Thursday, September 21, 2017

Recycling the laundry

I wrote this post the day before the earthquake hit Mexico City. I have debated whether or not to keep it, as it obviously does not address the gravity of the present situation. I'm going to keep it for now as a farewell to our time there and also our transition home to Seattle, but obviously my heart and thoughts are much heavier than at the time of its writing. The city and its people are never far from my mind.

The photos and videos showing what happened in CDMX and its neighboring communities are heart wrenching. I'm of course grateful the kids and I were no longer there, and that Alex and all our friends still in the city are OK, but it is a sucker punch to the gut to know what has happened to so many others. The earthquake truly devastated one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, and took so much away from so many. 

The people of Mexico are strong and resilient -- my heart is with them.

I couldn't find anything my last night in Mexico City because it was all gone. All our stuff had been packed into boxes headed to Seattle by either the fast route (our air shipment) or the slow route (our truck shipment which, as of right now, I'm convinced we will never see again because it's stuck somewhere along the border.)

I couldn't find my slippers that night, nor my pajamas, nor the toothpaste. Alex went to bed before me and in my attempts not to wake him, I had only my iPhone flashlight by which to search. I ended up sleeping in the sweaty tank top I'd worn all day, foregoing my nightly face washing and using Coco's toothbrush for the tooth cleansing. Don't tell her that, she will freak.

I sat outside enjoying our view until a very late hour that last night, just taking it all in and saying my goodbyes to the big bold city for which I'd found much affection. I drew hearts on the dirty glass panels of our balcony. They won't last there long but it was comforting to leave even the smallest of marks on our Mexico home.

The four of us had eaten our last dinner out in Polanco earlier that night at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, Dulcinea. We gorged ourselves on the most tender short rib, and fried bananas with beans and cream, and buratta in a spicy tomato sauce. It rained on our walk home which was fine with us because why not splash in a few puddles when you're headed out of a place.

This was a picture we left taped to the wall for our housekeeper upon leaving.
Lucien is holding the photo we gave her of Seattle.
And you betcha Coco is scratching her armpit like a monkey in her goodbye photo.
Paulina would have it no other way. 
She loves that girl just the way she is.

The next morning, the kids and I packed up our last things and climbed into Mario's car one final time for the drive to the airport. Alex is staying in Mexico City until the beginning of October to finish his job there so he held our hands often and gave us many hugs on the drive. The kids were not willing to wait until the end of September to return home, were definitely not willing to miss the first month of school. They were itching to get home and see their friends and play with their dog and get ready for new school years and quite frankly, so was I.

You can't fully enjoy the current city when you're prepping to move to a different city. Your focus and energy orients towards the place you're headed as you make summer camp arrangements there, book doctor appointments and babysitters there, find a rat specialist for the rat in your basement there, schedule reunion lunch and beer dates there. I tried to enjoy the last few days of Mexico but it was a distracted kind of enjoyment. My life had already left Mexico and was way up North.

Our driver, Mario's, family showed up at the airport to say goodbye to us. I was keeping it together pretty well until I turned around and there they were, his wife and two teenage sons with big hugs and shy goodbyes for the three of us. They didn't need to come see us off -- they live far from the airport and it's a lot of driving for them -- but they wanted to. Then it was hard to keep my shit together. I shed some tears as the kids and I waved one more time and sniffled around the corner towards the security line. Seriously, how lucky we were to meet the people we met.

The kids and I landed in Seattle again and -- oh my God -- there was English everywhere. It is a wondrous thing to understand everything all around you, be it written communication or spoken. I became the creepiest, most excited eavesdropper ever, sometimes just staring directly at the poor people with my mouth hanging open. I'm so sorry your aunt is suffering from a worrisome bout of diarrhea but isn't it cool I understand every word of your gruesome details??

The following are my immediate observations at the Seattle airport before we'd even collected our luggage --

1) There is a garbage can every thirty feet. I no longer have to collect my garbage in my purse for later disposal.

2)  Mexicans are warm and polite friendly whereas Americans are more obnoxious and over-the-top friendly. In Mexico it was a "I hope you are having a nice day, SeƱora" but in the U.S. it's more of a "Well HELOOOooooOOO there, little nuggets!" The U.S. Immigration guy told the kids a couple terrible "dad jokes" as a welcome home, shook my hand so hard my shoulder nearly dislocated, then laughed so loudly he hurt my ears, which is crazy because I'm married to Alex so am used to volume.

3) There is fully stocked soap and toilet paper in all the restrooms. I may have no more need for the Ziploc bag of toilet paper nor the family-sized bottle of Purell I keep in my purse. And once finished in the bathroom stall in the U.S., you don't have to put your toilet paper in the garbage can, you can send it right down the magical pipes!

When we walked into our house late that night after a long day of emotional goodbyes and travel and terrible turbulence and a near breakdown by me because GODDAMN AIRPLANES, Natani looked surprised for a few shocked seconds, lost her mind for a few minutes, then immediately went to get her toy and dropped it at our feet with an expectant look on her face and a viciously wagging tail.

