travel

Over the River and Through the Woods…

…Would land me in Guanajuato, not Grandmother’s house.

There is something special about celebrating these major holidays in an expat community. Mexican ornamentsPart of it is a sense of relief. I have always thrown myself into the preparation, decorating, cooking, and the internalizing of infinite media messages until no amount of festivity was magical enough, and I would end up feeling a little depressed at my inability to create the joyous celebration that meant happiness for everyone in my known world if I could just get it right.

I mean, I’m fifty years old, and my step-children (children being a key ingredient to the whole holiday magic thing) spend these days with their mother, or, in recent years, various combinations of parents belonging to their signifs, a situation which always left me feeling vaguely martyred in spite of myself. I did used to browbeat my own family into coming over every other year or so, complete with it’s symphony of discord and echoes of loss, and I enjoyed the whole mess of it tremendously. I think. I did my best, and I loved what I was doing, but couldn’t escape a feeling of frustrated nostalgia, a memory just out of reach of something I had never experienced but kept trying to duplicate.

By this point in the holiday ramp-up, I would have already spent weeks poring over womens magazines and finding the websites that gave minute by minute schedules of how to have a stress free dinner on Thanksgiving. Those sites I would look at regularly and ignore completely, as by the Monday before Thanksgiving they would usually start recommending that I polish crystal and practice setting the table. Now that’s a holiday custom that I definitely have no real memory of.

I liked the cooking, though, and made so much food of so many kinds that one year a sauerbraten got hidden behind a swinging door and wasn’t discovered until after dessert.

The first couple of years in Mexico I continued to make absurd spreads of food, compulsive, determined, my yearning for that intangible holiday magic now disguised and compounded by homesickness. The maid and gardener were forced to sit down like guests, eyeing the plates overflowing with strange mushy food with misgiving,… stuffing, casseroles with mushroom soup, jello salads, the traditional favorites must have looked like old peoples food to them. But they could tell it was important to me that they enjoy it, and they tucked in, pouring liberal amounts of the hottest jabanero chili sauce over everything. Having been here for a while now, I know that they were probably longing for a taco and some cucumber spears.

I’m not going to be doing that big production this year, Mexican Santabut we’re not going to go without dinner. If you live here it’s hard to avoid multiple invitations to drop by and eat. It’s fun and relaxed and a reminder of what a comfort community is. I plan to go to the AA headquarters, among our other stops, confident that those who don’t drink throw a lot of energy into eating.

I snagged a turkey breast at Superlakes before Pancho sold out, and I’m going to cook it on Thursday so that our house will smell like the commercials look. On Friday, some kids ( which kids? Who knows? I think they belong to my maid’s family. Most of ‘em, anyway) are coming over to decorate my tree, and I have an idea to make turkey enchiladas with mashed potatos and mole sauce.

It’s going to be a bit slapdash, and I’ll miss my family. But I’ll be counting blessings as the week unfolds. My friend Pat, a fellow realtor who’s also thinking about moving to Mexico, recently sent me an email. In it, in all caps, she wrote;

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE…

But I do. I really do.

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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