As the Holiday season ends and the kids’ School resumes, my life slowly but surely goes back to its routine that –although sometimes I complain about- gives me some emotional stability which, right now, I really need.
As part of the Christmas common things to do in our house, my daughter and I watched a dozen or so Hallmark movies about Christmas: family, the appreciation of life and traditions. Even though these movies frequently fall into the “cheesy” category for me, I have to agree that most of them (not all!) have left me a small lesson, a warm cozy feeling, a yearning to do some good and mostly to appreciate all I have- which is a lot.
Also, I baked a dozen and a half batches of Maple Walnut Blondies. Yes, it is non-stop work in the kitchen, but the sweet homey scent that fills our home for 2 or 3 weeks and the time spent with my little assistant is something I actually look forward to. Not to mention to share them with our friends and seeing the smile on their faces as they open their box and smell the maple.
On December 18th I put away all the ingredients I usually keep out handy during baking season; I replaced the small bottle of Maple extract last- closed the door of the cupboard and thought “I am not taking this little bottle out for another year…who knows that 2018 will bring!” Last time I used it, my father had passed just weeks before , and it would’ve been hard to believe if someone told me then ,that the next time I would bake blondies my Mom would be gone too .
We might not have many traditions in our family, but baking is definitely one of them, and I will keep doing it while I can.
The Holidays were hard, but not hard as in super depressing with constant crying, but more like melancholic, numb, lacking. We spent Christmas together, my siblings and I with each of our families. It was the very first Christmas with only two generations at the table. Us and our kids, that is all. It felt strange, as if we were waiting for someone to arrive and they never did. But I know our Mom and Dad where present in their own way, feeling so very happy to see we are together, the three of us, in heart and soul.
After Christmas my brother and his family flew back with us and spent 10 days here at our home in California. That gave me immense comfort; it was like a continuation of the festive season with family members so dear and close to my heart. It was hard to feel lonely, our house had 5 kids and 4 adults and our puppy. I loved every minute of it. Being away from my hometown – and my husband’s as well- is hard. Especially for the kids. Weekends and holidays it is always only the 4 of us, so having the extended family so close and feeling that sense of belonging is a gift.
The kids are 12 (almost 13) and 11 now so my husband and I have started to go out on short dates without hiring a sitter. They are still getting used to it…and me too. We recently went to watch a Movie (The Shape of Water). Despite of the fact that is has been nominated for half a dozen things, I have to say it is not my cup of tea. When I go to the movies, I prefer not to be reminded about the brutality and perversity of human nature. I can turn on the news for that. But I applaud the creative way in which the director presents symbolisms of what we are, what moves us, what fulfills our most inner self, through the use of his “monsters”. Just the next day, I was pumping gas, standing next to my car as a flock of birds passed over me lined up in a perfect V. As the leader slightly moved and turned the rest followed like a perfect choreography. And I wondered, how come we cannot all drive on the freeways like that? With synchronicity and common sense. Why are there crashes every single day and people injured or dead? I smiled to myself as minutes later I embarked on one more commute to San Diego, thinking….Well, birds fly and focus on their flight. They don’t change radio stations or text or call people while they drive, and specially, THEY DON’T DRINK!
This was just another reminder of how wild life is often more civilized than humans.
2018 is just starting and although I do not believe in resolutions I unconsciously have been more determined about being in touch with people I love and care for, here in town or far away, it doesn’t matter.
Like I have mentioned in my blog before, I totally disapprove of the way technology was messed with (if not ruined) the way in which we reach out and communicate with our loved ones. Happy Birthday wishes, congratulations for a new born baby, a graduation, Get Well wishes, and unbelievably , sympathy over the loss of a loved one, are often reduced to a Facebook public line, (or even worse a thumbs up on someone else’s line) or a Whatssapp message. I find it pretty sad for our little ones that already think it is awkward to make a phone call so say hello to someone.
I have made more calls in the past 2 months or so, than I have made in years to people I care for, or I rarely see. In two cases, the recipients of my calls have said to me “You made my day with your call”. If that is not motivation to reach out, I don’t know what is.
We need to teach our kids verbal skills! It is ridiculous what the lack of human touch or conversation has done. So that I guess is one of the things I am working on.
Once I read or heard a line that said “When you are gone, what will people remember of you? That did they learn form you?” How true that is. Now that both my parents are gone, the most valuable things I have kept and cherish everyday are the lessons they taught me, the advice, their laughter, their discipline and most of all, their affection.
How important it is to show people how we feel while they are alive. Giving a compliment has turned into something less common nowadays. I guess we are all too busy to notice the good?
My Dad still has 3 brothers and 2 sisters that live today and I have enjoyed their company during this Christmas break, I feel a little bit of my Dad through them. I intend to be in touch with them as well.
Being close to family is something my kids observe, learn from and get used to. If not teaching by example, then how? There are things in life that no book or classroom will ever deliver. Last night my daughter was praying and she said “Jesus, help me be my brother’s best friend one day”. They are fighting a lot lately, mostly due to their age, but deep down they love each other and to hear this prayer come out of her mouth really moved me.
2016 and 2017 will be always years that I won’t forget. They hit me hard but they also made me stronger and showed me that I don’t crumble so easy , which is great news J.
When she is still so fresh in my mind? When it still hurts so deeply to remember her smile, her laugh, her touch?
Or when the pain subsides a little bit and I won’t cry a river with every sentence that reminds me of her?
I am afraid, I have been afraid of writing this very blog entry for months; when I knew my mother’s health has deteriorating faster as the months passed by. For the past two years she had been the biggest fan of my blog. She not only read every single piece, but commented, congratulated me and passed the link on to dozens of friends and relatives who would otherwise never had read me.
Today I feel like I am writing to a silent audience, writing a blog entry that will lack my mom’s watchful eye and appreciation. But I want to believe that she can hear my inner voice and almost listen to my words as I type them.
On September 16th 2017, my mother Olga Victoria Lozano passed away. One month ago, today.
For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I will say this much. My mother had a stroke at age 27. She was married to my father and had 3 children, all under age 5, me being the middle one.
After a very pessimistic diagnose and almost dying, she proved how strong willed she was, and took on her paralysis and all the limitations that came with the stroke, with her head held up high and a dignified and optimistic attitude towards life that became my motivation and still is, even now that she has left this world.
For years she did physical therapy, speech therapy and went through at least half a dozen surgeries. She regained strength on her right side. Her left side never recovered and she was never again able to move her left arm or leg.
Many health problems surfaced during the 43 years that followed. She was bound to a wheelchair and her sedentary lifestyle lead to more complications.
After several years of having problems with kidney stones, these became more serious during the last 3: kidney infections, severe pain, stones blocking the flow, etc.
On the morning of September 15th, she was undergoing a laser procedure to dissolve several kidney stones. At that time, I was visiting Portland, Oregon on an anniversary trip with my husband.
My brother, the youngest of us 3 was there with her; he was supposed to call me and my sister letting us know how it all went, once she was in the recovery room.
But 3 hours after my mom had gone into the OR, I still had not heard from him and I knew something had not gone well.
He finally called and told me there had been complications and my mom was not well. It was serious.
All I could imagine was my mom laying in a hospital bed, fading, and me, thousands of miles away, as was my sister, who was also travelling. I was so desperate and broken up inside in small tiny pieces. My husband and I managed to cancel all that we had booked and flew back home that same afternoon.
We got home on the 15th at night, and explained to our kids why we were back so early. They were both worried about their grandma. During the flight I had recorded a voice message for my brother to play for my mom. I wanted her to hear my voice, even if she was sedated. And he did play it, 3 times he later said. In it, I told her I was on my way to be with her, and take care of her.
The next day, on the 16th, I took a direct flight to Chihuahua. I was picked up and transferred to the hospital immediately. Upon my arrival, my brother, surrounded then by family and friends, pulled me aside to a private room and told me so tenderly and lovingly that we needed to remember that my mother had always instructed us to never ever authorize any form of artificial life support on her, such as a tracheotomy, feeding tubes, etc. I did not understand why he was telling me this. My mom was still breathing and her heart was beating, so why this seriousness?
