The Grandparents' First Visit
Sometimes I wish I didn't live so far away.....
Perhaps that's the worst part of being a British expat in Mexico. I can't just pop home whenever I feel like it; "home" is a prohibitively expensive ten-hour flight away. However much technology helps us to keep in touch, it's not the same as actually being in the same room as someone. Video calls on Skype can be difficult to coordinate because of the time difference and often feel rushed.
The distance feels even greater since my daughter was born.
Emma is my parents' first and so far only grandchild (actually, on both sides) and it took her arrival for them to finally decide to visit Mexico (I've been here, on and off, for ten years, so I could hardly believe it when they told me they were planning to come).
She was already six months old when they first met in person. I don't know if she recognised them or not from having seen them on Skype. I wonder how "real" a face and voice on the computer screen is for a baby at that age. However, she soon got used to being with them every afternoon and it was wonderful to all be together for the three weeks they were here.
They had booked a flight to Querétaro airport via Houston, therefore wisely avoiding the huge stress and culture shock that is Mexico City and making it much more straightforward for us to pick them up. I had to work during the week, unfortunately, but since I'm usually home at around 4pm we had afternoons to spend together, and weekends, of course.
It was very exciting and somewhat surreal to have my parents here in Mexico after all these years. I think they enjoyed the trip. As they were here from late September to early October, the weather wasn't too hot, but still very warm and sunny most days.
Before their visit, I had imagined getting them to try all these different Mexican dishes; for me, discovering all these new and unknown foods had been one of the most exciting things when I first arrived in Mexico, and there is so much variety. I have to say, I think they managed very well with all the strange food, especially my dad, who will try almost anything and loves hot chillies and salsa picante. He did draw the line at tripe soup and chicken feet, though! My mum doesn't eat any chilli, but even so she managed to try quite a variety of food (yes, there are plenty of Mexican dishes that don't have chilli in them).
We planned a weekend trip to Mexico City which, only two and half hours away from here, would have been a shame to miss out on. A visit to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan was a must, then various places in or near the centre, including the Museum of Anthropology and outside the unique spectacle of the Voladores de Papantla (The Flying Men of Papantla), and the house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Coyoacan.
I'd last visited all these places ten years ago on my first trip to Mexico City, so it was interesting for me to see them again. We'd been invited to stay at my husband's cousin's house, so my parents also enjoyed meeting some more of his family. We decided in the end, after pondering logistics and practicalities, that the best thing would be for Emma to stay at home with her paternal grandma as it would have been really complicated to take her to all these places. Driving in the chaotic traffic of the big city was stressful enough for my husband and for the rest of us as passengers - with the baby, it would have been ten times worse and I don't think long days sightseeing would have been very fair on her. So for the first time - and the last time in a long time, I hope - we were away from each other overnight; three nights away in total. I missed her, but she was fine at home.
On my parents' last weekend here we had Emma's christening. It was kind of a surprise as we hadn't told them before they got here, but it was a lovely occasion and a good opportunity for a family get-together. Mum and Dad got to meet more of my husband's relatives, although half of them coming from Mexico City arrived so late they missed the actual ceremony, but that was followed by lunch outdoors in beautiful relaxing surroundings and the afternoon was extended into the early evening, so there was plenty of time to talk. Emma looked adorable in the gown her grandmother was baptised in almost 70 years ago and behaved so well; she didn't cry in the church at all.
So now we're back to brief calls on Skype once a week and I feel sad that Emma will be growing up so far away from her grandparents and will miss out on regularly spending time with them in person, just as they will miss out on being with her.
Maybe, as she gets a bit older, then video calls could become a more real and meaningful way for them to communicate than they seem to be at the moment. In fact, the last few times we've been on Skype, Emma has reacted with excitement and smiles of recognition at seeing her grandparents on the screen and has even started "talking" to them (admittedly, while attempting to bash the keyboard and chew the cable!). Technology is already bringing us closer; I hope it will bring us even closer in the future.