Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lesson From the Recent Past

I've been writing a lot about my apprehensions regarding next year. It's true, I have been finding it dreadfully easy to focus on my fears. To combat this, I have been working on actively imagining the expected benefits for myself and my family. I have written about these before - several times, in fact.No need to go over the same ground again. 

However, I thought it might be useful for me to go back and read about a time that I found difficult but which turned out to be extremely valuable. Two years ago, Homero surprised me by bringing home his relatives for an unannounced, extended stay over the Christmas holidays. And when I say extended, I mean, by American standards, REALLY extended. For six weeks, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her two children were our guests. For two of those weeks, we also hosted my brother-in-law and a friend of his. 

To say this was challenging for me would be an understatement. When they arrived (did I mention no notice?) I had been running the household alone for two weeks and was in the middle of major renovations and repairs of serious house issues. The holiday season was bearing down on me in the way that it bears down on the mothers of young children with high expectations, and I was already feeling at the end of my rope. Four surprise house guests for an unspecified length of time was .... challenging. 

Below are a few excerpts from the old blog about the visit. 

I am running the home place all by myself for a week or two. Yesterday evening, Homero flew off to Oaxaca to pick up our car from his mother's house and drive it home - a journey of some 4,000 miles. Our car is in Oaxaca because last summer, he drove the car down, left it at his mother's house, and flew home. He felt that we needed a car of our own on our two week vacation, and that this would be a wise action to take. Renting a car was apparently not an option. Don't ask. Symmetry. This trip is the mirror image of that trip, and hopefully once it is over we will once again have our lovely TDI Jetta and will never again have to argue bitterly about cars and Mexico. Which is something we have done a lot.
Those of you who know us personally are already all too familiar with the ongoing saga of Mexico and cars, and those who aren't - believe me, you don't want to know. All you need to know is that my husband left me for an undetermined amount of time - not less than seven days - with absolutely no notice ("Amor, I bought the plane ticket. I gotta go in three hours." Not kidding.). Oh also, you should know that these twin trips have cost a collective total of three thousand dollars (not counting lost wages); money which I felt was wholly wasted for no good reason at all. To be fair, Homero felt the money was spent in a good cause. He just couldn't articulate that cause to me in a way that made any sense....

My husband called from the road yesterday. He will be home late tonight, or possibly tomorrow early. He has a surprise for me! My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, along with her two children, are all coming with him and staying through Christmas.
Whatever else you can say about Homero, being married to him is sure not boring!

(Note to self: this is an important point! When you were younger, you thought that the worst thing that could possibly befall you was to realize one day that you had gotten old and that you had lived a boring a life. In fact,. I think that would still be the worst thing to realize on my death-bed. Oh no! I forgot to have adventures! I forgot to have fun! I forgot to be wild and crazy! Well, my dear, you have lived enough now to know that that is one deathbed realization you don't have to fear.)

My relatives left this afternoon. I feel good about the visit, for all kinds of reasons - my kids have a closer relationship with their Abuelita (Grandma) and Tia (Auntie) and Primas (cousins). They have made a connection with their Mexican heritage that will last, even if they don't recognize it for years to come. They speak better Spanish now - it was wonderful to eavesdrop on the girls playing and hear Hope and Paloma speaking in full sentences, even negotiating and arguing in Spanish. And they just had an old fashioned good time over the holidays, playing in the snow, decorating the Christmas tree, and jumping on the trampoline. My nieces had never seen snow before, and so the six inches we got in the Thanksgiving storm was a real treat for them. It was a blast to watch the girls rolling around in the snow and playing with a delight and exuberance usually seen only in puppies experiencing their first snowfall.
I derived some real benefits as well - for years I have wanted to know my sister-in-law better. Since the first time I met her, I recognized that Temy is an extraordinary person. She is a doctor, having gone through medical school while also semi-raising her four younger brothers. She has an impressive array of talents, able to sew a wedding gown or fix a leaky faucet, able - according to my husband - to work like a man and also to be a tender mother and friend. Last year, Temy and I became Comadres when she agreed to stand as Godmother to Paloma at her baptism. Anglo-Saxons unfamiliar with Latino culture will not understand, but finally becoming a comadre was like entering into the family's inner circle at last (Compadre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

This visit was long enough for Temy and I to really enjoy each other's company; to get to know each other in a way we hadn't before, and to exchange life histories and practical skills. She taught me some rudimentary sewing skills; I taught her how to bake real bread and keep a sourdough culture alive. Temy also worked several long days helping Homero finish his shop and pitched in wholeheartedly in the general running of the household. It was a joy to spend time with my comadre and to get to know her lovely children better.
I have already mentioned that I also am gaining a very nice greenhouse, thanks to my brother-in-law and his friend. That will be a very present help come March. But the very best gift from this visit, the most important benefit, is that I hosted six house-guests for six weeks and retained my sanity and my good humor. That is not something I would have predicted. I'm not saying it was always easy - in fact, there were a couple of occasions when I totally broke down in wrenching sobs (thanks sis and mom for being there when I needed you), but on the whole, I bore up much better than I think anyone expected. After all, I was given less than 24 hours notice that I would be sharing my home with six other people for an unspecified amount of time - not a situation that most American girls are raised to anticipate, am I right? And Homero and I have a history, when it comes to family. I'm not going into detail, but let's just say it's a history that would lead him to believe I might not be up to the job of long-term hostess to his family.
Today after they left, my husband turned to me and said "I am so incredibly grateful, Amor, that you were so welcoming and kind and so patient with my family. I know it wasn't easy for you. I'm so proud of you and so happy. They all had a wonderful time. Thank you. You don't know how much your effort means to me."
Maybe not, but I know how much that little speech means to me. Those words were the greatest good that came out of this visit. Thank you, in-laws, for coming here for such a long visit, for putting me to the test and giving me a chance to rise to the occasion. Thank you, for everything you did while you were here - for the help with the house, for the cooking and cleaning and carpentry, for the sweet care of my children, for the friendship offered and the skills taught. But most of all, thank you for the opportunity to show the depth of my love, loyalty, and solidarity to my husband. Thank you for the chance to prove the same to myself.

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