I asked him directly between sobs “Isn’t she going to make it?” He shook his head and calmly said “No”.
I wanted to scream and run somewhere, but all I did was cried as loud I have ever cried in my life. And he held me and I could tell seeing me like that was hurting him. He had known my mom’s condition for the last 24 hrs. but had not wanted to tell me over the phone, so he had some time to process the facts and prepare.
I didn’t. I felt like it was all a dream and I was only half awake. I couldn’t stop shaking and I was having a hard time breathing. A lady from the staff came in told us we could go in to see her.
I walked in her little room with my brother, feeling with every step so much pain and desperation I thought I wouldn’t make it to her bed. Then I saw her; I couldn’t believe only 2 months before I had visited her, on the same stupid hospital, and said goodbye to her with a big smile and warm hug, assuming we would see each other in October- when she had planned to visit me.
She laid there, aided by a respirator, monitors and IVs all over, sedated, pale. I immediately laid right next to her and hugged her tight. And sobbed, cried so much I felt bad to bring so much sadness and pain to her. But how could I to bring strength with me if I was supposed to say a last good bye to my mother? To the woman I have loved the most in my life? To the woman who gave me life and had adored me unconditionally for 46 years. Who taught me life lessons like no one ever had? I could not say good bye to her. I wanted to feel her warm hand stroke my head like she used to do. Hear her low soft voice. I wanted to breathe her motherly scent and fill my lungs with it. And all I could smell was the horrible bleached gowns and bed sheets. My brother broke down as well, just looking at the sad picture, looking at his sister completely falling apart and losing all reason and strength.
I talked to my mother then, I said thank you to her, for all she had been, for all she gave us, for being so generous during her life. I told her to fly away to all those cities she dreamed of visiting, to be free at last. Free of her crippled body, of her damned wheelchairs. I told her everything would be alright. I saw the tiniest movement in one of her eyelids.
My brother stood there next to the bed, and helped me wrap my mom’s arms around me, as if she was hugging me, because I needed one last motherly hug. I don’t know if 10 or 15 minutes passed, but I heard a nurse come in and my brother asked her if her heartbeat was slowing fading. I don’t remember her answering. She just adjusted the monitors and muted them, and quietly left the room.
My brother then told me “She is leaving now”. I panicked at the thought of not feeling her warmth any more. I stood up and kissed her feet, her hands, her head, as much as I could. My brother then laid next to her and sobbed and hugged her.
I kept holding her hands, being as close as I could to her. I felt her forehead getting colder, then her neck, then her hands and I felt as though the life in me was draining as well.
This was not supposed to be! She was already planning to come visit me in California in 2 weeks. We were going to spend Christmas with her in only 3 months. I had just ordered her some sandals online for her. This was all wrong.
But there she was, peacefully lying there, letting go of this life, letting go of her tired and sick body that for so many years kept her from being the free spirit and the adventurous soul she always was. I want to believe she had been waiting for me, just to give me the precious gift of some minutes with her, still warm, heart still beating and listening to my voice one last time. A gift of time, that’s what she gave me.
My brother left the room and gave me some more time with her. I kept trying to find warm spots on her body. I wrapped my hands around her back and found that it was still very warm.
I leaned in and hugged her, feeling her warm back, and cried softly, finding it impossible to let go.
The same lady that had led us in came again and took my shoulders. She pulled me back; as I refused, I begged for more time. She gently said, “You will never be ready, you need to let her go”. She hugged me tight and let me cry all over again.
Breaking the horrible news to my sister -who was desperate, flying back home from Europe- was extremely hard too. I refused to lie to her the dozen times she called or texted asking how she was, so I decided to tell her the truth. I have never heard her cry as that morning. It broke my heart to be the bearer of the bad news, but we are very, very close and I felt I was the one who should.
September 16, 2017 has been, as of today, the saddest day of my life. When my father died, it was hard yes, because it was sudden, totally unexpected, a heart attack. Just like that.
The painful part was getting used to the idea, processing the absence and accepting it. But there was no painful goodbye. No horrible hospital experience (for me anyway) with total strangers among you in your worst moments.
It has been a month now, and I am afraid of thinking too much of her. Of smelling her perfume -Boucheron-on someone else. Of looking at her pictures for too long, because it hurts.
In my head I have plans of dedicating one of the walls in our home to pictures of my Mom, my Dad, and my siblings, and yet, I can’t find myself ready to get started.
When I think of those days where I had to take anti-anxiety pills during the day and sleeping pills at night, I think of my close friends that have lost a husband or even worse, a child, and can’t even imagine how they do it.
“Time heals” they say- I sure hope it does.
Just some days before my trip to Portland, I had started to read a book that my mother gave me: Dying to be me, by Anita Moorjani. She never read it, but had given me and my sister a copy each.
The book is written by a woman who had a Near Death Experience. What she felt, what she saw, what she heard. How she decided to give life a second chance in her cancer-invaded body, turn it into a healthy one and share her experience with the world.
Even though I am not done reading it, the book has helped me tremendously; not only with the comforting concept of the peace, love and liberation that comes as you leave your body, but it has encouraged me to be in a good, stable and almost happy state of mind when I think of my mother, because I believe she can sense it, feel it, and I do not want her to see me in a state of depression or deep sadness.
Now that my mother is gone, I feel a sense of responsibility as a mother, to fight as hard as she did, to enjoy life every day as much as she did, regardless of any circumstance. Responsibility as a mother to pass on these values to my own children. To be humble and charitable, as she was. To focus on the Yes, instead of the No. To be strong and yet to cry when I need to. To mind my own business; to be careful when stating opinions or giving advice.
My Mom and Dad are together now, and I know it will give them peace to see us – my siblings and I- happy, very happy with our lives, our spouses, our children.
The gift of time is what we all have today, time to live, to appreciate, to give, to love, but specially to share it with others. Sharing our time is in a way sharing our life. In this hurried world and even more hurried lifestyles one would think time is is sometimes unattainable.
I know that even though their absence will always hurt, time will help me remember my parents with a smile on my face, with pride, with a lot of love.
After several months of planning our much needed summer vacation, the day finally came.
On June 11th at 1 am our plane departed from Tijuana to Cancun. A red-eye, non-stop flight that I had mentally prepared myself and the kids for. And I say mentally because I am a very light sleeper. So the idea of sitting on the middle seat (I was the buffer between the kids to avoid any possibility of a fight), with the miserable 2 inch recline that the tight rows allow in planes these days for 4 hours, was discouraging to say the least.
I am sure many will agree that the worst part of traveling is the one to two hour wait at the airport, the annoying security lines, and especially those 20 minutes while you have taken your seat, but others are still trying to figure out where they are going, or placing their bags in the overhead compartment with their butt on your face, or fighting with the flight attendant because their seat number is duplicated. Or having to unbuckle your seat and get out and start over because the guy on the window seat was late. To make it worse, usually the A/C is not on while boarding so all kinds of human scents and sounds float in the air. By then you either start to regret ever considering the trip or you close your eyes, stick your earbuds in and pretend you are there all alone.
I can be a little bit of a Germophobic so I feel truly grossed out in planes and airports sometimes. I was going to include swimming pools too (yuk) but I was headed to Cancun! I had to take the Germophobia out of my mind!
Needless to say, I got no sleep at all. But the flight was very smooth and felt short. Four hours later we landed at the Cancun Airport, groggy, with our backs aching and terrible morning breath: mints can’t do miracles! It was only 8 am.
Being closer to 50 years old than to 40 now, and accepting the hard cold truth that my body doesn’t look that young anymore, I had packed a one piece swimming suit so I wouldn’t have to worry about sticking my stomach in, while inhaling and then forgetting to breathe, so my tummy would look flatter. To hell with it! I thought. One piece suits are probably not the coolest item to wear, but I preferred breathing. A bikini made it to my suitcase “just in case” I dared, or just in case the humidity and heat made wearing the one piece feel like a sausage casing.
