Lessons Learned and High School Reunions

Just came back from my 50th High School Reunion!!! It was a wonderful week of celebrations and reacquainting myself with old friends. What an experience!!! We went to an all-girl school and most of us were together from kindergarten to our high school graduation. Our class had only 30 students, so you can imagine. We had the well-behaved, the mischievous, the studious, the fun-loving, the glamorous, the quiet ones, the I couldn’t care less ones, the stylish, the care-free, you name it. Most of all, we knew each other rather well and were on friendly terms…….most of the time.

Attending an all-girl school has advantages that are now being discovered by different studies in American universities. Seems girls who study together have a healthier approach to education, have a higher interest in subjects like science and math and develop self-esteem early in life. Well, apparently our parents knew this and gave us this great advantage!!! Not a shrinking violet in the group, I am glad to report. Five doctors, engineers, writers, business women, nutritionists, university professors, partners in international firms, well-traveled, speakers of several languages…….amazing women each and everyone.

Once we graduated, we went our different ways to study, get married, develop careers and raise families. We gave to our communities, and still do, by working with local charities and spreading goodwill. We have taken care of ourselves and have many years to enjoy what we have sown. Life has been good and this celebration brought together a group of women who are seriously talented and full of life. They have learned from their mistakes, moved on and can now flaunt their successes without shying away.

The Organizing Committee had a year to plan and they did a fantastic job. They even started a chat on WhatsApp to keep us informed of the ideas as they developed. This brought everyone together, before the celebration even started.

Most still live in Panama and have kept in touch through the years on and off. For the ones, like myself, who live abroad it has been harder. So this was a brilliant idea. Here’s to Social Media!!! We immediately clicked again and it was as if time had stood still. All those years melted away and we had so much to talk about, to reminisce, to laugh at and even to shed a tear or two while sharing stories and details of our lives. Let me not forget about hugs……there were more hugs given and received than I could count.

Each activity throughout the 5 days was wonderful. Did I mention that our school was run by nuns? Yes, so the first order of business was attending a special mass, followed by dinner at the Club Union, best one in town. We danced, sang at top of our voices, ate and drank and were merry. Only us girls, as we were all those years ago. Even better, since this time there was no thought of boyfriends or flirting. One day we walked along the cobblestone streets of the Casco Viejo, Panama City’s historical neighborhood. Then dinner, drinks and dancing. The next day, we went by bus to see the works of the new addition to the canal on the Atlantic side of the country. Lunch afterwards. The trip was part of the fun we had that day.

The last day we travel to a mountain resort town, El Valle. Stayed in different homes, got together for dinner, drinks, more singing and dancing and fireworks!!! The next morning, we had brunch with everyone high on the side of the mountain. More hugs and goodbyes, promises to get together again soon. Plans are already in the works. I will not miss any of them for the world. The adventure will continue. Hats off to the organizers for taking time off from their busy lives to make sure our celebration was fun, unique, warm and just perfect!!!





Lessons Learned and Curaçao Weddings

After more than 12 years going back and forth to my former home, something did change this last trip. We went to the wedding of Anjali, whom we have known all her life. So you can imagine it was a very lovely occasion. As a cherry on the pie, it was an Indian wedding. Several days of celebrations, meeting old friends, visiting Curaçao…it couldn’t have been better.

IMG-20150722-175101It was a last-minute idea, we were just there for another wedding a month ago. That one was a family wedding, Daniela is our niece despite not been related by blood. It was beautiful, sentimental, the kind of event that warms your heart and you will remember forever.  Seeing the bride walking to meet her future husband on the arm of her brother Nathan, brought more than some of us to tears.

1932381_10153367496863767_8473937129773430490_nWe were missing her father and her uncle, such wonderful men, gone too soon. The party under the stars was a joyful celebration and we danced and laughed and gave thanks. It was also a bit sad. Still, that trip was wonderful, we stayed a week, I played bridge, we went to the beach very day, saw friends and family……recharged our batteries. When we left, I wanted to come back as soon as possible. It was as it had always been, a trip home.

IMG_3927This time we were to enjoy another fun five days. Do not get me wrong, it was exactly that. So much fun as Indian weddings can usually be. From the prayers and dinner the day we arrived to the fabulous wedding party four days later. The ceremonies, the mehndi, the bangles, the beautiful costumes, the food, the friends I haven’t seen in while or in years, the children all grown-up married, with children…..what can I say.

On these occasions, you have no time to stop and think. You go with the flow and soak everything, enjoying every minute. Of course, there were the side trips to the beach every time we could. We had a few mishaps with hotel reservations because the internet service was down and the feeling you are not up to par when you chose your outfit……it’s hard to outshine a sari!!

There was no time for much until Sunday afternoon. After a very good breakfast and time spent with family at a barbecue, we returned to the hotel and the beach again. It was late afternoon and not too many people. The water was just perfect. When the sun set in the usual spectacular way, we walked along the beach. It was so peaceful…….and suddenly so lonely!!!

