Monday, December 01, 2014
children of the light
I didn't see it coming.
After all, Sunday is one of the most predicable days in my life here in Mexico. I get up to see the sun rise and pick up the flowers and leaves that have rained down onto the courtyard from the four towering planters. I cook and eat breakfast while reading the newspaper on my Kindle.
Then I am off to church and to lunch afterwards -- usually, at Rooster's. I take a nap. Cook dinner. Watch a bit of Netflix.
Not so, yesterday. Well, some of it. The gardening, breakfast, and newspaper happened just as scripted.
But church was a bit different. I have not written much about our church lately. Like everything here, it has two seasons. In the summer, there are a handful of us. In the winter, our numbers grow.
What both seasons have in common is the age of our congregants. We are an old lot. We have one young couple who regularly worships with us throughout the year. But, in the main, we are, not to put a fine point on it, in the grandparent and great-grandparent set.
When I walked under the church palapa yesterday, I was surprised to see a couple of young couples -- with children. Their arrival was timely.
Last week, the wife (Alexa) of the young couple who stick around all year (they own a coffee shop in town), started a Sunday school class. Last week there were a few children to listen to her teachings. Yesterday, the class grew substantially.
As I walked through snapping some shots, I really felt good. I am not what you would call a child-friendly guy. I have none of my own, and I always watch them with confusion.
We all know the clichés. Children are the future. They are treasures. They are our greatest natural resource.
Yes, they are. But what I saw were a group of children enthralled with what Alexa was teaching them. When I returned to the room after church, they were each wearing crowns that they had created. Knowing Alexa, the theological point of the exercise was undoubtedly tucked into their little heads.
But my day with children was not over. After lunch, I headed over to Cihuatlán to celebrate the third birthday of Yoisy Zoe, the daughter of J.C., the manager of Papa's Gallo (the new addition to Rooster's).
I have attended several Mexican birthday parties for children. And I know the drill. In fact, I know it so well, I was prepared to show up at the party, offer my greetings, eat a bit, and head home. That is usually what most Americans and Canadians do (and did). I broke the cycle.
Birthday parties for Mexican children are not just for children. They are a family affair.
A large facility was rented. A bouncy castle was installed. There was a chocolate fountain with marshmallows on a stick. A popcorn stand. A hot dog and hamburger stand. And pot after pot of birria (we will come back to that).
Of course, there were games. Musical chairs. Put the pasta on a stick. And whack the stuffing out of several piñatas disguised as popular cartoon characters. I will leave the Freudian analysis for other commentators.
Rather than hunch down at a table, I decided to roam the party. There were knots of relatives and family friends everywhere. I introduced myself to some. J.C. introduced me to others.
But, my greatest joy, once again was simply watching the joy in the faces of the children. The same joy I saw from the Sunday school children with their self-created crowns.
Seeing them was almost as good as my plate of birria. I love birria. It is a spicy stew. Usually made from goat. And, if it is made properly, it is very tender. Mine was as good as birria can be.
Mexican birthdays always make northern birthdays look like tight-fisted affairs. Even though the guests bring some gifts for the birthday girl, each of the children who attend always get a very nice gift -- along with a full meal, an endless supply of drink, music for listening and dancing, and a full afternoon and evening of entertainment.
When I left, four hours after I arrived, the party was just shifting into second gear. The only reason I left when I did was to bring the news to you of a day when the joy and energy of children have reinvigorated me.
And I certainly did not anticipate that when I got up this morning. Once again, Mexico handed over an experience I could easily have missed.
I suspect there will be many more to come -- as they say in the birthday business.