After arriving at the hotel, we had an exquisite breakfast, buffet style. The kids were amazed with a real honey comb that was displayed to provide the Honey, no jars. I told the kids “you won’t see this very often in the US , do you?”. My Mexican pride started to kick in. Honey Comb @ Breakfast Buffet
I was amazed myself just by the beauty, color and sweetness of the fruit, the sweet breads and the freshly made Mexican brunch items, such as tamales, sopes and chilaquiles. I inquired to a waiter about the sweet breads containing nuts: my son is severely allergic. Ten minutes later a (very) short man with a tall white chef’s hat came out and introduced himself as Felix, the pastry chef. His forehead was covered in beads of sweat, which was a beautiful indicator that he spend his time mixing, kneading, decorating and filling pastries and a sad indicator that the kitchen where he probably had been since 4 am was very hot. Still, he had a smile on his face as he walked me and my son (a whole foot taller than him) through the pastry table and pointed out which breads to stay away from. I thanked him and walked back to my table with Felix’s smile now on my face. It was contagious.
I think the idea of a whole week without cooking or doing dishes also had something to do with my early morning smile.
My husband and I commented on how service in Mexico, especially in the Hospitality Industry is so much warmer and accommodating than in the US. How servers will NOT bring you the check unless you ask for it. How they will serve with an attitude that makes you feel welcome and important. How they go the extra mile to get you what you want even if it means combining 3 dishes into one, because your ridiculous diet requires it. This is not always the case – of course; rude waiters can be found across borders and beyond, but generally speaking, the way salaries and tips are managed in Mexico, encourages the Industry employees to earn their monetary rewards, call it bonuses, tips, gratuities with more enthusiasm.
I believe that is why Mexico if one of the top destinations for travelers across the world. Not just the beauty of our country, but the warmth and friendliness of the hospitality services play a huge factor as well.
After breakfast we toured the hotel for a short while. It was very noticeable that 90% of the guests were from the US or Europe.
The School year in Mexico was not over yet, so most Mexicans start travelling later in June.
I am not going to say anything rude here. I will just say I saw enough women of all ages and sizes with such confidence carrying their bodies around in tight swim suits, with a self-assurance that many women would be happy to have a fraction of. So I went wild and dug my bikini out of my suit case on day 1!
At home we don’t own a pool and our neighborhood doesn’t have a community pool either, so the kids were really enjoying the huge pool at the hotel. I enjoyed watching them play just as much as they did swimming.
After a while a server came carrying around Ice cream bars in a variety of flavors, these were the authentic Mexican “Paletas Heladas”, ice cream bars in the US. My mouth watered just looking at the tray. I quickly picked a Coconut one and enjoyed every bite so much, I almost went to grab another. When I reached out for my wallet the guy said, “They are complimentary”. I thought…What? Free ? In Cancun? Can I have three?
But I didn’t. I am on “sugar control mode. After lunch another guy came with Fruit kabobs, delicious, fresh and chilled, also complimentary. These are the small details that make a difference from one hotel to another. This was at the Coral Beach Hotel.
Next morning, I went to the gym, I needed a good workout if I wanted to continue wearing the one bikini I had, and eating all the delicious things I knew I would eat that week. So I got up early, quietly got dressed, and exercised for a good hour. Afterward, I went to wash up to the ladies locker rooms at the gym and as I was leaving, I discovered that inside the Gym there was a full complementary bar of fruit, juices, whole grain (disguised as healthy) pastries and….COFFEE!!!!!! Seriously? I just worked my butt off on the stationary bike and now this?
But again, I behaved and just had a tall glass of Green Juice, lots of good strong Mexican coffee and lots of water.
That afternoon we moved to the hotel where we would stay for the next 5 nights. We purchased a Time Share about 5 years ago (despite all the warnings from friends and family of not getting even close to a Time Share sales person) . We chose Cancun as the Home location. It is a nice Property that is just under 10 years old and is very well located.
The next day we spent it all at our hotel just relaxing and swimming both at the pool and at the beach.
The color of the Caribbean Sea seemed to lure you in. A turquoise color than no paint can match. The water was crystal clear and with the perfect temperature to be cool and refreshing and warm at the same time.
I mostly relaxed and read a book I started the same day our trip started. (1)
Reading became a bit of a challenge because I was distracted by all the things around me, so close: I observed all the young American teenagers still traveling with their parents, especially girls, with bikinis that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. It made me wonder, is that bikini too small because it is from last summer and the girl doesn’t realize it doesn’t fit anymore? Or is it that uncool to have your whole butt covered these days? Or…do they sell the fabric by the square inch and that’s all she could afford?
My husband even commented one day and said, please don’t ever let our daughter wear a bikini like that, ok?
Our daughter -11- was wearing a cute blue one piece swim suit with silver pineapples all over. If this wasn’t girly enough, it had one little bow on each side. I wondered, how long until she stops wearing these cute one piece suits and wants to wear those “other ones”. I could perfectly visualize me and her, arguing about swimming suites in the years to come.
Well, I did feel old that day. Old and conservative look a school librarian.
Older women were included in this “daring” group too. I also wondered if there was a Who has the biggest boobs contest somewhere. I have nothing against big ones, but there is a point where it all falls into the grotesque category-in my opinion. My kids were not blind to all this. My son gave me looks now and then and couldn’t help but smile or giggle. They really got to see it all: G strings, girls (European I guess) with no tops, teenagers with tiny triangles they call bikinis, gay guys hugging each other at the pool. No inhibitions whatsoever. And I am fine with that.
They need to learn that there is more than their hometown out there, and more than the US in this world. Other cultures, tastes and likes. Deal with it and respect it.
Other cute little kids, American too, would walk along with their parents by the pool to the Towel Booths and show off their little bit of Spanish they knew to the Mexican pool staff.
– “How many towels? “
-“Treis porfavor”. The proud mom would encourage their girl to say… I loved it.
I have personally met people that don’t seem to feel the need to get out of the US to see other beaches, try other food, learn another language and see how others live. I will never understand it, never. So to see American families travel to another country with little children, where a different language is spoken and a different currency is needed puts a smile on my face. It is educational to say the least. Too bad some people don’t see it this way.
There was a DJ at the pool most of the day, so that made reading a bit hard as well. The entertainment Staff was always trying to accommodate the interests and likes of the crowd, so they played mostly music in English and played trivia games that were geared 100% to Americans.
One afternoon, I guess the DJ got tired of Pop Music (as was I) and started playing Latin music.
It made me want to dance, and I realized I didn’t remember the last time I went dancing. L
The hit song Despacito (Luis Fonsi) started playing and I thought it was almost comical that absolutely no one reacted. No one moved to the beat of the song, no one danced or even mouthed the words.
Clearly they had no idea what the song was. The discouraged DJ let the song end and went back to Katy Perry and Justin Beiber to which at least a dozen teenagers where singing nearby.
During the week we visited 2 ecological parks. One of them, Xplor and Xcaret.
Xplor is for the adventurous. It has more Zip lines than I could count, there is also underground rivers that you can swim in and Amphibian buggies you can drive on paths that go through caves, slushy muddy waters and a dried-out jungle. The Zip lines were a lot of fun, but my favorite part was swimming in those cold rivers through caves with beautiful stalactites. It is mostly in the dark that you swim, so the experience was very new and a bit scary for the kids. The depth was between 6.5 and 7 feet, so while everyone was swimming, my husband was walking J. And the kids decided to tag along, holding on to his life preserving vest, they looked like a train going along the river.
A buffet lunch was included in the admission, and honestly I did not expect much. When the word buffet is in the sentence, it has an immediate sense of downgrade for me. But I was very pleasantly surprised. The facility that served lunch for the adventurous that extremely large. It had plenty of food for the hundreds of hungry zipliners and it was organized in a way that you could avoid crowds and lines.
The seating –on the other hand- was designed for you to eat fast and leave, allowing for quick table rotation: picnic style seating, it also felt like a German Beer-fest.
They had everything from Hamburgers and hotdogs for tourists who refused to try anything else, to Mexican traditional dishes, and lots, lots of seafood.
