The 1/2 way point between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is called Budaghers. It’s called the 1/2 way point but it’s really closer to Santa Fe; Budaghers is more like the 60/40 mark. To get to Budaghers, you take exit 257 off of I-25. There’s a skeleton of outlet mall there now, a place called ¡Traditions! that made a go of it for about a year. Growing up, Budaghers wasn’t much more than an on-ramp, an off-ramp and a tall pile of cemented rocks documenting blood that had been spilled in a conquistadorian battle.

My parents split when I was 5. After a few months of knocking around Albuquerque, my dad moved to Santa Fe to work for Governor King. On various weekends over the next 11 years until I could drive, Budaghers is where we would all meet to exchange me. The Switch. My dad would usually be waiting for us, car idling near the on-ramp toward Albuquerque. Mom would pull up and park so their trunks faced each other. We’d transfer bags and groceries and history projects and I’d be on my way from one home to the next. Occasionally negotiations would happen and I’d be in one car, windows up, watching them discuss the next weekend or the next year while I turned the radio on and punched through the stations, from Bryan Adams to Tiffany to Ben E. King. The cars on the freeway below the ramp went by WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH.

There were times when none of us met each other 1/2 way with our schedules or desires. After a series of weekends when I didn’t want to go, I faked fainting in biology hoping I could stay home in Albuquerque for the weekend. The ploy didn’t work. Fainting wasn’t nearly dramatic enough. And while I imagined various other stunts (broken limbs, imaginary last-minute field trips to… the mall?), I never tried anything more drastic to get out of The Switch because it became routine.

There were days when I felt like a suitcase shifted from one trunk to the next, though I never questioned my parents’ love. Except their love for each other. Sitting in the car watching my parents talk, sitting in the car with the windows up and the A/C outblasting the radio, I would once in a while wish as a child does that those two people could figure out how to figure their relationship out, or at least synch up their timing. The longest Switch on record was the day my mother had decided she wanted, more than anything, to try it again with my dad. She told him this the day after he had just gotten engaged to his second wife. WHOOSH WHOOSH WOOSH. Which I guess made for a short conversation, really, but a long ride back to Albuquerque as she kept her lips pressed tight and her sunglasses on, even in the dusk of night. She sold all their wedding china the next weekend at an impromptu garage sale.

Now I can drive from one parent to the other, whenever it works best for me. When I come to New Mexico, I try to mathematically divide the time. When one parent’s three days are up, I hop in the car and zip 60 miles in the other direction. I goose the gas WHOOSH to speed by exit 257 no matter which direction I’m travelling.

The Switch is a situation I have recreated as an adult. When I had the chance to control going from one home to the other, rather than sit tight, I did what was familiar. It has become normal to me to live in two different places. What was once Albuquerque and Santa Fe has become NYC and LA. Two sets of clothes, two sets of books, two sets of friends. It is a way to sometimes escape one world for the other, and sometimes a way to bring them together into one big whole. The check-in desk at American Airlines comes closest to an on-ramp toward a different home.

I do miss a Budaghers in my life. As an adult, what are the 1/2 way markers in a lifetime? Where are the exits to pause as we shift into a different phase? Budaghers was a predictable shift from one life to another. Having dinner with another single girlfriend the other night, we found ourselves wondering about our future. As we ponder a life with a child and a partner, we’re looking for the marker beside the side of the road to show us – is this the transition I think it is? Will we create our own Traditions! and make it through a marriage or will we find ourselves looking on the highway for an empty parking lot that is 1/2 way between two houses? Are we shifting our emotional baggage from one part of our lives into the next? Or are we even on the right road?

11 responses to “Budaghers”

  1. Dave says:

    Love it, Wendy. I never stopped at Budaghers as a kid, although I always thought the name sounded hilarious (those blunt consonants and muted vowels). I wonder how many other couples used it as an exchange point? So interesting how a wide spot int the road can hold so many memories for you.

  2. Jeremy Zitter says:

    My parents divorced when I was four and moved far away from one another, shuttling me back and forth twice a year on airplanes. So I suppose airports and flight attendants are my Budaghers (how the hell do you pronounce that, anyway?). I learned to enjoy the switch and now I love flying, even incredibly long flights, and I wonder if any of that affinity comes from the anticipatory limbo of transitioning from one parent to another when I was a child?

    I really enjoyed this post, which sparked so many of my own memories…

  3. MF says:

    Beautiful post, Wendy. I’ll imagine a little girl between two parent now when I drive through such small pass-through towns.

  4. Lane says:

    Very interesting post. Great imagery. A short film perhaps?

  5. MarleyFan says:

    What an excellent post Wendy; you quickly drew me in, and I could really feel for you. Pressing the gas pedal whenever you are near reminds me of a film where the main character pours gas on and burns her childhood home. I found it facinating that you miss having a Budaghers in your life. And as I pondered, looking for mine, I realized it’s my wife’s mental illness that has created this spot for me between the certainty of having a normal life, and wondering if it can ever truly be “normal” ever again. As I write, the words to Dylan’s song are playing “Strike another match, go start a new, And it’s all over now, Baby Blue”

  6. […] Literacy H. Dogfight, “Senseless” Bryan Waterman, “Five years on: The things I can’t forget” Wendy West, “Budaghers” […]

  7. Peter Budagher says:

    A great article, and thank you Wendy. Having lived there my entire life(except for the time that I escape to the Army) I have a great deal of love for the place. It was a great place during its “hay day” when the bar, the cafe, and both gas stations were open.

    Peter Budagher

  8. Ramon Valentine says:

    Liberty park. It’s the place where I make the exchange with my
    ‘x”. Your blog brought the whole process home to me in a way that I never even considered,.. thank you.

  9. Joe Dagher says:

    Fascinating piece. I actually stumbled upon it as I was researching this place, Budaghers. My last name is Dagher, I am from Lebanon and BuDaghers means, father-of-Dagher. I was once driving from AZ to CO and passed by Budaghers. It was too late to make a turn and “investigate” but, is this an actual town? I asked around at some old gas station and was told that the town was started by some Lebanese immigrants back in the 1930s or so. Do people live there? And Peter, is your last name Budagher? .. If anyone knows anything about this, please email me at zedagher@yahoo.com

  10. Anton Nel says:

    Wendy – touching piece – hope it works out for you.

    Also interesting area you are talking about – strategically very very good for certain industry that is making a big splash in NM – there might be some big changes comming to this area. Watch this spot! I will remember your experience there.

  11. Camille Maloy says:

    Wendy this is a touching story. I am part of the Budagher family, and I grew up there. I always remember seeing some many families meeting there for the “exchange”. I don’t come from a broken home, but I do empathize with you. You put into words what so many can’t and that is very admirable. Good luck and you are a beautiful writer.