Monday, 21 December 2015 18:51

Emma Jaramillo Montez (December 21, 1919-December 6, 2006)

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Emma Jaramillo Montez Emma Jaramillo Montez

Emma Jaramillo Móntez (December 21, 1919-December 6, 2006)


I remember the loving spirit of my mother Emma Jaramillo Móntez, who would be ninty-six years old today.  Born in a farmhouse in Chimayó, NM in the early part of the last century, as a child she studied by kerosene light, helped her brothers gather water from the acequia, learned to cook on a wood burning stove, made ristras and wove blankets, as her family had many generations before her.....and laughed as she chased fireflies at night with a child's delight, under the magnificent New Mexico sky.  

Her early life taught her to trabajár con gústo/work with joy and care.  

In our home mom always had a pot of something cooking on the stove--posole, frijoles, chíle, or caldo--in case someone unexpected dropped by. The house always smelled of her thoughtfulness. She religiously baked bread and made tortillas or sopapillas, so there was always something created by her to scoop up the chíle or on which to spread the peanut butter and homemade jelly.  And she made the best bizcochitos, empanaditas, pastelitos and sopa....ever!  She was often asked to bake for family or friends' weddings or special events....and she did so con gústo!

Mom starched my petticoats just right and made many of my school clothes.  Jumpers. Ruffled blouses. And fiesta dresses, my favorite being the one I wore when I performed with other little girls on the Santa Fe plaza bandstand.  She took me to Dendahl's fabric store to pick out my favorite colors of fabric and ric-rac.  She held me close while guiding me in starting the first few stitches by hand, so I could feel part of this grand fashion design!  And we giggled when I tried it on for the first time, eager for me to make my first twirl across our stage, the living room floor of our little adobe casita on Montez Street. 

Not too long ago, she and I were sitting on the sofa marveling at all my dad's santos, art and carvings, which surround the room not unlike a nórte New Mexico gallery or capílla.  Mom had started to lose some of her memory, even confusing the names of her beloved brothers long gone, or how long it had been since she had seen her grandsons, whom she loved so deeply.   I guided the conversation asking her about the earlier years. I was patient as she reminisced and sorted out the details. We were comfortable sharing our feelings as we had done our whole lives.  She gazed around the room and I waited for her thoughts to be processed and expressed.  She said, "Someday, when your dad is gone, you will have all of this to remember him. I don't have anything to leave for you to remember me."  I said, "But, mom, we ate all of your art because it was so delicious!  And we wore your art until we outgrew them all!  How can we ever forget that?"

Like my dad's art, it is not really the end product that leaves the memory, but rather the loving spirit of what was their life story, left behind in many forms. With my dad, I have his beautiful creations and of course so much more. With my mom, I have the tools of her art--her old sewing machine, favorite rolling pin and cookie cutters, her handmade embroidered apron, and so much more. The end products long gone.  Devoured. Worn out. But memories of her remain of a life fully lived.  Remember?  “Mom, how can we not!”

No one ever made me laugh more or laugh harder than my mom, even towards the end when her memories became fuzzy. We had a cherished bond and a language only we understood.  Usually others left us alone as we shared stories at the kitchen table, often while peeling potatoes or sorting frijoles. She was my very best friend my whole life and I am grateful for all the special moments we shared and the many gifts she created and left behind which I still see.  I still feel.  

I come home every spring to take care of the garden she nurtured with that attention she gave to everything else in her life.  And, as she did for those she loved, I stay until "the snow is on the roses and the bluebird's flown away....."

If you ever visit the Rancho de Chimayo and notice the majestic catalpa tree near the entrance, think of my mom, for it is there she chased fireflies at night and began her life’s journey with memorable purpose.

Read 2332 times Last modified on Monday, 21 December 2015 19:43
Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  


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