I loved that everything in this park screams NATURE COMES FIRST. The buildings and structures are built around the trees, as opposed to chopping down trees to build. This tree caught my attention, it was right in the center of the restroom area, but it was intact.
No one chickened out and no one got hurt, so that day was fun and successful. Except for the part where I left my son in charge of a bag with gifts I had just purchased while I took my daughter to shower. When I came back, he was on his phone playing and the bag was gone. I was furious to put it mildly. Again, I was disappointed at the human race. Why would someone just take something that is not theirs? UUGGHH!!
The next day we went to Xcaret. This ecological park offers a variety of animal exhibits (Aviary, Butterfly pavilion and an Aquarium) but also portrays the Mayan Culture in different exhibits and shows.
There are swimming and snorkeling areas, and hammocks too if you just want to relax.
There is a Mayan Cemetery, built in a spiral form with 365 tombs, 7 levels and 52 steps to go up and down (all elements of a Calendar).
The food, which you could choose from 6 or 7 restaurants, was –again- very good. Since no one in my home eats seafood (my son occasionally), I ate a lot of seafood that week.
These 2 parks were in the Riviera Maya, not in Cancun, so we had to rent a small car to get there both times. Several years ago in Cancun, I got pulled over by a cop and got a speeding ticket. So this time I was very careful to avoid one.
I drove all the way to the parks (about 70 miles) and back at the allowed speed limit. And I swear, I was the slowest car in the Yucatan Peninsula. I felt ridiculous and everyone gave me a look, and maybe not the finger because there were kids in the car, but seriously! The speed limit was ridiculously slow. Anyway, mission accomplished: I got us to the parks and back, twice, with no ticket. If I was going to get a ticket, it could have been for going so slow.
The nights were a bit slowed because the heat, the sun and the parks made us very tired.
When we packed for this trip, I asked (almost demanded) that the kids brought a book they liked. So on a couple of occasions, after dinner, the four of us would lay in bed and just read. No phones, no TV, just read. We call it Book Club time. I was in disbelief, in a good way.
One night we went out to a superb steak house called Cambalache. It was the one time we all got dressed up and wore something other than flip flops. Everything was excellent, the place is new. The Architecture and décor were very chic and modern. The service, as usual, extraordinary. And the steaks, oh my…
This was not a “kids meal” type of place, so my daughter, who absolutely loves steak (like her Dad) had some of his Rib eye. I had salmon, “from Norway” the server had said. I don’t know much about fish but I will say this. Salmon from Norway and Salmon from Alaska are almost like different species. It was the best salmon I have ever had, period. My son, who thinks chewing meat is too much work, had pasta. This year we have mostly said goodbye to the kids menu and watched our children grow with the increasing appetites of the pre-teen years, as well as tastes buds that are clearly maturing. Slowly- but surely.
We are definitely going back to this restaurant. I was so pleased, I posted a review about it on Yelp when I got back to the hotel.
The last day at Cancun, we planned to spend it relaxing by the pool or beach. I swam for a while with my husband at the beach. The kids refused. I felt it was a waste to spend all week in a pool and not get into the warm, clear water of the Caribbean. Pools you can have everywhere, the Caribbean, no!
But I didn’t push it. The currents and waves were strong, there was actually a red flag by the Lifeguard Booth. The water felt like it was trying to tangle up your ankles and pull you in hard, like claiming all the swimmers as its own.
It was quite a workout to swim in there just for 15 minutes or so. My daughter settled for a ziplock bag full of white soft sand and some shells I collected for her. She recreated the beach in a small mason glass jar that today sits by her bathroom sink. My son only knows that there are Great White sharks in California beaches that have attacked surfers and that –according to him- it can also happen in Cancun.
That last day I was almost sad, not because I was going back home the next day; back to reality, to working, to cleaning and cooking, to ending arguments and fights between the kids, to sitting most of the day either at my desk or in my car; but sad because this time, Cancun reminded me so much about my teenage years and my 20’s. When I was as young as the girls by the pool, when I went out to party and dance every single night. When my life was about school and friends and fun. When I could walk for miles touring or clubbing without backaches or foot aches. When I travelled with my siblings and my parents.
This trip made me look back and reflect and feel nostalgia, for my friends, the ones I don’t see anymore. Nostalgia for the healthy body I had then, for my Dad. It reminded me too of 3 years ago, when we invited my Mom to Cancun and I helped her inside the pool and she enjoyed it so much it brought tears to the back of my throat.
That afternoon, my sister in Law forwarded a message that –in a nutshell- said we should enjoy our children as much as possible while they are still with us, living with us, wanting to travel with us without rolling their eyes at the thought of spending time with the family.
So I thought, what am I doing here feeling sad by the pool in this paradise?. I can be sad and nostalgic tomorrow. I put my book and my sadness away and jumped in the pool with the kids. We swam, played catch with a water polo ball we took and watched my daughter do gymnastics in the pool. Even my husband joined us for a while as we played “Monkey in the Middle” and had a lot of fun.
Later that afternoon, my son noticed a group of people (kids and adults) playing beach volleyball. He watched them for a long time as we stood by the edge of the infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.
“I wish I could play with them”, he said.
“Go ask if you can join them! They clearly don’t know each other, they are form different families or groups ” . Sometimes it is painful to see how shy he is; how he is shelled up and will not speak up or even ask the staff for help or directions to the bathroom. It is something I don’t get, but my husband always helps me understand and deal with, because he was just like that as a child.
Considering it was our last afternoon and I saw in his eyes how he really wanted to play, I offered him $100 Dlls (yes, One Hundred Dollars) if he went down to the beach and ask if he could join the game. He looked at me in disbelief and I explained that I was offering so much because I knew he wouldn’t do it.
“I know you, so there, the offer stands” I said. “And you have to actually play, and serve and all, not just stand there”- I added.
About twenty painful minutes later of watching him take baby steps towards the Volleyball net, I watched as he approached one of the male adults, exchanged some words and then patiently waited to be called once a new game started.
My jaw dropped –for real- as I saw my ever-so-shy and introverted son, entering the game with a group of 15 strangers or so. When his turn to serve came, he asked someone else to do it, and the second time around he actually served. The ball made it perfectly to the other side of the net. It took me a while to take it all in. He had never played volleyball.
My daughter and I cheered for him all the way form the pool, yelling his name while he turned occasionally at us with a look that said “Mom, please stop that”.
The game ended, he came back to the pool standing 2 inches taller than before. I told him how proud I was of him. The best $100.00 spent that week!
So that is how our summer started. There are no trips planned for the rest of the summer, so it will feel a bit long for the kids.
I am looking forward to switching to -and staying in- summer relaxation mode while it lasts. To enjoy our home, stay cool in this desert heat and watch the kids grow an inch or two before they start middle school – together this time!
For now, Happy 4th of July everyone!
DIASPORA, by Gerardo Cardenas. Ediciones Vaso Roto.
This is a book that is comprised of 25 stories written by Authors of Hispanic descent or Latin themselves that are immigrants in the United States. Even though the stories are fictional, they have an underlying sense of reality in them. As an immigrant myself, I enjoyed this book very much. It made me cry and laugh too. I could say it is mostly an easy ready, but because the authors use Spanish from Mexico, Peru, Spain, Cuba and Bolivia – among others- the text becomes very deep and it pulls you in to interpret or even research some of the words that can be alien to your own Spanish. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys short stories and has empathy or even a slight interest in the experiences and feelings of an immigrant in the US.
Without a doubt this year has been one of the ones where I have enjoyed the small conversations with my kids the most.
I can no longer call them children sometimes; other, yes…I yell at them when they are acting like TODDLERS and call them so! But most of time, I quite enjoy these exchanges of ideas, opinions or simple points of view.
Sometimes even a short sentence will teach me a lesson; listening to them is key, especially in this era where we are enslaved by our cell phones. More than once they have complained because they are not getting my undivided attention, but shared attention between them and my phone screen, so I will put it away and face them, and listen. I have heavily criticized people that have their faces on their screens the whole day. It annoys me and I find it disrespectful, and yet sometimes I find myself distracted by my own electronic devices as well.
