First one drip of water. Then another. I feel the telltale drops of water down my back as I surf the stores and wander the sidewalks in Old Town after six months in the States. I’m trying to ignore the high-rises dwarfing colonial one storys, and I’m hoping my favorite shops haven’t fallen under a wrecking ball. Looking up, I fail to see drops coming from the sky or the tile roofs of stores along Insurgentes. My hand reaches under my straw hat and grabs the matted fine strands of hair I’ve worked so hard to spike before leaving our casa. My “tossed salad” style has morphed into a clump of wet hair like I’d just stepped out of the shower. I’m a blonde. I don’t sweat. Except now. I can’t escape the humidity. A red faced gringa who hasn’t seen a hot flash in decades is hot. And it’s not that I’m sexy.
No water misters are in sight. Many tiendas without air conditioning. A/C is the only thing I’m missing about our Florida home. A state that must be owned by power companies, we wrap up in Pantagonia fleece jackets to survive freezing restaurant temperature settings.
My musing is abruptly interrupted by the distinctive rocker ring of my Iphone. Searching for it hidden deep in the bowels of my spacious embroidered bag creates more sweating. I find it on the seventh and last ring. “Hola” I answer, using one of my few words of Español. “How’s the hot one?” my friend and confidante, Jake, asks. “I’m hot as Hades, “I say. Jake is a fashion designer and holds onto the same photoshopped picture of me that I sent him 20 years ago.
“I don’t want to burst your bubble, but I’m in sensible sandals with thick soles and ankle straps so I don’t fall. The only part that is hot is from the 95 degree humidity and temperature.” Jake ignores my comment and entertains me with a hilarious rundown on his latest “hot” conquest in Provincetown. “You’ll always be hot,” he says, as I ignore him.
A week later the cool temps and lower humidity have moved in just in time for my family of three women aged 22 – 70 to visit. I don’t have to worry about the weather. They’re escaping the frigid temps, overcast skies and pelting snows of the East and they are excited to experience my PV life.
“How many heels should I bring?” “Bikinis don’t take up a lot of space, I’ll bring several.” Is there a gym?” I can’t eat Mexican food,” “I’ve heard people get sick.” Their excitement is tempered with concerns. The good news is we’re renting a penthouse with several bedrooms, and we all adore each other. We’ll eat out most nights, but the reality is we don’t share eating habits and I don’t have a clue what food to buy. I’ve long ago given up a life of no carbs and my exercise program is walking up and down steps while hoping not to fall.
I suggest bringing sandals over heels and focus on menus of choice. We’ll have no fat, no carbs, vegetarian, no dairy, gluten free, and pescatarian eaters in the mix. My husband and I live in an ajo (garlic) free zone and spicy foods make us gag.
I go to the store and buy rice crackers, mild salsa, fresh organic eggs that stopped chirping when the lid snapped shut on the carton. I make certain these huevos have never seen a hormone or a shot. I select fruit that is guaranteed to have been inspected by hazmat suited trained pickers, sniffers and handlers. I remind myself they don’t eat much as they don’t want to gain a pound. I can’t wait to see the old guys sprawled in chaise lounges at the pool gawking at the beautiful girls swinging their toned abs and bods down to the beach in a hotel where the average age is 60.
“Just chill, Auntie Ginni,” Lauren, my niece, says. “I don’t want to chill. I hate cold,” I say. “I love heat and love losing 5 lbs in the sweating season.” “Chill, be calm,” Lauren corrects me. “We’ll be fine. The good news is we can all drink alcohol.” Oh yes, I can deal with that and I don’t have to worry about my husband any more. In a memorable swan song a few years ago, my husband fell off the sofa and broke a Tiffany lamp in a family rendezvous at my sister’s house. He hasn’t had a drink in years and is now the designated driver of a family of lushes. He isn’t quite the “life of the party,” but he’s much healthier, still tells the best jokes, everyone loves him, and no one has to take out extra home insurance.
I think back to some of my most memorable gatherings with guests and friends of dubious states of mind. There was the dinner Aunt Hannah stormed out because she broke a nail, no one was talking to her and no one wanted her 50 year old cranberry sauce recipe. There was the turkey that was forgotten in the alcoholic haze of the baster, and burned to an inedible crisp. And the time the couple arrived a day early with a pot of simmering mashed potatoes and a half gallon of booze “You can’t ever be sure in this family,” they said. Of course, they couldn’t leave without “trying the vino” and that was the party before the party. And there was our Open House in Florida where my cousin’s beloved pet dog raced into the koi pond to refresh his fur, and ran out to poop on our newly seeded lawn to mark his territory.
As many of us are lucky enough to have holidays coming up with family and friends, I’m reminded of a favorite quote I saw on FB: “Holidays are a time when dysfunctional families come together and everyone hopes no one calls the police.”
May you all have happy holidays, lots of love, and a menu laced with laughter!