Saturday, December 24, 2005

New friends for Christmas

It is the night before Christmas. We just returned from an evening visiting new neighbors whose family is visiting from California. They have grandsons the same age as our sons, a fact that made me eager to accept the invitation. Our sons are still there visiting with their new friends, three "cool guys," so this new association should prove beneficial to our sons' enjoyment here. I worried a bit that they would grow restless with the slow pace.

Our neighbors, a couple in their 80's are long-time residents of the area. We first met the woman when we were gathering sea shells on the quiet beachfront tucked behind our neighborhood. She was walking with her little white dog and waved to us. I remember how eager she was to make our acquaintance and how gentle and serene her manner. The other thing I remember is 1: that she was originally from Chile which made her exotic, and 2: she was wearing bright red lipstick under her straw hat which I thought was charming somehow and made me like her instantly. I reflected on this later, her lipstick, and the many reasons this intrigues me as to the motivations behind its application, such as generational ideals or personal attitudes on femininity. I subconsciously narrowed it down to something simplier: she cares. It was a gloriously sunny and gently breezy day and she was alone walking in its beauty and she wanted to feel beautiful too. I just know it because I have felt it.

Tonight when we were getting acquainted she commented to me on her recollections of meeting us on the beach that day. I understood her to have formed a similar, instant connection with my daughter and me. Her vision of me gathering shells with my little girl must have harkened some gentle memory to her and she decided then and there to bring us into her life. It wasn't much later that I spotted her at the grocery market and made a point to speak to her. She seemed so delighted to see me and insisted we come over for Christmas Eve. To ensure we did she appeared this morning with a "calling card" reminding us of the time to arrive. In neighborly fashion I brought a bag of Starbucks coffee and a package of double chocolate Milano cookies wrapped with a tulle ribbon I brought from home and embellished with a seashell ornament Allison and I created from the shells we gathered that day on the beach. She sent me home with a homemade fruitcake that I must confess on tasting turned around my opinion on the dreaded holiday brick. She also makes Paella I heard which I hope I get to experience. It's fun to me to indulge in the etiquitte of neighborly customs. Maybe that's why older people always like me-- I'm a throw-back to an older generation, maybe even that neurotic Victorian one.

Tomorrow we are invited to dinner with the couple that oversees the Loreto Bay development. They have lived here for nearly two years and have two sons the same age as our boys (another stroke of good fortune) that are here for the holidays. I really like this feeling of embrace we are getting from our neighbors. I think it is natural to seek it here when we are the foreigners. At home in America we find our groups or cliques but it doesn't have the same feeling or importance or even value that it has here where we Americans (and Canadians) are the minority. In some ways being a minority simplifies the relationships we have with other "minorities." There is less division or classification--we are thrown together and value our common origin above all. This is very interesting and new to me and something I'll be paying attention to.

So now I'll head off to bed all warm and satisfied that I have a "Christmas" tree and all my kids at hand and tomorrow we go somewhere to commune with our own kind where the guys will watch a football game (satellite tv) and the rest of us will gather around the kitchen grazing just like we do at home.

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