And speaking of distractions, I have found that defining and respecting the line between work hours, lunch break, family time is sometimes challenging: it blurs when I have a heavy load of work and I want to do it all at the same time. I get anxious and sometimes selfish about my own needs. About a month ago I was leaving town to meet someone at the airport 80 miles away. I was running a bit late and as soon as I got on the Interstate, I saw a mile of cars completely stopped because of an accident ahead of us. I was fuming, and said “Great! All I needed was an accident blocking my way!” My daughter looked at me in surprise –disapprovingly- and said, “Mom, don’t be selfish, think about the people in the accident that could be hurt.”
One more lesson learned from her. 🙂
When I was her age (10) I was a very oblivious child, very forgetful and easily distracted. And my daughter reminds me of those days very often. A few nights ago we were watching the Billboard Music Awards. They invited Celine Dion to sing My Heart will go on, in remembrance of the disaster of the Titanic or something of the sort. While she sang, they showed scenes from the movie Titanic , and my daughter asked “Mom, was that movie shot on the actual ship?” The question first annoyed me, then almost made me laugh, but I kept a straight face remembering myself as a child, and explained that the Titanic sunk over 100 years ago.
Next, the invited guest was Cher. Neither of my kids had any idea who she was –of course-. As she performed with her extravagant clothes and hairstyles, my daughter asked if that was Cher Lloyd. I said “Cher who?” She said “Cher Lloyd mom! The pop star that sings I Want you Back”. I said “No, this is just Cher, not Lloyd, just Cher. A bit frustrated because I couldn’t hear or watch the show of this amazing performer (at 71 looks amazing still). So my daughter looked at me straight and asked “no one knows her last name?”
Well, I had to laugh hard then. Her naiveté drives me crazy, in a good way. It shows the remains of what is left in her of my “little girl”. I love her many questions that just prove how she is still my baby and how curious she can be.
This past week, while we were cooking something one night she said “Mom, what is the purpose of life?”.
A recent movie came out with the name A Dog’s Purpose, so just for a second I thought she was referring to a movie or a book. So I clarified her question, and she said “The purpose of life Mom, what are we here for? What is this?”
I stopped what I was prepping in the kitchen and thought hard for an answer I was not prepared to give while standing with a mixing bowl!
A simple question that called for a simple answer for a 10 year old.
We are here to be decent humans? We are here to create families and extend our values? We are here to help the needy? If only she knew and understood how pathetic I think the work-eat sleep-play cycle can be at times, how we live in a society where we are always competing and wanting more to reach a state of happiness that sometimes seems to never come until we “land” and realize what a are some of the fortunate few in this world that have a good life.
The last thing I wanted, was to discourage my little girl about any possible preconceived ideas about life; good ideas.
So my answer was, “We are here to be happy, with what we have”. I then returned the question to her and she replied “I think we are here to learn and help, and be happy”. Good. We were both pleased with our answers.
Oftentimes children (not only mine) surprise me with their questions, their statements, their drawings, their dreams, because it shows how frequently we –adults- underestimate how bright and deep their thoughts can be.
I feel like I am holding on as tight as I can to these last years of innocence, like a dog that will settle for crumbs, I will (almost) beg for conversations with my children, nighttime chats, a walk in the afternoon just to talk to them with no screens present. And I try to remember the things they say to me, or write about them here, in my blog.
I just enrolled my son, now 12- the acceptable age at the gym- to 24 Hour Fitness, where I go to work out several times a week. He seems too self-conscious about his skinny build, and he is constantly asking how he can get “muscly”. He is 5’6”, so at least the height is not a problem for him. So I thought it was a great chance to spend more time with him and help him get “muscly” at the same time.
So it has been fun, walking on the treadmill next to him, or the elliptical or the bikes. We do cardio for a good 30 minutes, then we do weights. It has been just about a month or 2 and he is already asking his Dad if his biceps look bigger; patience and discipline I tell him, but 2 days later he will ask again.
Last week he said to me “Mom, I have a question about reproduction”. It was a casual afternoon while I was putting groceries away, not at the gym, not at night, just out of the blue. I switched from cook mode to Sex Education mode in seconds. “Yes?” I replied, expecting a very complex question or embarrassing moment. “How long does the limo have to park in the garage?”
Well, I am glad he explicitly said it was a reproduction question, or it would have taken me a while to figure out what he was talking about. After all I was just putting canned tomatoes away!
Well, these questions are the beginning of the end of the stage I have adored as a mother. These questions are still a mixed bag, in the case of my son anyway. Where the “bag” is leaning towards religion, politics and sex and less about simple things of life and the endless why this and why that.
Like I said before, I am not looking forward to the teen years and all the difficulties that come with the age, I am not ready but who is? All I can do it keep the bond between us nice and tight, the trust, the emotional freedom, so that when the road starts getting bumpy for them (and me I guess) I can be one of the first persons they will turn to for help or guidance. Me or their Dad of course.
I have a whole Blog entry to write about our recent trip to Cancun and today is Father’s Day so I have one more thing to write before I end this one..
For the first time ever, I have no father to call to say Happy Day. So I am going to write here all that I am feeling today, for him.
Thank you Dad for your laughter, for your smiles, for your silly dances. Thank you Dad for sacrificing so much of your own time and money to provide us with the best of the best, even when we didn’t deserve it.
Thank you Dad for never leaving, thank you Dad for all those Sunday mornings of long breakfasts at our table. Thank you Dad for years of weekly manila envelopes with an allowance. Thank you for teaching me how to use a credit card responsibly.
Thank you for teaching me to always wear clean shoes, and return loaned cars with a full gas tank; to pick up the check every now and then. To be a great host at parties. Thank you for teaching me to be humble and to be charitable. For teaching me to pray and talk to God. Thank you for being so strict about rules, discipline and school grades, but most of all, for instilling in me and my siblings such respect and admiration for my mother.
Wherever you are Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. I will always, always love you.
Last week went- as expected. A triangle route that allowed me to touch down in the two cities that I have grown up more closely to: Monterrey, where I was born and spent the first 29 years of my life- and Chihuahua (where my parents were born, where they met and where my sister was born some years later.
I knew that my mother had made serious progress selling anything from trinkets to furniture, but I didn’t expect to see the house almost empty. I arrived on a Wednesday. There were exactly 5 large plates, half a dozen bowls, some plastic cups, some cutlery items and some disposable forks and spoons left in the kitchen pantry. For cooking, 2 pans left and –of course- the griddle used to warm up tortillas or grill sandwiches. That is pretty much it.
I thought of it drastic at first, then quickly did the math and realized we (my mom and I) had only 3 days left in the house. Plus, the moving company expected everything to be packed and ready to load by Friday, 7 am.
There were only the necessary bath towels left out, same for toiletry items. The fridge and freezer were pretty decent, which gave me some comfort. There were several home-made meals that the cook had made for us for those last days. I gladly ate that for dinner that Wednesday, plastic fork and all. It was delicious.
My mom had 2 hangers left in her closet with 2 perfectly matched outfits. One for Thursday, one for Friday. That afternoon, one of my mom’s best friends came to visit. She came often, always unannounced and bearing gifts- always. She is like an Auditor that does surprise visits to “check-in” and supervise the mood in the house, and specially, in my mom’s mind and heart. She is a true pleasure to chat with. My Dad adored her. She has what the kids would call a “potty mouth” which makes her even more fun and unique that she already is speaking “clean”. Her loyalty and friendship with my mom over the last 50 years is something than I envy. It is the kind of friendship you read about or see in a movie set. I know she has been as sad as my mom with the news of her departure and had visited more often since my Dad died. That afternoon she showed up with very sad eyes, smelling of her usual Carolina Herrera, looking great still. She put on a smile when I opened the door for her, a smile that seemed to carry weight and was not effortless.
She stayed there for a good 2 hours and broke down crying a bit with the disguise of some family troubles – but I knew in my heart the source of her tears. I was pretty edgy and vulnerable too so I went along with the family troubles conversations.
