It was at Union Station in D.C. on our trip back to see our families. that the differences between people in San Miguel and those in the US began to come into sharp focus. Everyone milling around the station looked different from each other and totally unique—all races, all styles, a variety of languages milling around without anyone seeming out of place. Even the mentally ill man wandering through the train station muttering to himself was unnoticed, just part of the crowd. Among Mexicans there is not the same need for self-expression in dress, the same wish to stand out, except when the Chilangos, visit from Mexico City. They come in are “fancy dress” to shop and hit the restaurants in San Miguel, which they think of as a quaint little hick town in comparison to the big city.
It was the first, but not the last or most significant change I noticed between “there” and “here” On our whirlwind tour of our families and friends in New York and Maryland, I fell easily back into feeling comfortably rooted and at home. We are immersed with family and long-known friends. It feels wonderful. In San Miguel we, and all of our ex-pat friends, have come from someplace else. We travel through our adopted country solo, living free of old attachmenhts and responsibilities. Most of us are not steeped in taking care of their parents or children or grandchildren, although some people have moved their elderly parents to Mexico with them. Long-term care facilities in San Miguel are much less expensive than those in the States, and the care people receive in SMA is more loving, more respectful of the aged than in the U.S.
July will mark our first year of living in Mexico. Our last visit to the States was for one week five months ago, and this time it felt less unusual, more part of a new routine we are establishing, visiting perhaps twice a year. While we have been busy making a new life for ourselves in San Miguel, our families have also changed and grown. Jack’s grandsons in Scarsdale now tower above me. They are old enough to include their girlfriends at meals at their house and drive us to Yankee’s Stadium where they treat us to lunch. In Silver Spring, Maryland, my younger son has moved into a new house, which he has made into a warm, comfortable home for himself and his children in record time. He and his kids will be coming to San Miguel next week, and I hope I will have enough time to get to know them again. In Rockville, my oldest grandson had his graduation ceremony from high-school while we were there, plus a family celebration graduation dinner in his honor. Two days later drove off with his girl-friend and four others to a house on the Maryland Shore where 22 of his group will stay for Senior Beach Week. He has been launched into a greater world, headed for the University of Wisconsin in August. My granddaughter is beginning the daunting process of choosing where to apply to college. It is wonderful and horrible at the same time. Part of me wants to scream “STOP. I liked it the way it used to be! We had a good life! Jack and I will come back to Maryland to live if you all will just stand still too.” But I have no illusions that my grandchildren aren’t children anymore. They are simply grand. I have no say in any of it. And the changes for all of us will continue. When I am with them I feel myself holding on with my finger-tips to people I love. It would be this way even if I hadn’t left Rockville.
Many of the ex-pats with whom I spent time are out of town when we got back from our trip to the U.S. They avoid the heat of May and the rains of June and return to wherever the weather is nicer. They are part-timers here. There is a pattern to the comings and goings, like the snow-birds in North America who flee to Florida for the winter. Those from the U.S. or Canada started to disappear at the end of March, and many won’t return until November or December. In their absence. there is less theater, opera, and the classical music during these summer months. It takes me days to shake off the comfortable familiarity and ease of speaking only English, being surrounded by family and long-time friends. I feel lazy, more like staying home and by-passing festivals, even though they will continue at the same insistent pace all throughout the year. They are Mexican traditions and are oblivious of foreigners’ presence. Doug and Judah and Dalya will be here in two days. I have sent them a list of things I think would interest the kids, and they have said all sound good, although all plans are flexible. I hope they still are curious and open to learning what this culture has to offer once they get here. As they say, vamos a ver. We’ll just have to wait and see. About everything. Here and there.