This week, my Godmother, Lucianna Stermer, turns 86.
In October last year I had the opportunity to spend a few days visiting with her in New Mexico, the state where I was born and where she has lived for decades.
She and her husband (my Godfather – John Stermer, RIP) met my parents in the 1950s when both couples, along with their young children, were living in Spain near Barcelona. The respective fathers were working for the PX on the military base and struck up a friendship that would stretch across continents, oceans and years.
By the early 60s they were all living in southwest New Mexico near Silver City, the town where Lucy would later become the mayor for a few terms.
When I went back to visit Lucy in 2000, I remember wandering around the glorious town of Silver City and ducking in and out of boutiques and art galleries. In one gallery, a distracted owner politely asked where I was from. In a town of only 10,000 people, and with a reputation as a hot spot for art galleries, he was pretty safe in assuming I was from out-of-town.
“I’m currently living overseas, but I was actually born in Deming and lived in this area when I was a baby.”
“Oh, that’s interesting,” he said, shuffling papers at his desk. “So you still have family here?” he continued.
“Well, my godmother.”
“That’s nice,” he said, fiddling with who-knows-what.
“Yes, she used to be the mayor.” His head popped up like a tiny animal from a hole in the ground, his ears as perky as could be. “Really?”
“Yes, her name is Lucy Stermer, maybe you’ve heard of her?”
“Lucy? Why, my dear, you’re not a tourist, you’re royalty! Lucy is the most wonderful woman on the planet,” he beamed as he got up and actually gave me a hug.
When I relayed this story later that night to Lucy, she just blushed and smiled. Always graceful and humble, Lucy does somehow seem like royalty, at least to me.
On our last visit in 2013, I also had the good fortune of seeing my godfather’s artwork, as well, which I’d only seen glimpses of either at Lucy’s house or online. He and Lucy started the first arts council in New Mexico and were largely responsible for Silver City becoming the artist mecca that it is today.
Lucy’s stories could keep me captivated for days on end for she both has an endless supply and is a gifted storyteller.
Perhaps what I enjoy most, however, is that Lucy and I still correspond via the post office. Yes, as in the kind written on actual paper, put into envelopes with stamps and sent through a system of boxes from one address to another. From time to time I send short updates through her daughters by email or on Facebook, but she and I write on a regular basis and I treasure her handwritten letters.
I only lived in New Mexico for just over a year of my life, and I’ve only been back to visit Lucy twice, but somehow I feel a strong connection both to the state and to her.
I’ve heard it said that wherever you’re born, a piece of it stays with you forever, and I believe that to be true. Just as I believe that somehow the energy of my godparents has stayed and guided me along my path in life.
And so it is that, this week, as on all days, I celebrate Lucy. Happy Birthday, my sweet Godmother!