A Move to Mexico, so Different From my Childhood Memories
I woke up to find my first gray hair, a wiry coarse strand waving in the air as if surrendering my youth to an enemy camp. I glared at it through the remaining steam of the shower trying to decide what to do – pluck it, shave my beard off entirely, color it in with my kids’ markers. Finally, after much bathroom soul-searching, I decided to ignore it.
This was seven months ago. Seven months since we left Canada for Mexico. Seven months since my children began pre-K, started learning Spanish, and started to belt out the Mexican National Anthem with the same ease as singing the ABCs. Seven months that I have been battling culture shock and trying to raise my kids in a foreign country.
When my husband was first offered a position in Mexico, I was the first one on board: My parents are Mexican, and my memory bank is full of happy childhood memories of visiting my grandparents here. I remember going to the downtown plazas, lined with unusual trees, for ice cream and hearing the wonderful prattle of people talking. I remember by grandmother's kitchen full of sounds and smells - a literal symphony of food constantly simmering. I remember my grandfather taking me to the local bakery to buy fresh bread. Not the kind of bread sold in the grocery story that sits on shelves for days. I’m talking about bread that is made daily, and upon smelling it you are taken to another and better place. He would teach me the names of each type of bread. “Estos son huesitos,” (“These are bones”) he would say, “y estos son conchas, y estos son ojos de buey.” (“and these are shells, and these are eyes of a bull.”)
Mexico was a magical place where every type of bread had its own identity, where trees hung heavy with flowers, and where language sounded like music.
I wanted to offer those experiences to Luna and Leo and infuse their life with that magic and the color and aromas that had furnished my childhood.
This is the fifth country we have moved to and every time we arrive at our new home we always look for three things: the closest grocery store, a nearby park, and a Chinese restaurant for our traditional first dinner.
I had high hopes of finding a cute neighborhood market around the corner overflowing with strange and exotic fruit next to a bakery where the kids and I could rediscover the joy and aromas of freshly baked bread, but to my dismay our closest market was a Walmart; the Walmart next to the AutoZone – in the new strip mall with the Peter Piper Pizza, next to the TGI Fridays, between Dairy Queen and Starbucks.
My hopes of raising Luna (in photo above, left, on Gil’s shoulders) and Leo (in photo above, right, on Gil’s husband Derek’s shoulders) in a quaint cobblestoned colonial town dotted with brightly colored churches were quickly dashed by the sharp slap of globalization. I’m not against progress or big business or convenience – but the parking lots, strip malls, and traffic had replaced a sense of community and magic that I was hoping for – and the trade-off was, to say the least, unfair.
For seven months we have been trying to make Merida our new home and come to terms with my expectations and my reality. Coming to terms with Leo’s squeals of delight when we pass Walmart. Coming to terms with the closest thing to a neighborhood bakery, Costco.
But bigger than my yearning for a place that no longer exists, this move for us has been difficult because for seven months we have been looking for our community — our place in this city to be ourselves. As gay parents we are always seeking out other gay parents and find a sense of belonging – to allow our kids to see the marvel of different kinds of families. We have yet to meet one of our neighbors or arrange a playdate for Leo and Luna. As far as I know, we are the only gay dads in the city and this in itself is hard to deal with.
In the last seven months, my beard has been overpowered by gray hair, and I too lift a white flag surrendering my expectations and my reality, but still hold on to the hope of finding a hidden bakery in some lost corner of the city where the smell of freshly risen bread can take us to another, better and more familiar place.