Yucatan Ambassadors

Mi Munaquita in her traditional embroidered Mayan huipil

While we were in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan last month, Georgia turned some heads. Most people love babies, but in Mexico people really love babies. Strangers on the street stopped to coo over her and often reached their arms out to take her from me and cuddle her for a moment before giving her back. They call her mi munequita (my little doll), mi gordita (my little fatso), mi preciosa (my precious), mi princesa (my princess). A policewoman stopped to scold me for not dressing Georgia warmly enough - yes, January on the Yucatan peninsula is technically winter, but it is very relative - then she rocked Georgia for a few moments in her arms. The best was the grandmothers doing a double-take when Christian was carrying her in the "Maya" sling and then they would break into a grin, look him in the eye and pat him on the arm.

Fellow travelers would stop to complement us on our pretty children and say wistfully, "It goes so fast," "Next thing you'll know they'll be teenagers," or "I remember when I carried my daughter everywhere." One woman even came up to apologize to us for staring and said, "It was so long ago my kids were that small." My reaction to this is always: "Thank you for stopping to admire my daughter/son." I feel so proud to be the mother of these children and happy to connect with a stranger for a moment. That is the whole point of travel, isn't it?

And we stare at kids too - Christian commented on this trip that Mexican children may be among the most beautiful in the world. We love to people watch and notice the local kids, make eye contact and smile at them and their parents. Kids have less reservations than adults and are as curious about us as we are about them. A little girl named Lupe, swimming with her little brother, drifted closer and closer to us until I said hello and we had a laughing conversation in my poor Spanish.  She introduced me to her siblings, and later her mother, all on holiday from Tabasco.

Santi and Javier

Xavier made a new little buddy named Santiago on the beach and we enjoyed hanging out with his parents for the few days we overlapped. One day eating friend whole fish on the beach, a family sitting next to us smiled at us and before they left, their two little kids shyly brought Xavier a sucker. Rose, our host at the hacienda which had been in her family for seven generations, gave Xavier a yellow pinata the day we checked out. Antonio, our guide in Izlamar, stopped to ask some women to cut some fresh aloe from their garden to soothe Xavier's mosquito bites.

When traveling, the adventures and experiences make up the texture of a trip, but the people give it depth. The personal connections make the memories.

Georgia dozing happily in her Maya sling

With babe-in-arms, the Virgin Mary in Vallodolid

Climbing up a crumbling 1000-year-old temple at Ek-Balem. At the top, I panicked and regretted taking my children up, despite the uninterrupted jungle views in every direction.

Xavier swimming with Christian in Cenote Maya

Evening in Vallodolid's Plaza Mayor

El Castillo at Chitzen-Itza

Playing ball on the ancient ballcourt

Xavier also made friends with a little jaguar

Margarita-time! (virgin for Xavier, regular for mom and dad)

Tulum ruins before a thunderstorm blew in

Akumal Beach

Yul-ka Lagoon

"Our" beach on Akumal Bay, the calm, shallow water was full of sea-turtles

Siesta on the beach

The good life, under Turner-painted skies


Like An Unexpected Gift

...and farther on to the roofs of the houses of the gods who have learned 
there are no endings, only beginnings...
~ Joy Harjo from "Rainy Dawn"

Happy New Year! Wishing you all countless moments of joy, love, happiness and peace in the coming year. May you savor each one.

     With my holiday cards to friends and family, I like to include a New Year's poem, a tradition I began eleven years ago. This one struck me just right this year as I look forward to grand adventures as well as lovely "ordinary" days.

Ordinary Life

This was a day when nothing happened, 
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves. 
All morning, the baby & I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor. 
& lunch blended into naptime, 
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards, 
one of those jobs that never gets done, 
then sat in a circle of sunlight
& drank ginger tea, 
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps. 
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow, 
preened & flashed his jeweled head. 
Now a chicken roasts in the pan, 
& the children return, 
the murmur of their stories dappling the air. 
I peel carrots & potatoes without paring my thumb. 
We listen together for your wheels on the drive. 
Grace before bread. 
& at the table, actual conversation, 
no bickering or pokes. 
& then, the drift into homework. 
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges & hills. 
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss, 
tasting of coffee & cream. 
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton, 
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white, 
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter, 
the hard cold knuckle of the year, 
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift, 
& the stars turn on, 
order themselves
into the winter night.

~ Barbara Crooker

One of these years, I will make a hand-bound edition of all the poems I've sent. Here is the beginning of the contents...

     2005 - Snow by Billy Collins
2006 - Angels by Maurya Simon
2007 - Not Only the Eskimos by Lisel Mueller
2008 - Skater by Ted Kooser
2009 - Magellanic Penguin by Pablo Neruda
2010 - Snowflake by William Baer
2011 - The Metier of Blossoming by Denise Levertov
2012 - Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
2013 - When I Am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver
2014 - New Year's by Dana Gioia
2015 - Ordinary Life by Barbara Crooker