That afternoon she brought my mother a beautiful blouse to wear the next day, at her Farewell luncheon with all her friends.
My mom and I went to bed that night with a decent dose of sleeping pills – both of us-. There was too much going on in our heads. The next morning, we snuggled in her bed for a while and chatted and laughed and talked about the plans for that day. I made fun of her – as usual- for stroking my head on the same spot, as if she was going to dig a hole in my skull with her fingernails. “You are horrible! You need to try better, come on!” I told her as I rearranged my head by her side and she laughed hard.
That day she had a farewell lunch party at a nice seafood restaurant just minutes away from the house. Twenty ladies or so attended. All her friends from the times she married to the latest ones she met later in life. Some got emotional and could not say good bye so with a “See you soon” they parted with glassy eyes and quickly turned on their heels. Some clearly did not want to go, so they stayed after lunch, after dessert, after coffee, and after the lunch crowd had gone and there was almost no one left.
Some just dealt with it, got their strength from their gut, said their goodbyes, expressed their good wishes and hugged her tight.
They took turns posing next to her for a picture “just with her”. It was adorable. They all dressed up very nicely for the occasion. I hope I look as good as them in my 70s! I was the one that felt like a boring librarian with my tight low ponytail to control my curls and lots of gel to accomplish it (I felt like I had glue on my head) and I wore almost no makeup- not in the mood.
My brother, his wife and their eldest son arrived that afternoon. They drove from their home some 8 hours to be there that weekend.
That night we had almost no food left in the fridge so we ordered Sushi for dinner. We all sat at the dining table, felt relaxed and nervous at the same time, but if my brother is EVER present in a group, there is guaranteed laughter, fun and good times. I was so thankful for his presence, so happy that he was there. We realized that is was our “last supper” in the house. We took a selfie in remembrance and sent it to my sister, the only one missing.
That night, we did the last packing that was left, which included disconnecting the last Television in my mom’s bedroom. So we went to bed with no sound but our voices. Our conversation. I thought of my Dad and wondered if he would approve of everything we had done since the day he left this world and I said to myself: “Yes, he would”. I know he blindly trusted my little brother, as if he was the eldest of us 3, and he has been the guide and executioner of all the big decisions we have made together since December 14th 2016.
I went to bed that night exhausted; the moving company confirmed the truck would come between 6 30 am and 7 am that Friday.
At 6 am I woke up. It was still a bit dark. I quietly left the room so not to wake my mother up. I had heard noises from my brother being up too. I could not find him but realized he had already taken a shower in what used to be his bathroom, even though he did not spend the night in that room.
I went to visit my father’s garden again, then laid down on the living room couch in complete silence and closed my eyes. I thought about all the things that had taken place in that house, good and bad. All the people that over the years felt so comfortable in it. The parties, the celebrations, the study groups when we attended high school and college. The sleepovers. The many Christmas dinners served. I remembered my father’s 50th birthday party. How we danced to together to Mexican Mariachi music. He had been so happy that day. His extended family had come all the way from Chihuahua to attend. I even remember what I was wearing.
I remembered the many cakes I baked in that kitchen. Many breakfasts with my Dad on Sundays. On that couch I was laying, my Dad used to sit every single morning to read the paper, and many mornings he sat there at 5 or 6 am while I opened the door and tiptoed inside after a night of partying hard.
The look in his face was one of anger, frustration and worry. “Where were you? It is 6am!!!” He would yell at me. My poor dad. I felt terrible realizing I made him go through hell wondering if I would make it home all right.
I found myself not crying but with a heartbeat so fast and hard I could hear it. It was past 6 30am. The sound of the busy street started getting louder. Probably moms and dads going to the gym, carpooling with kids in their vans, and then I heard it. A low droning big engine making its way to our house. I heard it 3 blocks away, and as it got louder I grew angrier. I went outside to “spy” through the fence still in my pajamas. The big moving truck had parked across the street. I ran inside to find my brother. I found him in all serenity resting next to his son who was still asleep.
“The truck is here” I announced. He slowly got up and I hugged him. “Let’s just leave them outside and not open the door” I suggested, and we both laughed. I had knots it my throat and stomach by then but a very busy day lay ahead of us.
After that, the loading of the truck went pretty fast. Boxes first, then couches and mattresses, then my mother’s beloved plants and last my mom’s van.
The movers had warned me that the truck got very hot during transport and the plants might not make if after the 12-15 hour trip. But my mom has a very special relationship with her plants and I knew it meant the world to her to take the big ones with her, to what would be, her new home.
So we decided to chance it.
By 11 30 am the truck was packed and ready to go. I signed the inventory list, still angry at the movers, just for being there. I stood at the driveway watching the tuck roll away with my home in it. I know it wasn’t but that is what it felt like.
More people came to buy furniture, mini splits, window AC units, smaller plants, the dining room set.
Several of my closest cousins and my brother’s wife came to spend time with us that morning, to offer help, even packing. But there was nothing left to do. Their company is what helped, I did NOT want to be alone in the remains of the house. My mother and brother had left to take care of legal matters so I appreciated the company.
There was not a chair left so we sat on the floor to chat.
The lady that cooked for my parents for the last 30 years or so could barely talk. She was so saddened by it all. She later told me that she already worked with my parents when they moved in to that house and it was empty because they had no furniture yet. 1971 that was. The year I was born. “Now I see it all empty again” she said crying through her words.
When all the rooms were cleared I saw all the dust that comes out of places one usually never cleans, I immediately grabbed a broom and started sweeping the floors. The new owner of the house (a developer that will soon demolish it and build a gorgeous new 2 story home) would soon come to receive the keys and have a walk through to verify the bones of the house. “Why do you sweep? What is the use? “ She asked me. I replied ”because the house looks very dirty and my Dad would hate anyone to see it like this.” She smiled but did not reply. Her silence was one of respect. That’s it.
As she left, she took with her some cooking pans and other kitchen items. I helped her out into an Uber and sent her home with a big hug and a promise to be in touch and give updates of the new home. She never stopped crying softly.
By 2pm I realized that I had not had breakfast. I was feeling light headed and to top it off, there was a heat wave which made temperatures rise to the 40’s (Celsius).
My cousins that I refer to as our Angels, and my sister in law, who truly is like a sister, offered to join me for a late lunch at a restaurant nearby called Los Mostos.
As we were eating I suddenly realized we did not have much time left before we had to go to the airport. We rushed through the meal and went home. I met there again with my mom and brother. I packed up my bag and a few minutes later I was picked up to head to the airport.
I rode with my mother’s sister. My mom rode with my dear cousin that had been so close to her these past months. She is without a doubt the one that was closest to my Dad, his favorite niece if I can call her anything. They spoke the same language, they had been through very similar life experiences. They truly loved each other. So she is the one that offered to take my mom. We were all to meet later at the airport.
Once checked in, the time came to say good bye to my beloved cousins and for my mother and her sister to say good bye. “We have never been apart” she had said to me on our way to the airport with sad moist eyes. And I realized it was true. Other than one or two years of college, they had lived in the same city before and after marriage.
My mother broker down crying hard in her wheelchair as her sister stood next to her and tenderly held her red faced head in her chest. “I will go visit to Chihuahua” she promised. And I know she will, but it will not be the same.
This was the end of a stage, of a phase, of a part in my mother’s life and the beginning of a new one, as a widow.
I could not watch them for long, it was heartbreaking to put it mildly. I turned away to be strong and think of all the good things that would come, eventually.
After giving them a few minutes I leaned down and asked her “Are you ready Mom?” She nodded, so I took the chair after a quick hug to my aunt and rolled away into the Security area.
Two minutes later my mom and I went to see the jewelry display at the shopping area. She has a “thing” for jewelry so that got her attention. She then ate her Torta from Los Mostos that she had been carrying since 4pm. She was starving!
