Perhaps Relaxing is Christmas Magic Enough

28 Dec

Ah, the sound of reindeer on the roof… Oh, no, wait, that’s just the weird global warming-induced rain-during-the-dry-season happening this Christmas in Juquila. And that pretty much sums up how my Christmas is going: not exactly how I planned or envisioned- but welcome to my life in small-town Oaxaca, Mexico.

I’m having some Mommy guilt that I’m gonna use you dear readers to talk through. See, this is now my first kid’s third Christmas on this planet, and I’m still not getting it together the way I’d like. I want her to have a Christmas similar to mine as a kid- full of magic and family and hope and excitement and gratitude.

While I loved Christmas as a child, I had a lot of years in between being a child and having a child to hate Christmas. It’s been a bit of a process trying to remember what was so awesome when I was little, and being able to recreate it down here. Like hanging stockings, for instance- there sure as hell aren’t any chimneys around here, and there aren’t even any Christmas stockings- the best I could do the first year were Santa hats. Last year I brought home stockings after a visit in the states, but I didn’t find their secret hiding/storage space until after Christmas. In all the moving and upheaval many things are temporarily lost in outer space, and many things haven’t happened because we’ve been too busy getting through day to day survival to celebrate in the time-consuming preparation-heavy ways that I would like.

Last December we had just moved to Puerto Escondido, and on Christmas Eve we moved our tent from Conan’s aunt’s porch to inside our newly built (not finished) house, which didn’t even have a door yet. We drank beers and ate some fire-pit-roasted meat with friends and promised to celebrate Christmas the next week when we went for a visit to Juquila. It didn’t bother me much because I figured Lucia still wasn’t too aware and definitely wouldn’t remember the whole thing. This year she is a very, very aware little girl, but I’m hoping that not-so-great memory thing will continue working to my advantage and buy me another year to get my Christmas traditions together.

So I didn’t get the stockings or even Santa hats hanging from anywhere. We didn’t decorate the Christmas tree. I suppose it’s something that we had a tree at all, although it’s nothing like the giant trees we’d go pick out when I was a kid. Paulina has a cute little fake tree (it’s difficult to get a real tree around here- because you’re not supposed to cut down the pine trees) with some lights on it, but our ornaments are stored away somewhere and I haven’t had time to find them. 

our plain-Jane little tree, but with some gifts at least...

our plain-Jane little tree, but with some gifts at least…

We didn’t bake any cookies, or leave out any treats for Santa. There’s no oven at my mother-in-law’s house, because she donated her good stove to me. We probably could have invented some other treat to leave out for Santa (surely milk and sweet bread would do the trick for that carb-lover), but it didn’t even occur to me until I saw all these posts on facebook of that nature.

I didn’t do a Christmas Eve big family dinner like the first year, because Christmas Eve we had another obligation with our dear, dear family friend Argelia (I think that story is for an entire blog post of its own). I invited Tia Meya and Argelia and other Juquila family for a big early evening meal, but I’m pretty limited on traditional food that I can make due to the lack of oven. I can’t even make deviled eggs because I didn’t bring the good mustard and the paprika, and you can’t get either of those things in this little mountain town.

I didn’t dress up, due to the lack of formal wear in my collection of maternity clothes. And I didn’t even dress up Lucia, because I didn’t root through all her stored clothes here until the day after Christmas (when I discovered, damn! Those cute dresses from last year still fit her! Now they reach her knees instead of ankles, but it could have worked). So we don’t look fancy in front of the tree, but at least we took one family shot in front of our undecorated tree! It’s some kind of proof for my child that there was some Christmas cheer happening the Christmas before she became a big sister.

Here's the proof- we celebrated Christmas this year.

Here’s the proof- we celebrated Christmas this year.

This is one of the cute dresses that still fit her- worn two days later. At least we got a nice family shot of us all looking good. We can pretend it was Christmas.

This is one of the cute dresses that still fit her- worn two days later. At least we got a nice family shot of us all looking good. We can pretend it was Christmas.

