I was frankly a bit nervous about Doug and his kids coming to visit. It’s a wonderful place for people interested in cultural activities, architecture, the arts, interesting restaurants of all kinds, but there’s no beach nearby, nothing that many kids from the US would prefer. My grandchildren are not typical mainstream kids; they aren’t into sports or shopping malls. But they haven’t traveled out of the country before, except to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun when they were younger. Stephen’s children have traveled far and wide many times. Judah and Dalya aren’t adventurers. They are intellectuals, content spending time at home creating art, as Dalya likes to do, playing piano or using the computer for Judah. I wasn’t sure they’d adapt to being in a foreign country, eating different foods, walking a great deal up steep hills on uneven streets at a high altitude, being in the very small minority of white faces, with so few gringos in town this time of year. And of course they’d be spending all those hours with Jack and me. There is that. They are 12 and 15 years old, which can present its own challenges, even in their own environment; teen-age moodiness disregards all borders, and all the brother-sister stuff that can happen between them. I planned carefully, sending choices ahead of time to Doug and the kids, assuring them that the schedule for the most part could be flexible, according to how they felt each day.
When I wrote to my friend Andrea that I was nervous about the visit, she wrote back that she likes to anticipate such visits negatively. I loved that. I think Andrea and I must be related, because as usual, everything turned out far better than I ever thought it could. From the minute Judah came in the front door, he noticed and raved about every detail of the house, continuing onto the food at dinner , the places we visited and the things we did each day. He loved sitting on our balcony listening to the symphony of sounds—-parrots in a nearby tree, roosters next door, dogs, dogs, music, exploding sound of celebratory bombas. They were fascinated walking our neighborhood, seeing the colorful painted houses with flowers everywhere, walking Reggie to the groomer, going to a hot springs, taking a tour with an archaeologist who was on the initial dig that uncovered the most recently discovered pyramid in Mexico, just outside San Miguel. They loved the ranchero meal we had following the tour of the pyramid at a family farm in the countryside, and Jack was over-the-moon about it.
Doug was especially fascinated with the visit to the historic church, the Santuario de Atotonilco, known for its miracle. It has religious significance for all of Mexico, and also historic importance as it is where the band of revolutionaries first went on their way to start the War of Independence, grabbing a banner from the church that they carried with them into battle. After the church visit we went on to the nearby Galeria Atotonilco, said to be the best folk art gallery in Latin America. After coming home for lunch and a much-needed rest that day we walked to the Mercado de Artesanias in the center of town which was the biggest hit of all for the kids. They browsed through stall after stall of a great variety of locally produced jewelry, clothing, pottery, tote bags, ceramics and textiles, picking out inexpensive hand-crafted treasures to buy and take home. It is a fantastic and unique place worth many hours and repeat visits. The last night I splurged and took us all to a phenomenal small rooftop restaurant overlooking the whole city. The kids’ jaws dropped as soon as they saw the view, and their delight continued as they ordered special drinks, rack of lamb and creme brulee with guava. It was quite the send-off.
I was thrilled by the kids’ interest in the culture, and so impressed discovering how fluent Doug is in Spanish! I had never heard him use it before this trip, and it’s easy and pleasurable for him to navigate in the language. I treated him to a massage given at home by my masseuse, who said “Wow. He doesn’t even have an accent!” I had forgotten that in earlier years he has spent many months in other Latin American countries working as a volunteer, living in rough, rural housing. After graduating from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown he worked with many Latinos in DC as a union organizer. No wonder he said, “This is wonderful, Mom. I’m so glad you and Jack have made such a beautiful life together. I could easily see living here myself.” At least I’m sure he’ll be coming back whenever he can, and that’s the best reaction I could have had.