We visited my grandparents in Mexico for New Years.
My family has done this every year for as long as I can remember, and my husband supported the tradition even after we got married. New Years in Mexico is a time of eating tamales and sugar cookies, sipping hot chocolate by the bond fire, playing Mario Kart and Super Smash on the Wii, watching well-loved movies with Spanish subtitles, and waking up with a jolt when the firecrackers start sounding at midnight. (For those of you who can stay up until midnight, I envy you. I haven’t been able to stay up past 10:30 pm since I got married. I think it’s made me officially old.)
The first time I brought my husband to Mexico to meet my extended family, I took him on a walk around the village. I spent the whole time pointing at landmarks and telling him stories of my childhood, all of which he patiently listened to and chuckled at. The second time he crossed the border with me, we found ourselves taking another walk. This time there was more silence between us as we each breathed in the moist air and simply enjoyed the scenery. It became our own little tradition of sorts. This New Years was no different. Despite the fact that it had been raining on and off for the past three days and the dirt roads had turned into mud rivers, we headed out of my grandparents’ house to uphold tradition.
We tried to stay on the drier parts of the road, the parts that were made up of more sand than dirt. But after a while the mud began to stick to the bottoms of our shoes and accumulate. We slid several times, reaching out with desperate hands to grab a hold of each other and steady ourselves before we could end up on the ground. Slowly but surely, we made our way around the fields and to my old, old, tree. (See previous post). Instead of the welcoming sight of pine-like needles and wrinkly, old bark, I saw a partially demolished hill and a charred stump. I stood there for a minute, blinking at the sight and trying to understand. The hill literally looked as if a giant had taken a bite out of it. The black stump and withering branches sat off to the side and at an angle, as if they had been carelessly shoved aside.
I can’t explain the grief that suddenly struck me between the eyes. It was just a tree, just a shady spot I used to escape to whenever I needed a quiet moment to myself. But it was also the place where I did all my deep thinking and dreaming as a kid. It was the place I always retreated to when I came to visit as an adult. After greeting the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and spending some time indoors…I came here. Now it was gone. My husband took me in his arms and said he was sorry. All I could think to say was, “Many of these trees were my friends, creatures I had known since nut and acorn. They had voices of their own…” (Lord of the Rings reference, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about.) Only a few tears escaped but the sorrow remained. This place, this village that was always supposed to stay the same, was changing. It had been for years but that change had been subtle. There was nothing subtle about this.
Where will this introvert go to think and reminisce the next time she visits Mexico? I guess she’ll just have to find another tree to sit under. But it will never be the same.