Updated: Jan 8, 2022
It certainly does feel increasingly like Christmas here, in spite of the warm weather and the lack of standard Christmas carols playing in stores and on the local radio. But everywhere, the holiday decorations are out, particularly in the jardin, the central park where thousands of lights hang like flickering icicles from overhead wires and people gather to attend music events, plays and shop, carriyng hordes of piñatas and the biggest bags of candies with which to fill them that I’ve ever heard of. During the day and at night, normally slow-moving traffic creeps to almost a standstill as locals and tourists get ready. But there is not the unpleasant impatience of last-minute shoppers to face. Store owners take the time to smile and wish us Feliz Navidades. They are happy for our business and brief conversations in Spanish over the counter. The message is that every customer is important, and those in line can wait. And they do, happily. I’ve distributed all the gifts we’ve bought and are ready for what comes next. Our taxi driver told us that his kids are really excited about shooting off the cuevetes, the fireworks that make loud bangs and sound like gunfire and go off at all hours of the day or night with the least excuse to celebrate. It’s one reason why we don’t live in el Centro where the noise from the fireworks plus the church bells could drive a person bonkers. Mexico in general is mad for fireworks, but San Miguel is the reigning queen. I’m waiting to see if Holy Christmas Day is an exception to the blasts, but from what our cab driver said, it doesn’t sound like it will be.
We’ve been counting the days getting ready for my son Doug’s visit with his two kids due to arrive Christmas Day. Our driver, Paco, who is my friend Candida’s 50 year-old-son, promised to drive me to León airport to pick up my son and grandkids and drive us back to our house. Jack and I chose the menu for that night and planned the meals for the week of their visit. I bought extra bedding since nights can get cold, and chose activities I thought the kids would like, every day including making reservations for a tour of Cañada de la Virgen, an archaelogical site a couple of miles from the center of town discovered within the last decade by a group of archaelogists. Albert Coffee, who was one of the original arachelogists to work on the site, gives the tours himself, and he’s supposed to be fantastic, equally good with kids and adults. I thought 14-year-old Judah, curious and bright, would be especially interested. The next day our driver was going to take us to some natural hot springs that my almost 12-year granddaughter is particularly excited about. I made lunch reservations in a restaurant in a cave on the same property. So in addition to wandering the streets and shops of San Miguel at Christmastime, looks like an interesting week of activities, with lots of free time. For me, of course, I’ve been mainly looking forward to seeing the kids and hearing about their lives since we last saw them in late June.
And then the phone rang. It was Doug, calling mid-day. He had been warning me that this call might be coming, since the Omicron wave hit, but I’ve been hoping against hope that this call wouldn’t happen. Doug made the hard call to cancel the trip, saying it would be irresponsible of him to bring the kids to a crowded airport and make the two-legs of the journey to San Miguel with them, even though once he gets here Covid is much less of a threat than in the US. So they won’t be coming after all. We are among the many with holiday plans dashed by this friggin’ pandemic.
I told Paco we wouldn’t be going to the airport, and he must have relayed the message to Candida about our canceled plans. She immediately called and invited us to Christmas dinner. But honestly, as much as we appreciate her sensitive invitation, we’d prefer to stay home that night. Maybe we’ll watch a Christmas movie, or at least go up to our rooftop to gaze at the lights of the Paroquia and think about how we’ll be getting back to Rockville to be with my family on January 9th and then. to Scarsdale for the weekend to see Jack’s son and grandkids. It’s only been six months since I’ve seen my kids and grandchildren, but it’s beginning to feel like forever.