Friday, January 09, 2015

Digesting Christmas

I thought of calling this post "Pondering Christmas" but that was slightly blasé, and this title, "Digesting Christmas," was stuck in my head. The literal feasts of Christmas are long-digested, and that's a good thing. I'm back to daily treks up and down the flights of stairs to our third floor apartment, and that is also a good thing. But I am still digesting our Christmas experience--treasuring the beauty and craziness of it even as I yawn and look for a bed or frown when a bit of emotional reflux hits. I am full, still very full.

We were able to experience a bit of a Guadalajaran Christmas for the first part of December (or even part of November if you count the fact that they were selling live Christmas trees in stores by mid-month). The kids spent a bit of almost every day in November and December practicing for a class dance, and all the classes put on a show on the final day of classes before Christmas. This shindig involved costumes, and I happily plunked down some cash when the class parent of both Ev and Jon's
classes announced they were getting a seamstress to make the "disfraces" (costumes) so all would be the same. The results were much better than anything I could have cobbled together. Clare's costume was adequate, and despite her voiced hatred of the song her class was performing, and her disgust in having to wear a tutu, she put it on with a will on performance day and almost enjoyed herself.

Obviously we had no snow, but the coto (gated community) beside us put up Christmas lights (which are still up--it makes me happy) and poinsettia blossoms adorned every bare inch of landscaping. We didn't get a tree, live or plastic, since we were headed to Michigan for Christmas, but Clare suggested we create a paper one. We did, and the results were terrific. We even strung lights on it as well as festooning lights on our quilt wall-hanging. It was amazing the difference that ambient light made in the apartment. Up till getting the twinkle lights all we've had are the fluorescent ceiling lights. Between the decorations, the school program, the songs at church and the excitement of going "home" for Christmas, we were pretty festive.

 We headed to Michigan on the 19th and were able to stay there through the 3rd of January. It's impossible to know what all to expect from a trip like this, particularly when it is one's family's first return trip. It was incredible and lovely, and so, so hard. At times it seemed like we had never left. But emotions ran wild and off the track like my dad's electric toy train when the kids turn the power knob too high. We saw so many friends and family and the two weeks overflowed with good conversations...and at the same time there were so many friends and family we couldn't or didn't see, and we were bereft with the loss.

Talk and fun with the Grands over Mexican Train.
My friends Laura and Jen tried to create a magazine-perfect pose
while we made cookies with our kids. This was as close as we got.
To tell the truth, Laura couldn't keep a straight face long enough
and my camera kept jiggling because I was laughing so hard.
Jon and Aunt Carrie relax after Christmas dinner.
Cousins!!! (At least some of them....)
One reason it was hard was because it was a homecoming, and yet Michigan is not our home right now. This was particularly tough for the kids. They can't see the big picture like Kraig and I can and they don't have a way to put our time in Michigan within a framework of a year or two or more. To them, Michigan is home and they asked frequently why we had to return to Guadalajara. Michigan is the place where grandparents are and good friends. For Clare this was most tough because she hasn't found good friends in Mexico and she has long-time ones in Michigan--friends who take her as she is and have fun with her rather than expecting her to meet some unspoken criteria. 

The future is as mysterious as unopened Christmas presents.
We spent the two weeks talking through the future and evaluating. Kraig and I have both felt that if he was offered a second year here in Guadalajara with the same package he should take it. We knew that the package could be offered for a second year. A second year here would help us get our feet under us and know what the best path is for our family after that. What we didn't expect was the proposal he was given just before we left by his department head and another department head he's worked under for the past semester. There has been a staff opening in the department and they wanted Kraig to take it. It would be a local hire position, though, which means a significant pay drop and some other big changes for our family. In all, it didn't seem like a great idea; we haven't been here long enough to really know which end is up for a long-term decision. But we were concerned about relationships with the staff at the university; would Kraig seem ungrateful and greedy if he took the one-year contract extension instead? Would the door to the position have closed if we came to the end of a second year and felt we would want to stay? We've had some clarification since we've returned, but during our time in the States it was a huge discussion point.

School for the kids has been a major factor, too, in our ambivalence about a future here. While we've been very happy with the care and diligence of the staff at the kids' school, the actual education provided hasn't fit how our family has experienced education up to this point. We're used to interactive classrooms and challenges for the kids, and so far that's not what we've experienced here. We decided after talking long and hard over the two weeks that we'd go ahead and pull Clare this semester and homeschool her--a huge change for us. We'll continue to evaluate Ev and Jon's classes this semester and make more decisions later.

On January 3rd we said goodbye to Michigan and flew back "home" to Guadalajara. Goodbye to one home, hello to another. We are a split family, not divided physically, but divided emotionally and culturally. Life is not as straightforward as it was before we moved to Mexico.

It is a truth that will take time to digest.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:26 AM

    Love this update. Thanks for posting from your heart!