But there were some definite positives and successes in the mix. Here’s what, in my eyes, we got “right” this year:

First of all, my kid is definitely polite and perhaps learning to be grateful, thus far. Even if she does walk around her grandmother’s store pointing to each and every toy and telling me that she wants it (normal child behavior), she is pretty damn understanding about all the no responses (for a 2 year old). Santa Claus did come and leave a small gift for her and her two cousins who are also visiting here in Juquila, as well as for the neighbor/surrogate big brother Emma (reusable water bottles for the cousins and Lucia, Chinese checkers for Emma). Plus Santa left a kid-sized kitchen for her at home in Puerto that she’ll see when we get back, when the other kids don’t have to wonder why Santa left them less-exciting gifts. And we followed in my parents’ footsteps in giving her lots of stuff that she needed anyway (like socks! new sandals! her very own bath sponge!) but that’s exciting if you get to open it as a present. I feel good about the gift-giving situation and not over-spoiling my child, but still making it a little bit magical.

It was the first year Lucia could open by herself! She was very responsible about it, throwing every tidbit in the trash as she went along.

It was the first year Lucia could open by herself! She was very responsible about it, throwing every tidbit in the trash as she went along.

I was also really pleased with the family meal situation. On Christmas Eve, after we returned from our other engagement, we had an intimate family dinner of time-consuming pork in adobo sauce that my father-in-law Arturo had made. One of Conan’s friends came by and we included him, and he and Arturo and Conan stayed up sipping tequila and chatting till the wee hours of the morning (something I could have been doing with my dad and my sister if I were up there, and not pregnant, of course- and it would have been bourbon, not tequila). On Christmas Day, after all the present-opening, we had another meal, with the visiting cousins and Conan’s grown-up niece that lives next door, ten of us in all. It was simple- chorizo, green beans, eggs, black beans and tortillas, with my favorite salsa (chile costeño!)- but it was delicious and it was great to sit down at a big table together.

Despite the baby in my belly giving me a little bit of a hard time still, I got it together to go to the market with Conan after brunch to get the ingredients for my family meal. Everyone kept telling me I didn’t need to cook, but I love cooking for people, and it was important for me to make a family dinner somewhat Kentucky-style before people dispersed for the holiday. And best of all, I sat around listening to my youtube playlists, singing along to all kinds of favorite songs that I hadn’t heard in forever. I didn’t hurry and I didn’t worry about everything being ready at once. With a two burner stove that would’ve been impossible regardless, so I took it easy and enjoyed my own company. I listened to Johnny Cash and thought of my mama. I listened to Paul Simon (Me and Julio) and invoked my dad. And I made a simple but flavorful dinner of macaroni and cheese with broccoli, mashed potatoes, and creamy carrot soup. Our friend Arge came and we enjoyed another big-table meal, which is really what I wanted. That night Conan put Lucia to bed and I stayed up late chatting with Arge and Paulina. 

Just me and my broccoli microphone....

Just me and my broccoli microphone….Happily cooking with my youtube music (someday, someday I will have home internet and rock out daily!)

In general, I am pleased that I wasn’t particularly rushed or stressed and thus just enjoyed the time off work with family and friends. And yes, there are things I hope to do with and for Lucia in future years, but it’ll probably remain more pleasant and magical if I can stay laid-back about it all. Maybe that’s my newest and most important Christmas tradition.  (Thanks, you lovely readers, for letting me talk it out with you. I feel much better!)

2 Responses to “Perhaps Relaxing is Christmas Magic Enough”

  1. Kirsty Erikson December 28, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    whatever traditions you begin…how they grow and develop as your lives grow and develop….will be just right. They won’t be your childhood traditions, but they’ll be hers, and her baby sibling’s. You keep singing and being chill and remembering that the season is about family and friends and finding your joy there. (Where? why, right where you are, right now. 😀 )

    It sounds like you had a good holiday…light and love to you in the coming year!

    Kirsty

    • exiletomexico January 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      Same to you, Kirsty!
      I am learning, slowly but surely…. and happily, some days ; )

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