Flashback: Grammy & Gramps Arrive

February 20, 2011 in Guatemala, North America, Travelogue

The house is quiet.  This is a rare thing.  I love to wake early and sit, wrapped in my sleeping bag, like a worm, and write as the sky fades from silvery grey to the Mayan blue that reflects the sapphire color of the lago and write.

It was a long trip from the snowy bay fields of Wolfe Island where our little log cabin is tucked securely under thick blanket of winter to our emerald garden nestled between volcanos at the top of the world.  It took them three days, two hotels, a detour to Knoxville, an unintended night in Atlanta, a missed plane and a flurry of phone calls trying to relay that information from the middle south, through Indiana and New Hampshire to me.  For my part, the drama was minimal.  I got an extra two hours of boat rides and four hours coasting the southern section of the Pan American Highway between Encuentros and Guatemala City, which can hardly be considered a hardship.

Needless to say, we were happy to see them standing in the protected area outside the aeropuerto Friday afternoon, scanning the crowd for faces they knew.  My Dad, always exercising his options, was already negotiating for back up transportation to the lago, in case I’d dropped the ball.

My parents have been here before, true of most of the places we’ve been.  Anyone who knows me knows that my wanderlust is genetic and comes directly from my Dad.  In their youth they backpacked, road tripped and hitchhiked their way across four continents and they’ve added a fifth since then. Much of my childhood was spent in the van and when not actively in the van, long winter nights in our log cabin were spent pouring over maps, wrapped up in quilts watching the slides of their journeys projected onto a large sheet tacked to a ceiling beam, or coloring maps. Dad had us color the entire world (more than once) and memorize the position of every country on a blank.  It was a good exercise.

Dad chattered with Jairo (our driver) the entire ride back to the lake.  Mom chattered with Gabe, who was the kid who got to make the four hour trek into the city to collect them with me (two days running.)  My mom teared up just a little when she told Gabe, “I’ve been waiting my WHOLE LIFE to come back here!”

I may have mentioned it, but I’m Guatemalan.  My Mom was pregnant with me here, right on this very lake, and her Dr. for me was in Guatemala City.  It’s my theory that my love for this lake, these people, this country, stems from the fact that the essence of my being was formed on hand patted corn tortillas, clean Atitlan air and silky black beans.  This is their first trip back since I was a sprout.

They pointed out the volcanos as we wound our way up and up and up from the city at the edge of the flatlands into the alte plano. “Is that Volcan Agua?!” Dad asked, “That’s the one your Uncle Harold and I climbed!”  Mom marveled at the colors and expressed her thankfulness that the women here still dress in their cortes and huipilies and that western dress hasn’t absorbed the highlands just yet.

“This is Encuentros, a glorified bus stop,” I explained, “This way is north toward Mexico on the Pan American Highway, the way we’re going.  That way it towards Chichi…”  “It IS?!  This is the turn to Chichi?!!  This is where we picked up your Uncle Harold hitch hiking!!  Right here!”

We reminisced about Uncle Harold and Aunt Dorothy, two of the most epic adventurers we’ve been blessed to share life with.  They helped me grow from sprout into person over the years as well and early on nicknamed me “Blueberry,” which is still their favourite moniker for me.

The trip across the lago was wet, to say the least.  Afternoon rains have begun in just this last week, like clockwork.  Xocomil was blowing hard and the boat was weighted to the waterline with the usual: thirty people and all of their stuff, from long lengths of re-bar to baskets of bread and tortillas, to gunny sacks full of who knows what and backpackers bags piled on top of it all.  A blue tarp was stretched over the front of the boat, Gabe serving as the “hold down point” in the bow and we settled in for a long, wet hour.

I left the house at eight in the morning.  It was six thirty in the evening when we entered the yard.  Of course, Imelda and Maria were here to discuss my weaving lessons next week. They have an uncanny ability to show up at the least convenient time.  Hannah had dinner piping hot and perfect and I, for one, was grateful to have at least one kid big enough to hold the world together in my absence.

I don’t see my parents often; August was our last visit.  No matter how long we’re apart it’s as if we just saw them last weekend.  They have a gift for not aging a bit and fitting right back in like they’ve not missed a beat.  This morning, having waked before the crew, I’m sitting quietly, appreciating the great blessing of having had parents who grew me across continents and instead of freaking out about not seeing us, or where we’re living next, simply come find us when they need a kid fix and expand the adventure with their own lives, experiences and ideas for “what’s next.”  I wish you could know them; they’d change your life, just like they have mine.