We boarded the plane and took off on a one way trip to Chihuahua. I was seated next to her but with the center aisle between us. So I could not hold her and hug her when she cried during that flight. I put myself in her position and though about the implications of this move. She left behind her adopted hometown of 50 years. A network of closely knitted friends that showed respect and admiration for so long. She left the city in which she lived many experiences with her husband. She left a house which took years of my father’s work to pay and where she raised 3 kids. A house in which she put her heart and soul decorating, redecorating and remodeling. She left behind a part of her life that ended just recently with my Dad. I looked at her from the corner of my eye, her profile exactly like my grandmothers. I looked at her holding her head up high, eyes closed. And I felt so proud of her and but I could also feel her pain.
Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new life for her- I thought, and mine too.
I also left behind a house I would never ever see again since in a week or so it will be no more. I left a city which I will now visit on rare occasion. I left behind the streets where I learned how to drive, the places I went out to dinner with my Mom and Dad, I left behind the little bit I had left that connected me to Monterrey: my parent’s home.
But now, when I will feel that need to reconnect with my family, my origins and it will be fulfilled in Chihuahua, where my mother is. Because, like I said in the beginning Home is where the Mom is.
My life has been moving on fast, I have kept busy and tried to help my mom as much as I can with her relocation.
“My mom is moving to Chihuahua” is a short simple sentence, yet each word carries so much weight. I have said it probably 20 times, but just until now, these past few days, I have realized all it entails.
Cancelling utilities, requesting changes of addresses, having total strangers come and look at your “things”; things that have been part of my mother’s house for 40+ years, now sitting on tables, displayed as they’d be in a Bazaar. I think to myself, if those “things” could feel, would they be hoping to be rescued and re-sold, and be part of another one’s home?
My mother inherited from her mom a complete China set, very adorned with golden touches. I barely remember times when we used it. It was mostly reserved for Christmas Dinners. They reminded me of the Waldorf Apple salad that my Dad absolutely loved and craved for months. Until recently, he said one day to me “I don’t have to wait for Christmas to come, I should have this salad whenever I want, right?” and so, he did. About a year ago I remember him telling me that he ate some apple salad -between summer and fall-; he sounded proud, eating it almost with the sole intention of breaking a rule, which he was very good at J.
My brother was there last weekend, checking on my mom and helping with so many things that are left to do; I called one day and he answered the phone and even if I was not there I felt his pain and sadness across the thousands of miles between us. So far apart, yet I felt so close to him, sharing his emptiness. “We are cleaning up and packing stuff” he said. Later that evening he sent me pictures of Vinyl LPs that he said reminded him of me. Classical music and Ballet Suites, along with Zarzuelas and Operas that my Dad listened to a zillion times.
I sent him a message later suggesting he didn’t need to save them for me. All the music I have a special love for, that linked me to my Dad, is in my heart, and some, on digital format, in my phone. I refuse to cling to things that pull me back and make me sad and drown me sometimes. I don’t need that. I want happy thoughts and memories.
My Dad’s Blu de Channel is fading fast. There is barely a drop left and the scent is not the same anymore. It smells more like a forgotten sample at the Macy’s Men’s Fragrance Counter.
The weekend of the move is fast approaching. Only 2 weeks left and I have been in charge of choosing and booking the Moving Company. It is all set for Friday April 28th.
Thinking about how hard it will be for my mother to move out, see the truck being loaded, seeing her house empty almost to the bone, and then getting on a plane to her new home, ironically, her original Hometown, I decided several weeks ago to fly with her on that One Way trip. I would be more than happy to join her on the journey and be there for her, and share every moment with her, bitter or sweet, it doesn’t matter.
So I first purchased my one way ticket to Monterrey. Once we decided when to schedule the moving truck, I bought the next set of tickets, one way again, from Monterrey to Chihuahua. Her helper, my mother and I. Extending my stay as much as my busy life and work allow me, I chose a return date, and again, bought a one way ticket back home.
Once I had my 3 one way tickets, and the dates were set and stuck in my mind, I have been a bit nervous about that weekend. I know being with my mom and brother will help a lot. I think the worst already happened: my father’s departure.
We will all be OK, we just have to have the right attitude towards change.
No matter how many people go to my mom’s Bazaar , like crows on a carcass, my memories are not for sale . They are mine, and only mine to keep.
I have been getting email from the airline offering a “Good Deal” if I complete my trip flying back with them. A computer program that shoots massive email out to customers doesn’t understand I cannot buy a round trip this one time. As if I didn’t hate spam email already… these ones in particular I hate even more.
Ever since Christmas our house project (on my end) took a pause. I have so many things to work on: frame pictures, print photos that I took and love. Finish my 2012 scrapbook that never saw the month of April. Plant more trees and flowers. But I feel stalled, self-stalled. And I hide behind books or TV shows or the occasional movie. I have noticed that much. I am emotionally “parked”. And it’s fine. In time I will continue with more enthusiasm. This slowness has allowed more time with my kids, which I can hardly regret. So, one day at a time, and enjoying each one very much.
My kids are growing at a speed I don’t exactly love. My son is eating like a teenager already, having snacks and desserts the size of a meal sometimes. He told me yesterday directly to please not hold his hand when crossing the street any more- period. It is too embarrassing. I said, sure, fine. No problem.
I now ask for permission to kiss him in public. He still talks to me – a lot- and confides in me, he still shares his most intimate feelings; I am flattered with the trust and never take it for granted. His mild acne seems to have decided to stay, so his face has that constant reminder that he is not my baby boy anymore, so I kind of hate his nose right now. We laugh a lot together; he has developed a witty sense of humor and his answers frequently leave me speechless or make e burst out laughing. A couple of weeks ago he went to a Theme park with a friend. We gave him some spending money and he returned with most of it. When I asked why, he said he started a “Savings Fund”, either for a Cello or for a new puppy (ours is only 3 months old but he says that way in 10 years when she dies he will be ready to buy another expensive one). So he ate barely anything at the park, so he could add to his fund.
I told him, if you didn’t spend your money you are supposed to give it back. He replied with a straight face “Mom, it is very rude to return a gift, you should know that “.
Today we washed windows together, he made $10 dollars. Last week he cleaned the baseboards of the whole house, he earned another $10.
Last weekend my daughter had 2 friends over. They picked 3 big bags full of grapefruit, and washed windows too. That is how my Dad was with us growing up; he constantly reminded us the value of money and how important it was to understand how hard it could be to earn every penny. He never made my sister and I work for money, but I don’t see how it can hurt these days, when kids are living in a world of instant gratification and don’t have a clear understanding of building something up from the very bottom. Not because they are not mature enough, but because in a generation of self-entitlement and constant rewards, it is not common practice. That is why we taught our kids about Savings accounts, loans, credit cards and how the whole machine works. Why it is important to maintain a good credit record, to spend only what you have or know you can earn, not more. At 10 and 12 years old, I believe they both understand it well. Still, one can never stop instilling these values. Practice and example are indispensable.
This weekend (Easter weekend) I have being feeling particularly down. Commercials on TV show family feasts , large groups gathered around a Spiral Ham, potatoes, veggies, desserts, everyone smiling, picture perfect scenes. It is all over and it makes me mad at times. Because I have never had that on Easter since I moved here, not once. But I do however, have the memories of our own Easter feasts with my cousins when I was my kids ages and younger. The Easter egg hunts, the feeling of belonging to that large group. The pretty dresses, the sunny Sunday out in the big backyard of my mom’s sister’s home.
This is the second year –in a row- that we no longer to the Egg Hunt. Once the Santa illusion was discovered and confirmed, all the other childhood heroes slowly disappeared: Tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, Leprechauns (I never got those), slowly but surely vacated our home, and our kids’ minds.
Now I wish I could see the expressions on my kids’ faces again when they went running outside to our small backyard to find the most fake colorful plastic eggs with melted chocolate, candy or coins in them. And spend the rest of the morning with their faces all smudged with chocolate stains and red tongues from the skittles or Jolly Rancher suckers.
I know I am feeling melancholy with so much going through my head, and my heart, and homesick too. And also overwhelmed with the idea that it is up to me to create childhood memories (Easter, Christmas, you name it) for my own kids or none at all. In a way, I am the “producer” of a background in the movie where they each star. Not to mention a Director of the first part of it too. What makes me feel better, is that I have the best co-producer and co-director that I could ask for to engage in this never ending task: my husband, who lately has been amazing at understanding my mood swings, my anger, my need to be alone and to be there for my mom too.
