A Different Kind of Christmas
Updated: Jan 11
First of all my disclaimer is I'm leaving out the more horrifying details of this trip such as the stress of being in the vehicle with all of my family for that long, the story of having no hot water in the house, the trouble at the border, and the details of the members of the family (thankfully not me) who got violently sick because of we're not sure which food. Those memories I would love to have fade with time so I will write only what I want to remember. Lol.
I drove furiously home from the Christmas party, got there at one, then turned around and hit the road again around 4:30. We got to AZ late Saturday night and went to Wilcox church Sunday morning. It was amazing to see all the people I remember... Some I didn't recognize right off... Most my age have maybe three kids lol! In the afternoon Cynthia took us to the stronghold. It felt so familiar to be back there in the red rocks where we had so many family deals and made me feel kind of close to Grandpa in a way. I ended up talking school with Cynthia until one in the morning. We spent Monday getting thru the border and driving to our house we rented by the beach.
The house itself was bare bones. Adobe walls, tile floors, and not much furniture made it echoey and cold. But the outside patio was magic. We did wish the heater in the pool had been a reality and not just a future dream of the owners. After we slept off the stress of Monday, Mom and I had a long talk out there. She talked about how she felt coming down to Mexico to find a baby. What she and dad did was quite crazy. Dad wanted a Mexican baby, but there was no agencies willing to work in Mexico, so they randomly started visiting orphanages with my grandparents to find a baby. When they handed JC to Mom, it was like deja vu from a dream she had had months before. And his name was Juan Carlos, my dad's name for a middle name. So they found an attorney, who eventually quit his prestigious job the government social services office to work for them, and moved into a town controlled by drug lords to fight for their baby. My mom and dad experienced the reality of their children's roots like not many adoptive parents do. They talked to Adriana's birth mom multiple times, bought hamburgers, and watched this woman who was starving her body because of the poison she was putting into it scarf them down, probably only to wretch them up later. They saw the cardboard slum settlements of the city, and Miguel's birth grandma that was exactly my dad's age and was still having children herself. My mom stayed with JC in a poor little hospital with a room full of other moms. None of them knew English, but they all, like my mom, were fighting for their babies lives. In the midst of this all she was so trying to take care of and bond with new children while being so lonesome for everything familiar. She couldn't even take walks without being whistled at and ogled by the men, or even just stared at for being a blond with a Mexican baby in a stroller. In the midst of this, she had some sense of peace because she knew it was the right thing. But hard times like that always bring the question, "If this is God's will, why is it so hard?" I have asked the same thing in my heart lots of times, and I'm so thankful to have a mom who was strong enough to follow God's "hard" plan, even though she had no clue how it would turn out or affect her future.
We took a walk around the neighborhood and saw the beautiful landscaping with huge cacti and boganvilla. I thought of my tiny little cacti from my classroom and laughed. We passed a house that had such loud music, it sounded like two dozen people were beating on kettles with metal spoons
Made me laugh too! We finally got everyone out to the vehicle that Christmas eve, and stopped at a taco stand before we finally saw the ocean. We climbed up the dunes and buried our feet in the sand, Dad looked for shells down below, and we just chilled until sunset. We tried to roast hot dogs in our outdoor kitchen in the evening but Dad was quite stingy with the charcoal so basically we warmed them, not grilled them. The bon fire afterward was even more unsuccessful because of wet wood. But we did have smores between Maria cookies, and Mom and I did yoga under the stars which was amazing!
Christmas morning we wound thru an actual Mexican road, aka dirt with potholes, to Canyon Nacapule. The trail wasn't really marked so we basically clambered around in this riverbed filled with red rocks. The boys obsessively threw rocks to prove their manhood. Didn't want to be in front of them! We came to a little wooden ladder up a cliff with another knotted rope beside to help you balance. All the while mom and I climbed up, Dad yelled from the top to hang onto the rope instead of the ladder rungs. So that was dramatic. All the sudden we began to spot green palms instead of prickly cacti, and after more scrambling we reached a trickling waterfall flowing into a deep round pool carved out of the stone. On the way back, we walked thru a literal forest of palms. Mom said the wind sang the same song thru them as it does in the pines of Louisiana. JC rented a quad in the afternoon and later Mom and the boys and I took a long walk to the end of the beach. The boys compulsively skipped and threw rocks again lol. There were three black rock cliffs jutting out into the ocean and we promptly climbed up to enjoy a spectacular view. What struck me that day was the clear sky... Bluer than the water. A jet flew overhead and the air was so clear you could see the outline of the plane. Standing on those rocks gave you a view of how the desert meets the ocean. Truly an extraordinary sight to see cacti and mesquite on one side and beautiful clear blue ocean on the other. The sun shining on those red rock mountains was just dramatic. There was a little canal with amazing creatures that kept JC entertained for a long time. Cone shaped shells that you could turn upside down and see the creatures inside, among other things, and then