in Park. Accordingly, they installed a new ignition system and tumbler and assured me that the car was fixed. It wasn’t, yet each time I brought it back to the repair shop to show them, the key worked.

After returning four times, the owner and repairmen discounted me. Since I felt insecure about the car’s reliability, I took it to another repair shop that believed me because they encountered the key problem a few times themselves. Although they kept the car for two weeks they found nothing wrong, and only days before departure, they returned it to me unaltered. Feeling apprehensive, Raquel and I rented a car.

Simultaneous with my car problem, Raquel’s daughter discovered a lump in her upper arm that turned out to be malignant. After removing it, her oncologist recommended chemotherapy. Instead, the daughter flew across the country to another specialist who prescribed radiation rather than chemo.  Raquel and I breathed a temporary sigh of relief. Now we could resume our travel plans because the radiation would not begin until after the two-week course was over. In spite of the breather, Raquel’s daughter still had a life-threatening condition that Raquel would have to deal with later.

Next, the week prior to the class, my hearing aids stopped working and had to be returned to the manufacturer. They wouldn’t be ready until after the class. Although I can hear somewhat without them, I frequently lose words and often have to bluff during one-on-one conversations. Being without them would put me at a disadvantage while trying to absorb new information in an academic setting.

Finally, the appointed day came for Raquel’s arrival. The three-plus-hour drive to Albuquerque was uneventful except for the continuous ringing of Raquel’s cell phone that was tucked inside her pocket. Since she is an opera buff her ring tone is the “Habañera” from “Carmen.” Each of the at-least six times it played made us laugh – but not for long.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, Raquel called home. As she listened, her face fell and her breathing became more rapid. Bad news. Another family crisis had arisen with her other child. Raquel’s husband wanted her to return at once, and we hadn’t even checked in.

Despite Raquel’s contemplating an immediate return home, we still registered at the hotel. At the same time, I began mulling over my own Plan B, but we actually stayed and enjoyed the course for one week. However, after more distress calls from home, Raquel felt she had no alternative but to leave. Apologetically, she drove me back to Las Cruces and flew home the next morning.

So how was the Curanderismo course? FANTASTIC!  I will write about it soon – unless another calamity interferes with my schedule.

Altar to honor the Four Directions.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Altar to honor the Four Directions. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who forgot to mention that while in Albuquerque, her second great-granddaughter was born in Colorado with the cord wrapped around her neck causing pneumonia and an infection. At this moment, she is improving but remains in the neonatal ICU.

customs/rituals, folklore, good luck/bad luck

“I Now Pronounce You Husband and Wife.”


I watched an HBO documentary, “112 Weddings,” where photographer, Doug Block, revisits couples whose weddings he videotaped over the past decades. He discovered that some of his happy newlyweds had later gotten divorced, while others were flourishing as now loving families.

He asked former brides and grooms, “When you got married, what did you think it was going to be?

Most could not articulate what they were thinking at the time of the celebration. Most were too focused on the wedding celebration.

March 4, 1951.  Harold & Norine cutting their wedding cake. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
March 4, 1951. Harold & Norine Dresser cutting their wedding cake. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.

I was 19 when I got married. I certainly didn’t have a clue as to expectations. All I knew was that I was crazy about Harold and that I had to be with him. In looking back, I don’t see that as very rational. But marriage is not about ration; it is about emotions, and I always follow my gut.

Once, when I was a bridesmaid, the groom collapsed at the altar and I thought, “Oh, oh, bad sign.” And it was. After two children the marriage ended in divorce. However, fainting is not an accurate prognosticator of marriage’s durability. At another couple’s wedding I attended, three family members fainted at the wedding, and that marriage is still thriving after 42 years.

Harold and I were engaged for one week before the wedding. He said he couldn’t handle the stress of an elaborate wedding, and I didn’t care. He just wanted to go to Vegas and get married there, but my mom wanted to have a religious ceremony. I’m happy that she prevailed. We had a small afternoon event and put it together so quickly that I forgot to invite my best friend, Jan. She publicly forgave me at my 50th birthday party.

Too often, when a couple gets married the wedding celebration becomes their focus rather than the marriage. Because we have been affected by fairy tales, newlyweds assume they will live “Happily Ever After” but most young couples can’t possibly imagine what the future will bring. That’s probably a good thing, too.

Prior to our 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration, Harold insisted that the icing on top of the cake contain the following caveat.

Message on top of our 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration cake.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014
Message on top of our 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration cake. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014

Yes, it did until he died, one month before our 56th wedding anniversary.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who, if asked if she would marry Harold again, would answer, “Absolutely!”