This is why we moved to Mexico.
Okay, fine, there were loftier ideals mentioned when Fresh first proposed this move South of the Border: Learning Spanish. His career aspirations. Raising a bilingual child. Cultural immersion that could help my dissertation. Affordable childcare.
But really, when I was hemming and hawing about whether this move to Guadalajara was really a good idea, two words convinced me: The Beach.
Guadalajara is just a three- or four-hour drive to the nearest beaches, a winding route out of the dry mountains of Jalisco into the jungly, humid coast of Mexico’s Pacific. I imagined spending every long weekend–heck, every weekend–lounging on the soft sands of Nuevo Vallarta or Sayulita, enjoying the year-round tropical climate. I mean, I love the beach. It is my happy place. Lazing away a day in the sun reading, bouncing in the water just beyond the breakers, sipping margaritas while also getting sun-drunk. Even better, my daughter loves the beach. Eating sand. Digging holes and sitting in them. Running headlong into the water. Eating more sand. You mean, if we moved to Mexico for a few years, we could go to the beach anytime we wanted? Without breaking the bank? Sold!
The beach hasn’t disappointed. Our weekend in Chacala in October was heavenly. Days spent swimming and digging and sand-eating while getting serenaded by our own personal mariachi band. Eating fish tacos in a palapa-roofed and sand-floored restaurant. Pre-bedtime swims in our rental’s perfect little pool. Homemade ceviche to top off sun-kissed, salt-drenched days. As we took our last swim before heading back up the mountains to Guadalajara, we were already planning our next trip back to the beach.
Here’s the thing: We’ve been here four months. We’ve been to the beach once.
I realize now that my imagination may have gotten the better of me. Life with a toddler (especially when you’ve also reached the too-pregnant-to-move state with #2) doesn’t always lend itself to a weekend at the beach. More than six-hours round-trip in the car? More than once in a blue moon? No thank you. Really, as a working mama, what I want more than anything else come the weekend is time to snuggle, read books, giggle, and have dance parties in the sunshine with my little person. We could go to the beach–or we could stay in our jammies until noon, dancing and singing to Elmo, smashing scrambled eggs in our hair, laughing as we dive-bomb Daddy’s head in bed, running up to Mama for a spontaneous abrazo, Skyping with the grandparents and friends back home, squealing as we learn to walk up and down (and up and down and up and down and up….) the stairs. These days, that sounds more peaceful than packing up pack-and-plays and bottles and swim diapers and road-trip snacks. The zoo? The park? The nearby lake? The grocery store? Those are adventures that seem much more our speed.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love the beach. I still fantasize about all the beaches our little family has to explore in these two years. I say a little prayer daily that once Mr. I’ll-take-my-milk-anytime-I-want-it-thank-you-very-much arrives in January, it won’t become utterly impossible to leave the house. But I also realize that my fantasies of the grand adventures I would schlep my children on are no longer the fantasies that make me the most excited. In fact, I realize now that all I want most in the world is uninterrupted time with my giggly, rascally, brilliant, talkative toddler–be that in Mexico or Madison, in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Superior, in 80-degree sunshine or three feet of snow.
I love the beach. It’s my happy place. But my happiest place of all? Sunday morning, family piled into bed, Anna giggling away as she snuggles Dada and kicks Mama. And there’s not even sand in our sheets. Now that’s paradise.
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While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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