Before the Internet came along, communication with my far-away family and friends was spotty at best. For almost 30 years, my mother and I wrote long letters to each other. I’d run out to meet the mailman when I’d hear his motorcycle put-put-putting up the street. “Here comes your boyfriend,” Jorge would tease. Often I’d receive no mail for about 15 days, and then I’d get 3 or 4 envelopes at once. Finally the postman confessed, “I don’t deliver the mail to any part of my route, until there are enough pieces to make it worth my time – and with the price of gas being what it is – – – ”
I had not yet become familiar with the custom of extending monetary compensation to those I figured were just doing their job, but if receiving my mail was at risk, I would give the guy a tip.
At Christmas time, close to 100 cards would find their way to Merida, and my mailman had a field day. Some of the cards came with a hand-written or photcopied page or two – the sender’s “Family Highlights of the Year” – there were often photos too. Now-a-days we are inundated with photographs, but before the mid 90s, when digital cameras became common-place, receiving photos by long-distance post was a big deal.
This year I got several e-cards, and a single one by snail mail. It came from my friend who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (Thanks so much Paul) And since I didn’t even manage to find time to write a Christmas post, I have decided to compose an old-time-newsletter (with a sappy title, photos and all)
The Planet Rosado – van der Gracht Gazette
In 2017, my son Carlos and my daughter, Maggie spent Christmas with Emma, his daughter who lives in Norway – they got it into their heads to go on a picnic – in sub-zero weather. My teeth started chattering just looking at them. Meanwhile, Jorge and I basked in the sun at Cancun. I’d say these two scenarios are solid proof that with age, comes wisdom.
On Valentines Day, I posted this feathery heart card with a favourite Emily Dickinson quote. The poet is spot-on when she writes that hope is ever-enduring. I believe that when we have challenges, we can never stop hoping for the best outcome – and if we are patient enough – our wishes usually come true.
Three days later, we celebrated Jorge’s birthday with our first BIG party of the year.
“A promise made is a debt unpaid,” and for 3 years I’d carried one for Suzi, my Canadian friend who lives in Mexico City. She told me on her eightieth birthday that the area of Mexico she’d never seen was southern Quintana Roo and Campeche – I glibly said we would go, and finally in March 2018, with six others, I made good on my promise. We only had one problem, Suzi had broken her shoulder just a month before the trip. None-the-less, at 83, she soldiered on. I sure hope I’ll be a trooper like her when I get to be that age.
Also in March, my friend, Michael Schuessler came to Merida for the FILEY (a literary event) where he presented his book, La Undécima Musa – it is about Pita Amor – Pita was a poet and the eccentric aunt of Elena Poniatowska. Jorge took this photo of Michael and me while when we skipped a couple of conferences, and went birding. We saw about 20 mot-mots on that afternoon walk.
In May, I spent my 65th birthday in Vancouver. Maggie flew from Los Angeles to join me and 18 female family and friends. I must say this birthday was a bit difficult to get my head around. I kept wondering HOW – so much time had passed – so quickly? But as Jorge says, “The alternative is worse!”
I stayed in Kamloops for the month of June and did quite a bit of painting. This one is my favourite. I used acrylic paint on vellum, and laid the piece over textured cardboard to get the unusual mottling. I would like to try this again.
I returned to Merida in time for Mexico’s federal election on July 1st. My candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador won by a gigantic margin. I know he won’t please all of the people, all of the time, but I believe he is our best hope. For some time I had stopped thinking that Mexico could escape the ever-escalating corruption and violence. Poverty is a grim reality (to some degree or another) for 80% of the population in Mexico. Everything that affects the people living here – immigration, energy, housing, agriculture, environment, health care, and education policies – are sorely in need of improvement. These issues are still far from resolved, but since his inauguration, AMLO has made bold moves, and I feel so much more confident about the future of Mexico.
Carlos and Emma were reunited again in the summer when Carlos returned to Norway. Emma also got to see Auntie Maggie again and she met her Canadian cousins who live in Copenhagen. Now-a-days, families are so internationalised, and children have many opportunities to learn about the world.
In fact, over the summer in Merida, Jorge and I had our own cultural exchanges. Our nephew Pepe married Camila, a lovely woman he met while working in China. She is from Kazakhstan and the couple like to say, “Our daughter is descended from Nachi Cocom” – a XVI C. Maya rebel leader – “and Genghis Khan.” – the XII C. Mongol lord whose name needs no additional reference. What fun, interesting times we had with this young family.
Our friend, Marianne had her granddaughters visiting for a month, and we had some excellent adventures with them too. In this picture, the girls are making Pollo Pibil and Guacamole. Their natural talent shines in the kitchen, and in fact, they excell at whatever they take on.
Sadly, our idyllic summer ended on September 15th when I got a phone call telling me that my adored sister, Anne, had been killed instantly in a car crash. I travelled to Canada immediately, and Maggie joined me there. We drove to Kamloops where the family had gathered. I felt such relief to be with my sisters, but my daughter was the glue that kept me from falling apart. At one point I asked her, “Mags, when did you become the mother here?” She hugged me and said that women assume many roles for one another, as is needed. I am so grateful and proud to see the fine woman she has become.
Back in Merida with a horrible cold I picked up from one of the grandnieces (who is so sweet that I couldn’t resist hugging & kissing her at every opportunity) I found that Jorge and the rest of the men in my world had Thanksgiving dinner waiting, which brought on lots of emotion for me. Our friend Eduardo was in Merida because his sister had also just passed, and the two of us comforted each other. Thank you Guys for your loving support.
