Winter was not what I expected it to be, namely, cold. We had cold days and cold winds but we also had days when the temperatures climbed into the 80’s. I enjoyed the moody weather and the kids and I spent many afternoons at a playground meeting new people.
We did have one big snow in January. The kids had been watching the sky all afternoon and just when they had stopped looking for it, tiny little dots began to fall. They were the kind of snowflakes you can only really see out of the corner of your eye. The kids were ecstatic. Slowly the snow began to fall more steadily and the flakes became more visible. We ate dinner and the kids climbed into bed with promises and reassurances about the snow that would be there tomorrow. At 5 AM the kids were out of bed with their faces plastered to the window. The world as they had known it was gone and in its place was a white winter they had only heard of in books. We got 5 inches of soft, powdery snow and it stuck around for a few frigid days; long enough for everyone to get their fill. Ayden and Willow were shocked to find out how cold snow is and then how wet. They could not figure out how to layer and grew frustrated with the mittens, socks, scarves, hats, and zippers. For kids who grew up in shorts and flip flops at the most this was a lot of fuss just to get outside!
Our house has a gas fireplace in the little living room. I have always scoffed at gas fireplaces preferring the ruggedness of chopped wood and ashes all over everything and the “real experience.” I love my fireplace now. It was winter at its best snuggling up on the couch next to the fire with books and coffee. I had dreamed of winter days like that through many tropical Thanksgivings and Christmases.
The kids and I stumbled into a homeschool group that meets every Monday and we love it. We read and discuss books, take nature walks, write poetry, learn how to play new games, create art through many different mediums, and present our creations to the rest of the group. It was incredibly helpful for me as I struggled to figure out what homeschooling was going to look like for us.
On Thursdays our local library hosts a story hour with songs and crafts and we were there every week. I remember the library in Sitka, Alaska when I was Willow’s and Ayden’s age as a magical, almost mysterious, place. The kids and I spent many long afternoons at the library and we usually brought home about 15 beautiful childrens books for the week.
I attempted a winter garden but did not get much to grow. The weather was so erratic and I was late getting things into the ground; a farmer friend told me there were just not enough hours of sunlight. Everything germinated and stayed alive throughout the winter but the radishes, beets, and various greens did not mature. However, my ability to just keep things alive gave me confidence to try a garden in the Spring, so I still count it a success.
We rang in 2016 on a sandy beach, blowing off firecrackers, watching candled lanterns floating out over the ocean, and of course burning our Christmas tree. I was pregnant with our third baby and we were just gearing up for the busiest part of the season at our little, coastal cafe. For the first time in 5 seasons we were able to breathe during the height of the busyness and in the evenings we moseyed into town to catch live blues, soft rock, or reggae bands which munching on fiery peanuts and sipping cold beers. We made it to pool volleyball and out to the beach during the week. We began to dream about what next year would be like when our staff would be trained to roast coffee and we had even more free time.
But first we were headed stateside for a break from the extreme heat of summer and to welcome our new baby. It was still dropping below freezing when we arrived and we quickly learned to bundle up and sit in the sun when possible. Soon the temperatures warmed and the best of spring arrived, and with it’s full moon Liam arrived as well. We were now a family of five living with friends, Papa working a job, and kiddos playing hard and naked all day in the summer sun. As we made plans to return to our beach town in the fall something unexpected happened. We were offered a new life. In one quiet sentence: “Why don’t you stay?” we were given a choice, an opportunity. In retrospect, I see how over the years Ben and I have mostly taken the opportunity, said “yes”. And still it has never been an easy decision to make. This one was no exception.
The fall found us house hunting, house finding, house decorating, and home making. We settled in at the end of October and spent a somewhat tumultuous holiday season shuttling back and forth from our new home to visit family and Ben made a trip to Mexico to set up a managing staff for our cafe. And all of a sudden it was New Year’s Eve again.
We had a bonfire, shot off bottle rockets, and burned our Christmas tree. Then we put the kids to bed and things got quiet. What a year… a new baby, a new home, a new job, new friends, new food, a new president, a new culture. It was exhausting and we drank bubbly, kissed, and fell into bed. 2017 had arrived.
I did not know when I left my house in Villa Obregon six months ago that I would not be returning. I did not pack up my Christmas ornaments, my journals, my kids’ favorite books. I did not say goodbye to friends. I did not give away extra pots and pans, tupperware, or clothing to my neighbors in need. I stood on the curb and kissed my husband goodbye, telling him we would see each other in a few weeks in Virginia. I took a last glance at the plants on the balcony, leaves lit by the just rising sun, and wondered how many would make it through the sweltering summer and how many I would need to replace upon my arrival home in six months.
Six months have passed and our lives are on a completely new path now. We are staying in Virginia where Ben can work a solid job that will pay our debts. Where we can take the kids to the library and watch them experience snow. Where we can enjoy the crisp fall weather, wear wool socks, grow vegetables and own chickens. It is so much of what we have been dreaming about. We knew that we were coming up on the time to leave Mexico. We knew from the beginning in 2011 that we would not be there forever, that it was a time to enjoy and that one day we would go back to four seasons and chopping firewood and frost on the windowpanes. I have longed for that life.
But I have also loved our life in Mexico. I love the ocean and the beach. I love the people we have served at our cafe and the friends we have made around surf boards and restaurant tables and yoga mats. I love that my kids both learned how to swim and can handle a boogie board in the waves. That they have seen the briny miracles: a whale tail slap the water, dolphins dancing in waves, baby turtles crawling out of their sandy nest, the sun rise and set over the ocean. I feel those miracles make up some of the marrow in my bones and I love that we have shared them. It is hard to walk away from that goodness.
I will be the first to say that our life in Villa Obregon was far from ideal and I am glad that we are moving on. It is not how I wanted the move to happen and there have been tears and sleepless nights as we struggle with making this decision. On hard days we wonder if it is the right decision. I think it is.
These days my little family piles into our minivan and drives to look at potential houses to make a new home in. We go to fall festivals and truck pulls and rodeos. We play on playgrounds and hike around the woods. I am slowly accumulating winter coats, boots, fleece lined jeans. The kids ask once a week if it will snow soon. We say goodbye to Papa in the morning and hug him in the door in the evening light. Ben and I talk about living in America again and how we can stay involved with the poor and the immigrants. The days are cool, we have had plenty of rain and grey skies, and the giant wolf spiders are getting cozy in our closets and boots. We hear the geese honking and watch little yellow leaves fall from the trees. Autumn is coming. There is goodness here.