3 of December
So December has rolled around again, without a hint of acknowledgement this year. I feel as if the last two years of my life have raced by me, and I hardly had any time to anticipate things before they creeped up on me. December seems determined to stay on track with that precedent.
So as you know, I’m from southern California, which means I never really got to experience seasons. They were always some wonderful clique of children’s holiday storybooks and abstract window case displays. But despite California’s lack of extreme weather, when November came upon us, we always had Uggs and trendy sweaters at arms. Soccer moms get to hide their tee-shirt tans beneath jackets and teenage girls begin to eat again, confident they won’t have to show their stomachs until the holidays were over. Maybe it was because tradition demanded it of us, or maybe because Nordstrom doesn’t receive shipments of low-cut summer blouses during the “winter months”, but whatever the reason, Californians mildly observe the ersatz “seasons” they experience and pretend like 65 degrees is cold. I never thought I’d miss those Californian, wannabe seasons, but here in the Mexican Yucatan, people don’t even pretend they know what winter is- except for the Canadian expats, who do know what they’re talking about. I’m utterly nostalgic for those chilly mornings, getting ready at six am in the frigid, tiled bathroom in a haste, so as to not miss the bus pickup in Rossmoor for the drawling ride to Orange County. I never had time in the morning to lay in bed and contemplate life, embrace the day, because of the rush I was in five days out of the week to get to school on time, transferring from car to carpool to bus to walking. So on those shredded, faux leather bench seats in the back of the bus, with my freshly curled head scrunched uncomfortably against the windowpane, I’d do my cogitating. The seats always brought a chill to my bare legs on those early mornings, when I’d mostly think about how much I wanted a coffee while I tried to look occupied with something intensely interesting on my cell phone. I was, in fact, only listening to Mat Kearney assure me I’m not a slut, and sometimes Steve Miller would croon that people call him the space cowboy. I was blandly keeping my head above the water and acting slightly introverted by the middle of that year, when at one point, I was hit with a desire to do something incredible. I was aching to get out into the world and leave the drooling boredom of routine. It was in those middle months that was first Mexico was discussed, and my time at OCSA became even more of a background music than it already was when it became more and more obvious that we were going to live there, even though almost every waking second I currently had was occupied by my school. I was thinking in future tenses: what I was going to do, who I was going to be, where I was going to go for college. I was going through the motions, quite literally, of homework, acting as the premier arguer during in-class debates, and outdistancing my teachers’ expectations, especially since I wasn’t of Asian descent, as stereotypical and derogatory as it was. My career plans permeated my mind, and they never fled, not even for one halting second. I dated a boy much older than me at the school the year I attended, as an eighth grader, which helped me pass the time (but inspired lots of gossip) so our short relationship quickly ended. I mostly thought about my grand debut into the world of artists. Yet, despite my disconnected demeanor, I found myself as a beacon for rumor; I talked less and sometimes I even went to the complimentary math tutoring offered during free period instead of dawdling around and chatting with boys next to their sedans in the parking lot. Mexico was my saving grace, the adventure I wanted to convey with my smile. My year at OCSA whirled by me in a snow-less, season-less flurry of excitement, bliss, art, and lots of cynical, darkly sarcastic comments from yours truly. Now I can tell you I express no pseudo thrills: I’m really living, no longer watching the world from a distance and making up my own excitement at any cost. Mexico saved my life, because doesn’t nonchalant fatigue + opportunity + connections lead to experimentation? In the sense of drugs or sexual relationships or anything that falls into those categories of no-good? At OCSA, we were a jumbled, diverse mass of creative people in tune with our inner selves- so naturally, as if we were in an eternal 1971, there was sprigs of drug-doers and a cast of gays, lesbians, and “experimenting” heterosexuals. And we all dressed like every thrift shop in the world was thrown together with Gucci and Coach accessories. I do miss my art school- it will always be the place I discovered myself- but I needed something more to keep me sane. I know I remind you frequently enough, but I’m in love with Mexico. With life. With people. I think my weakness is that I fall in love with people, with things, too easily. Even though I’ll confess to having stoic emotions from time to time and a seemingly tough, boyish exterior, my fatal flaw is my easy attachment to stuff.
Anyways, December. Awfully sneaky, that December. I recall chilly nights where we’d make the trip out to the Christmas tree lot and Mum and Papa would brood over the height of the Douglas and Blue Pines while my siblings and I ran and hid in the fronds of needles in an elaborate game of tag. Then, as we are leaving and the tree is loaded up onto the roof of our big grey bus, we’d stuff our pockets with candy canes and bite off the plastic wrapping to get to the sweet, minty novelties. The green corduroy couch that we’ve had for over a decade would be fixated in front of the big fireplace on the cold nights, and we’d curl up under one blanket while I read with my socked feet folded under me. In spite of all my nostalgic childhood reminisces, a cold front is the only thing I actually miss. Living in a place where “a chill” is seventy degree weather (when the temperature dips that low, people here usually whip out their musty, long forgotten jackets and woolen socks) a whole side of my previous culture is absent. There is no more snuggling deep into boys’ necks to get warm- all I’d taste is a mouthful of sweat. And forget about that favorite pair of cozy sweatpants, unless you’re in the mood to roast in a hellish fervor of heat. This month did a fabulous job of turning up long before it was invited, and I’m still kinda wondering whether or not we are going to chop down a palm tree for our Christmas tree this year, because heck, there certainly isn’t any firs within two thousand miles of Playa.
Also, I’ve been musing about the power of kitchens lately. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a famous moment of strength he frequently spoke of throughout his impromptu and fateful luminary involvement in the revolution to abolish segregation. He said that one late night, he was sitting at his kitchen table, a cup of cold coffee resting nearby, and in the solace of his kitchen, God beseeched him. Kitchens are a source of uplifting power and courage, and the quiet solitude, the surprising grace of their niche in society has been a source of comfort and unwavering stability to people for ages. The place were one cooks and eats is a sacred ground, destined to be a communion of pasts, presents, and futures. A house divided cannot stand, so the center must be strong. The heart of a house is almost always the kitchen: the glue-like force that brings travelers, candlelit lovers, and families together in a beautiful partaking of the very thing that sustains us as living organisms. They bring people together, but Dr. King demonstrated to us that kitchens are also very good at supporting us in moments of discernment and profound, epiphanic awareness. I used to never do the dishes, I’d always selfishly rely on Papa to wash my supper plate after he’d already had an exhausting day of lawyer-ing, but now that Papa isn’t here to help us out, I’ve found that I almost love it when I spend the nights in the small, cozy kitchen, the boiling water scorching my hands as I scrub vegetables from plates. Washing dishes has replaced the time of contemplation I used to spend on the early morning bus rides to OCSA. To think about it is astounding: I was once commuting to an art school in southern California whilst having those self- realization trains of thought, and now doing the same thing as I wash dishes in the kitchen of my beachside residence in Playa del Carmen. This is the life for me.