Just last week I was sitting at my desk at work, when the receptionist came in with a beautiful flower bouquet sent by him. He has never been a fan of sending anything on the most predictable days such as birthdays, valentines or an Anniversary. So he keeps surprising me like that day. And I needed it too. Because this past week and this one too have been especially hard.
My sister came to visit just a couple of days. She had a work seminar up in Orange County and stayed here before that. I loved her company, I felt privileged to have her, her love, her support, her listening ears.
The day she left I stood by the door and watched as her little rented car drove away. I thought to myself, she is so small (she is only 5’2” or so), so petite, and yet she is one of the strongest women I have ever know and she makes me feel so strong too. She is so intense when she is with me, that that morning she left, the house felt strangely calm.
This morning I felt like doing absolutely nothing but staying in bed, read, write, cry, look at the ceiling, look out the window and enjoy our view. I have slowed down these days, like my book “World Enough and Time” suggests. I have taken many mental notes about how to slow down and enjoy my days- all of them. So I am not staying in bed all day. I have written and posted this, and I will get out and get fresh air, exercise my body as I did my mind, and take it form there.
My mom’s 70th party was a total success. Out of the 35 ladies we invited, 33 came. I am not surprised, because once again this event confirmed that my mother has a very closely knitted group of friends that not only admire her and find true inspiration in life through her, but also follow her, look for her, NEED HER and truly cherish every minute they spend with her.
For this small party I did not write her a letter. People often tell me that when they read my letters or my blog they cry, they get emotional and reflect upon life in ways that make them shed tears. I always feel flattered when I hear this, because it means that my words are not only understood, but felt deep down other people’s hearts; however, I was determined not to make a single person cry that evening.
And I didn’t. But her own friends did.
After clinging a wine glass with a spoon (it works wonders) and getting everyone’s attention, I said some brief words to acknowledge and praise some of my mother’s best life lessons. After some severe thought and selection, I chose 2
She taught me to be extremely practical and an absolute multi-tasker, because as a result of her own upbringing and her condition, it made her be practical, efficient and confident about her own capabilities- her wheelchair doesn’t even figure in all this. So she taught me just that. Without total conscience about it, I have tried to pass that on to my own kids, and the only reason I notice I am doing it, is because every now and then they will say to me “Mom, I am not an octopus! I can’t do so many things at once!” So I try to wind down and restart.
By example, she taught me to love books, to love reading, to develop the habit and find its beauty, its many benefits. To be disciplined with it. To be curious and, just as she grabbed the Britannica Encyclopedia in the 70s and 80s when in doubt, I now google every word, event, masterpiece, city that I read about so that I get deeply immersed in my story. Fiction or not, it doesn’t matter.
After my words, my sister followed with other life lessons, mostly related to self-confidence and being independent as a woman, as an individual. I encouraged her friends to say some words to my mother, comical events they treasure, lessons learned, inspiration, anything. I honestly think this is more precious than all the Hallmark Cards in the world.
My mom’s only sister followed. It is just the 2 of them. Hers is one of the most pure, unconditional and just absolutely beautiful forms of love and admiration for a sibling I have EVER seen. So when she spoke about my mom, her voice broke, as she ended her brief speech saying “You are my strength”. That is when the teary eyes began. I knew for a fact that a dozen or more of her best friends had prepared things to share, I was surprised to see that almost none spoke because of the same reason: they couldn’t. They were all choked up already, wiping tears from their eyes, because, not only they love her and where happy to be there celebrating my mom’s 70 years of life, but also their friendship of 50+ years.
I saw them all, observed them, and remembered the many parties (50, 60 and many more) they had all attended, and I breathed love, loyalty and true admiration in that room. I felt so proud not only of my mom, but of all of them.
The support, understanding and sincere friendship that exists between women that have known each other for decades is something priceless, unbreakable. They have gone through pain, loss, joys and accomplishments together. It is a true roller coaster and they all go on it, together.
I felt jealous in a good way to see this beautiful group of women and prayed to God that night that if he gives me enough years to turn 70 or 80 or 90, I have this in my life too, with the many friends I have today that I truly love and admire.
The group was seated in 4 round tables, and I thought it was adorable that 2 of my mom’s best friends dumped the table they were seated at, and went to find seats in the table where my mother was. They asked the waiters to squeeze in chairs, had their salads and drinks moved and felt truly happy to share the rest of the afternoon seating just feet away from her. I thought to myself: that is lovelier than have a guy following you around when you are dating!
The fact that my mother is relocating to another city in 2 months has made her friends more desperate to spend time with her too. They want to see each other as often as they can. Yesterday one of them said, “Let’s meet every Friday!” another said… “What? NO! What about Wednesday and Thursday?”
I loved every minute of it. I think I enjoyed the party more than my mom.
After we got home, my mom told me that a good number of her friends approached her separately throughout the party to say their own speech, personally, because they just couldn’t speak in front of all. One of my favorite lines was the one from my brothers Mother in Law. She said to my Mom “The moment I met your son, I knew what type of mother he had.” WOW! My throat knotted.
One of my sister’s best friends was also there and she said “Your sister is my hero, I might as well have a poster of her in my home. I just love her, but until I met your Mom I knew why”. So then, I was the one crying a bit.
Well, I have to say these past 4 days were a mixed bag of feelings. The day before the party, my parents’ house sale was finalized and all contracts were signed. My mom is now on a rent-back lease until she leaves for good, the 1st week of May.
A subject that has been talked about even before my Dad passed is now a done deal. The packing and cleaning out and sorting of items has started and I was a bit surprised to find the house full of packed and labeled boxes and mostly empty furniture -all over.
The beds in both guest bedrooms were literally surrounded by boxes, the smell of dust and old paper was lingering in the air all the time. I peeked into several of them and saw old pictures, kitchen utensils that I had used hundreds of times when I baked cakes in my teens, old coins, key chains, little note pads and all the usual trinkets found in junk drawers and forgotten dusty shelves. I tried to remove pictures from old frames and couldn’t because they were glued and stuck to the glass; old wallets with passport photos from the 80s. I found books that were read a decade or two ago and have probably been ornaments since then. All of them memories, sweet memories- in a box.
I slept well those nights, maybe it was all the nice memories that made my Dads presence felt in a warm way.
This morning, my sister woke me at 5am before leaving for the airport. That left me with a good 30 minutes of snuggling time with my warm sweet smelling mom that was next to me. So we laid there in silence half asleep. I positioned a small pillow just next to her belly and put my head on it, so she could stroke my tangled mess of curly unruly hair, ever so gently and softly. After a while I kissed her hand and reluctantly got out of bed to shower.
I already had a headache by then, because the tears refused to come, I didn’t stop them but I guess they went to my head instead. After showering and getting ready and packed, I took a last look at the almost bare bathroom and sink counter top and realized there are not going to be many more showers in this bathroom, in the only house I ever knew growing up, the bathroom where I got potty trained when I was a toddler, where I started using make up, where I saw the first pimples ever on my face. The bathroom where I got sick so many times after partying hard when I lost control and track of my drinks. The bathroom and the bedroom I shared with my sister for over 20 years.
My headache got worse and the clock was ticking. I was avoiding one more good-bye and the sound I HATE of the rolling suitcase on the wood planks of the floor.
I quickly kissed and hugged my mom good bye and left feeling 50 pounds heavier. The Uber was waiting for me with Alicia Keys screaming “New Yoooooooork” on the radio. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the driver to turn it down because 10 minutes later I was nauseous.
Once I boarded the plane the tears came -just a few- and I took aspirin a little bit ago. So both things combined made the headache disappear.
I wish with all my heart that I had the power to give my mom the freedom she needs to stay in the city she loves, because I know the move will be hard- for all of us. But I also know that she is so emotionally intelligent and so wise, that she will find a way to find happiness wherever she is.
The love and support from all of us – family and friends- will follow her.