Maggie and Mike had let us know they would be coming to Merida to get married on November 6th. To tell a hectic story, in a short space, let me just say that Maggie’s friends, Mike’s mom and I had to go into hyper-drive to get everything ready on time. The happy couple looked gorgeous. And OMG! I almost forgot – that evening, both Carlos and Maggie completed their final exam for their Masters program in Translation Competencies – the result of two years of hard study.
And, that wasn’t the end of the excitement – months earlier, Jorge and I had made reservations to leave the next day for Colombia – to attend our nephew Raul’s marriage with Jassel, his long-time love. We were literally putting away the last of the china when Carlos came to take us to meet up with our group of 13.
We loved the time we spent in Bogota and Cartegena, and in Baranquilla, Jassel’s hometown. But a funny – actually not funny at all – incident happened on the way to the wedding reception. The van that was hired to deliver our group, dropped us off at the wrong place. And before we realised this, the driver had sped away. Abandoned at night, on the edge of a jungle in Colombia – you just KNOW what I was thinking – but before anyone could get too hysterical, a sweet taxi driver somehow showed up, called his buddies, loaded us all aboard, and we made it to the wedding celebration. Very wind-blown as you can see from the photo!
As soon as we got back in Merida, we were thrilled to have a visit from Susan Jones, an English friend who lived in Merida when I first arrived. Her husband, Charlie worked on an oil rig, and was out of town for 3 weeks at a stretch. With Jorge also away a lot on tours, Susan and I became great friends – and the forty years we’ve been apart has not changed that – we had an amazing reunion.
Once Susan returned to England, Jorge and I began preparations for December 2018 – or as we call it – Holidays on Steroids. We decorated the house in time for the IWC’s (International Women’s Club) Christmas Tea – more than 100 guests came – and we loved every minute. We’ve held this party almost every December for about 35 years – seeing so many friends is our way of getting the festive season underway.
On the Día de Guadalupe, we made our two-person pilgrimage to the Church of San Cristobal to see the hardier pilgrims come running or cycling into the atrium. What a show of devotion – one group of young men rode their bikes all the way to the Basilica in Mexico City and back – with 60 pound statues of Guadalupe balanced on their bike racks.
The TTT Teachers’ Breakfast and Students’ Carolling were fun as always. Ou college is in its 28th year now.
Mid-month, we a got a chance to see our friends, Lee and Paul, and have dinner with them at Michaela (five stars in my book!) And we were invited to a quiet dinner with them at the home of our mutual friend, Greg. Catered by Carlos Jimenez of “A Moveable Feast”, this was one of my favourite evenings of the whole year. Another night, I went with my great friend Jo to El Pich, a cute bar on 47th Street – not too loud – On the 15th, I attended Maggie’s shower with her girl friends. Those young women all hold such a warm place in my heart.
Shopping, cooking and decorating took up all our time the following week, as we prepared for Maggie and Mike’s wedding celebration. The actual wedding in Novemeber had been just for family, and was followed by a lunch. This party would be attended by more than 100 of their “closest” friends. They had dancing, a video arcade, tacos al pastor and cochinita. When a “Marquesita” truck pulled up to the party entrance door, it was a big hit. We finally crawled home at 5 am.
On Christmas Eve, Jorge and I joined a big bilingual crowd at Saint Luke’s for carols and a Eucharist celebration. Absolutely lovely – Padre José told an amusing story about “Our Lady of Plastic Surgery” – a light-weight lead in to his homily that centered on the plight of refugees and migrants. Jorge and I wholly agree with his sentiments. After all, did Mary and Joseph not share this plight?
And of course, we can’t forget our Christmas dinner. After so many times preparing “Traditional Turkey with all the Trimmings”, Jorge and I have nailed it down to an art. As usual, we sat outside with our guests. The weather was crisp by Merida’s yardstick, which only added to the festive ambiance.
Again, Carlos was not with us this year; he went to Norway to spend Christmas and New Year’s with Emma. We so hope 2019 will be the year that our beautiful granddaughter gets the chance to join us for a holiday here in Mexico.
And this week, it has been pretty low-key on “Planet Rosado–van der Gracht”. Jorge and I have caught up on Netflix recommendations, including “Roma” – such an amazing movie – but doing laundry and ferrying pots, pans, chairs and other borrowed / lent items to their rightful spots has kept us from settling in too deep in front of the TV screen.
And how do I feel after a year that has been full in every way? I must admit to a sense of satisfaction that my no-longer-young self seems to be able to hold up physically. And Jorge, 9 years older, is remarkable. Our curiosity is as stimulated as ever by the people and places we come in contact with. And our hearts beat just as passionately about all we care for. I must admit though to a desire to spend less time – at full tilt – which would allow me time to do more painting and writing.
Jorge and I will be spending New Year’s Eve at our favourite restaurant, Amaro. Our good friends, Allison and Cliff. will be celebrating their 40th anniversary. And THAT will be a great beginning to 2019.
We have a couple of fund-raising trips lined up for early in the year, and invitations have been received for two Canadian nephews’ weddings, as well as one for a niece. Yes Jillian is getting married in September, and we sure don’t want to miss her brothers’ weddings, or hers.
I feel frustration over having gained back half the weight I had managed to lose and keep off for a year. But THAT is the story of my life! I will be back on a low-carb eating plan, as soon as I can force my willpower to comply.
Summing it all up, in 2018, Jorge and I were happy most days, and sad on a few. Pretty much like everyone we know. We’ve worked hard and done the best we could every day – well – almost every day.
Happy New Year to All!