Updated: Apr 16, 2022
Alicia, our housekeeper and now cook, told me that her daughter was going to be a waitress at a new bar-restaurant and that she, Alicia. was going to be a hostess there on Sundays. She sent me the on-line ad and asked if Jack and I could come sometime. I told her we'd love to go and would be there on Sunday, April 3, the second week since they'd opened. April 3 was also my birthday, but we had already celebrated the day by taking the trip to Mexico City with friends to see Pink Martini, and I didn't need to go to a big dinner restaurant that night, the kind of special place Jack typically likes for celebrations. A simple meal that would also show support to Alicia and her daughter would be just right for me on my actual birthday this year, I told him. The night before I had opened a card from Stephen, Kimberly, Eli and Hannah, with lovely messages from them all, as well as receiving calls and texts from friends. Nothing was missing.
That morning of April 3rd started with an in-home massage with my angel masseuse of the golden hands, Lety Ramirez. When the massage ended, she left and I floated out into the living room to find Jack waiting to say that after our lunch at Madness we had to stop to pick up a few things because he had run into our neighbor and friend, Nana, and had told her it was my birthday, and she said, "Oh, invite Julie's friends over and we'll have an impromptu party in our pétanque court." Nana is used to entertaining on a constant and big scale. Her husband, Tony, was Director of International Schools for 37 years in cities all over the world, and in addition to teaching, it had been Nana's job to entertain officials, donors and staff wherever they lived. She could pull together a party with her eyes closed. Anyway, Jack said it sounded like fun. He'd make guacamole and Margaritas and tell me to call some people to come over at 4:00. It had been settled between the two of them before I knew a thing about it.
Unfortunately, April is when many people leave San Miguel to spend the warm months back in the States, including some of the people I would have enjoyed inviting. But 11 people I called or texted said they could be at our house by 4 that afternoon. That gave us time to have lunch at Madness, shop for avocados and limes, and get back home with a couple of hours to get ready. Outside our door I could see Nana and Tony sweeping the pétanque court, pulling out plastic chairs and arranging them in a semicircle on the dirt playing field, putting a tablecloth on the picnic table back by the bar-b-que pit, and bringing out glasses to put on the bar. So lovely of them to do all this, I thought as I grabbed some napkins and a couple of extra chairs. Meanwhile, Jack was inside making the guac and pitchers of stiff margaritas, which is considered by many to be the national drink of Mexico..
At 3:45 our bell rang. Someone was at the gate, and I wondered who was the first to arrive. Probably Laura, I thought, since she lives down the street. "You have to get it", Jack said. "My hands are full of avocado. but I have to tell you... I didn't want to spoil the surprise earlier... but Doug sent a mariachi band as a birthday present. That must be the musicians now." I stumbled down the little walkway to the big wood doors that came from a church in Puebla from the 1500's feeling unsure how all of this was happening on a day that seemed like nothing special, just an ordinary, lovely day in San Miguel. 7 mariachi musicians in costume with their instruments were waiting for me to let them in. I learned later that my son, Doug, had found the band on-line, called them and made the arrangements in Spanish, then texted Jack at 10:00 p.m. Saturday to tell him about the surprise for the next day, and Jack had kept it from me until the last minute. "Make sure to take some pictures,'Doug told Jack. The music was infectious and fun. Guests made requests and sang happy birthday, and the band sang the Mexican birthday song. Everyone loved listening, sipping on strong margaritas and chowing down on Jack's special guacamole made with jicama thrown in.
Jack isn't one for snapping photos, and he was busy pouring drinks for people. I took a few shots of the band, a couple of video clips, including one Nana took of me semi-dancing down the line of the band members. I haven't yet figured out how to post them on this blog, but I'll try to add them later. But nobody was there with me at the gate to catch my jaw dropping moment when I first laid eyes on my mariachi surprise and it sank in that this was all for me, a loving gift from my son, Doug, who seemed in that moment to be right there with me, laughing, getting the biggest kick out of it all.