I almost stepped on this "plant" only to realize it was this creature with a squishy gaping mouth... An anemone. JC has a knack for finding things... We also saw a two foot long sting ray carcass and picked up a tropical fish skull, some big lobsters, and a massive crab leg. After a bit, we left the modern housing, with glass walls and infinity pools, behind, passed right beside a massive flock of seagulls who just sat and pompusly glared at us, rounded a bend, and were in a little fishing settlement. Little boats with trolling motors were lined up in front of shacks made of a lot of tin, pallets, and some cardboard. Some places I couldn't decide where the people slept because there seemed to be nothing with a roof. Mom said they found Miguel's birth mom in a village like that. I hadn't really remembered that much true poverty in Mexico, and somehow it just kind of drew me. We walked along their beach, past their boats, and I wondered what their Christmas was like. Most of all, I wondered what they thought as they looked up the beach each day at the looming hotels and listened each evening to the loud music and people partying in the bars so near to them yet worlds away from their reality. After the makeral sky turned pink, we went home and Adri and I set out walking and found the perfect taco stand. Fish tacos with guacamole salsa for most of us... Except Miguel, who, true to his Mexican roots, ordered a hamburger. (Sarcasm intended!) It was cold and clear, the stars were beautiful on the deck, and my poor stiff knee appreciated more yoga time. We started Thursday with a walk to some bluff behind our house... Red rocks always beckoning, come just a little higher. It was a good view of the ocean and the town, but I don't honestly love crawling thru mesquite. But I would do a lot more than that for my mom. We bought an insane amount of pottery for $160... And finally arrived at the beach again. Adri, Miguel, and I moseyed down to the fishing village again, this time with money. The little corner store sold us cokes and chips loaded with chamoy, a salty, chili flavored sauce that honestly resembles thickened blood, but brings back fun childhood memories. We ate it under a thatched roof and watched the men busy working in their boats. There was a school in the settlement also, and a playground at one end. Several kids ran up as we stopped to examine some booths that were selling shells. Later, we built a fire in the sand and watched the last of the sunset. We roasted marshmallows on the stubby meat fork again, strawberry and vanilla, and eeked out two precious chocolate bars. We used Nilla wafers for lids. Twinkling lights came on up the mountain as the sun disappeared. When it was totally dark, we walked back, past the bar with its patio lights and live music, until the music faded away and we could hear the most beautiful song of the waves rolling into shore. The constellation Orion (I think) was centered above a mountain peak just in front of us. Our favorite taco stand was busy... the salsa bar full, and the lovely, oh so lovely smell of steak in the air. So we ended our last day with the best carne asada tacos yet. And we did yoga. Which calmed our nerves enough to brave the cold shower. We woke up Friday to news of snow on the mountain pass. The highway back to Agua Prieta was closed so we knew we had a long drive back on a different road. And all the last minute souvenir shopping and drug buying (like at a pharmacy lol) didn't help us get left. Strange things people buy... Miguel's favorite purchase is about ten glass bottles of Coke that he's gonna line up for "emergencies." We stopped in Hermosillo, the capital city of Sonora, where Dad and Licensiado (the title of respect for our attorney) did a lot of the adoption paperwork. They are famous for a dessert called coyotas... It's like a flat, dessert-plate-sized pie filled with cane sugar and condensed milk. The shops are about three hundred years old old and the walls are super thick. I remember when I was ten I could stretch my arms straight out and touch the ends with fingers. We gathered around the one tiny shop, "the shop" where the crowd was, and waited for thirty minutes while another batch was baked in the brick oven in the back. Dad and Adri went and found burritos. Another thing Hermosillo is famous for is their massive, foot-and-a-half-in-diameter tortillas that the ladies stretch with their hands until they are so thin you can see thru them. Pretty good with sausage and potatoes inside. Sadly, we got back to Agua Prieta, the border town where we spent a little over two years, after dark. We met Licensiado and his wife at his office and walked thru the super cold rain to a restaurant for more carne asada tacos. Licensiado hovered, getting stuff from the salsa bar, ordering more food to try, just like old times. I had jamaica to drink, which I never knew was hibiscus tea!! Funny how hibiscus tea is four bucks at Starbucks but when you call it jamaica it's only a dollar. And after this, I will forever eat cucumbers with lots of lime juice and salt. What an awesome appetizer. Miguel and Adri rode with Lily and Licensiado rode with us thru the streets of town... Both houses where we lived, the parks where JC rode the wheels off his trike and me off my skates, the store where we shopped, the hospital where the boys were born, and finally the big park. By some miracle there were people out there, in 39* and raining weather, selling churros from their little trucks. They were amazing, even though my stomach was still making ominous gurgling sounds. Crossing into USA was actually a lovely feeling. I feel guilty saying that because last time I went out of the states it was to Haiti and I cried all the way home lol. But bear in mind I had been in a vehicle so long and also personal hygiene was at an all time low for everyone because of sickness and cold rainy mornings with no hot water. We were back in Arizona by twelve and in Louisiana by six thirty this morning... And so ended our Christmas adventure.