She is happy to have her kids back. It's like she can't believe they're real. She wakes them every morning for school upon my command, "Go get the kids!" by jumping on their bodies and licking their faces. She takes her job very seriously.

good doggo

Our house/pet sitters taught Natani how to play fetch and swim in Lake Washington, two things she refused to do before we departed. You'd throw a ball and she'd just grab it and run away with it, looking back over her shoulder suspiciously like, "I know you're trying to steal my ball, b*tch." And God forbid she got near water. You could almost hear her thinking, "Aww hell no" as she ran the other direction as fast as her strong muscular body could carry her.

I'm glad she swims and plays fetch now but it's also a bit taxing when I'm stuck in the yard throwing her ball for two hours while dinner burns on the stove. I say, "OK girl, that's it, I gotta go inside!" and her ears droop and her body language sags and she sighs deeply, staring at her sad ball on the ground. "OK, just one more, girl," I say then, unable to break her heart again given we just abandoned her for eight months.

....and one hour later, dinner is toast and my hand is so cramped up, I have to ask Lucien to open my refreshing sparkling can of La Croix.

The first 72 hours home were strange. I'd forgotten my house. I couldn't find things, instead grabbed for drawers roughly where they were in Mexico City. Why is the silverware now to the right of the sink when it should be to the left? Our TV remotes were also befuddling. I'd forgotten how to make our various TV components work using our arsenal of complicated clickers. The housesitters had to come back the next week to give me a lesson. That was embarrassing.

We were all a little fuzzy and out of whack. You know how sometimes you're so distracted by other things, you can't process exactly what you're doing at the moment? I was sorting laundry a few days after our return and thinking, "Is tomorrow recycling day? I don't remember which day... I'm pretty sure it's tomorrow. Yes, yes, it's tomorrow, I must get the recycling to the curb right away." I then gathered up the load of laundry I was sorting, walked over to the recycling bin and tossed it all inside.

Lucien sat nearby enjoying a snack. He watched me recycle the laundry silently, a hand holding spoon frozen halfway to his mouth. He asked slowly, "Mom, what are you doing?" and I replied, "Well son, it should be obvious I'm recycling... umm... just the clothes and stuff." Damn, he caught me being weird again.

But as for Seattle, life here is good. My country is a hot mess and my city is getting super crowded with tech people but I love it here. I love the mountains and the ocean and Mt. Rainier, the volcano that looms hazily over the city. I love watching the Seahawks with a group of screaming friends again. I love seeing my kids happy back in their schools, and most of all I love grinning at the skyline from my back porch with a proper IPA brew in my hand.

We did our crew's annual getaway a week after our return. I handled the Winnebago all by myself for the first time because Alex is still in Mexico. It went perfectly well except for the time I came within inches of backing into my best friend's minivan. I stopped in the nick of time when I heard all the screaming and saw the waving arms of my frantic comrades.

Friends since babyhood
reunited in the Pacific Northwest.
And you betcha that's a narwhal.

This year's getaway was a little edgier -- though not as scary as the wind storm year -- given all the injuries. Coco cut her foot wide open on an oyster shell on the beach plus received a goose egg on her head when she turned suddenly and ran smack into the kitchen counter. It's a good thing we have a nurse practitioner in our circle.

Two other kids also succumbed to grievous oyster shell foot injuries and all children returned home with nasty "hot tub rashes" and ear infections. Hot tubs now give us all the skeevies. I'm not sure I can climb into one with a happy heart ever again.

I'll be around the blog as often as possible in coming months but my energies are on the Paris book edits and recycling my laundry. I am also trying to remember where I store the extra batteries and light bulbs. They should be in the kitchen closet, seems obvious that's where I'd keep them, yet they're not there.

I miss nearly everything about it.
Thanks for the memories and the love, CDMX,
and it's very nice to see you again, Seattle.

PS. As you can see, Bobo was also beside himself with delight upon our return --

wake up and tell us you love us, lizard.


  1. Welcome back, MJ! It's good to hear Al and all of you are safe. It is heartbreaking to watch what's happening in Mexico.
    Congratulations on the Paris book, we knew you could get that book out of you! I can't wait to read it.
    Your country has definitely gone to hell, but remember, it's Mueller Time!

  2. I've been thinking about you guys every time I see the tragic news from Mexico City. You painted such a wonderful picture of the people there and the places, it's heart breaking. Glad to hear that your re-entry wasn't too bumpy (injuries and lost laundry notwithstanding). Can I please adopt narwhal child?

  3. I'm glad you posted once more about Mexico; I've been thinking about you. Your posts have given me an appreciation of and connection to Mexico City. I felt the tragedy there in a more personal way, with deeper sadness than I would have before. Blogs like yours make the world a smaller place. Their loss is our loss.
    On a happier note, welcome back!

  4. hey did you have the annual Halloween party this past weekend? hope the rewrites are progressing well and that you are not losing your mind!