I felt a bit down, something wasn’t quiet right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could certainly feel it. Walking back to our room, darkness suddenly fell, as it does in the tropics. The entrance to our building was so quiet and in shadows. What a difference from the day before!!! Up in our room, another mishap: nobody had serviced it…..unmade bed, no towels and more shadows. To say I lost it is an understatement. This was too much, I thought, and walked out all the way to the front desk and complained most forcefully. Fortunately, the personnel manning the desk acted quickly: housekeeping sent someone to make the bed, clean the bathroom and a stack of towels, soft and fluffy was delivered.IMG_3957

Refreshed and casually dressed, we walked along darken halls, listening to the break of the waves, the sing-song of birds and the quiet. We went for Italian ice-cream and checked our emails at the restaurant which did have internet service. Not wanting to go back to our rooms, we decided to have a small pizza. Outside, other guests were sitting on comfortable chairs enjoying the balmy air while zipping tropical drinks. Everything was in shadows, have no idea why this made me sad…..there were laughs and everyone was having a great time.

So it was me. Finally, and without even noticing, I realized that this island paradise will never be home gain. It is that simple. Friends that have lived there for years and moved away have told me in more than one occasion that they do not want to go back. I never understood this. Now I do, trips there should be about enjoying what is there now, never about trying to recapture the past. Letting it go as home and embracing it as a wonderful place to visit, that is what these weddings taught me, and not too soon!!!

Christmas Holidays!!!

IMG_1051Christmas has come and gone.  As most everyone else, I love this time of the year. On the other hand, I never know what to do: just let go and enjoy every minute or just reminisce. Those are not mutually exclusive, you would tell me, but they are in my mind. What to do!

My family loves Christmas and I have made it special throughout the years. I kept traditions, cooked, wrapped presents, decorated…I was exhausted by the time the Big Day arrived. Everyone seemed to enjoy the season, and I guess I did too. We all know this fact: Christmas is made of memories. These memories can be sad and happy, all at the same time. I am usually nostalgic at this time, as if I am thrilled and upset about having to celebrate. I have been told this is normal, whatever that means. Have never strived to be normal!!!

To be truthful, I tend to dwell on my past lives more than some during these days. Friends and family and celebrations we shared. From my earliest memories, back in Panama, when celebrations were not at all like the ones I learned to put together later on in life. Everything centered in the birth of Jesus, the manger in a place of honor with beautiful porcelain figurines. Family dinner on Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass and exchange of presents before going to bed. Everyone got enough presents to be happy, but never too many to appear wasteful. My parents were very good at this. Some days, I find myself humming Christmas carols I haven’t heard in years!!! In Spanish and very sentimental, these carols were part of my mother’s repertoire when she used to sing with us. Wonderful times.

IMG_1047Then I came to school in the States. Completely different culture, not unknown, but not totally familiar either.  Santa and stories of snowy celebrations, carols that were joyful hymns about sleighing and frightful weather and jingle bells became favorites!! I added them up to my traditions. During this time I met and married Frankie. His traditions were different, so when we had children, we adjusted and took from one and from the other and made new ones for our new family. Our children grew up with them and I have to say, it has been successful!

IMG_1043We settled in Curaçao and our Christmases became more than special. Most of Frankie’s family on the island is Jewish, so our celebration was very family oriented…very much only for ourselves! My in-laws, the children and us: dinner, presents, watching some special movies, carols. Morning Mass on Christmas Day. Those were the days when, I think, Christmas became such an important part of our family traditions: a time really for ourselves only. In many ways, it still is….but we are changing!

Since moving to Miami, new traditions have been started. We share Christmas Eve with my family and Frankie’s when we are here. He has enough cousins to make this celebration huge! We go there first. Then we go to Ana and Laura and her children. It is family, relaxed and fun. Some years, we have traveled and we have shared with friends. Of course, we have also been know to suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  Missing the reunions with family and friends, missing the traditions, missing not sharing….just plain missing.

This year, Frank couldn’t be here for Christmas. He came the week before to celebrate with us. Dinner celebration for our anniversary and presents exchange afterwards. Worked beautifully!! The house was decorated: a real tree with all our ornaments, the ones we have bought along the years of being together, the ones the children have given us or made themselves all those years ago. Poinsettias, lights on the balcony, candles. It’s been a while since I did this.IMG_1035

Then there were the messages from friends all around the world. In these days when people are so stressed and so busy, it is wonderful to see that my friends take the time to keep in touch. Some of them do during the year, but others only touch base at this Joyous time. Never mind, all the news are important, all messages answered, good news celebrated and sympathy went out to those with not so good news…thankfully these were few and far between. These remnants of previous lives, of years spent abroad when your friends were your family and ties were formed that will always be there, make a good part of our cheer…every Christmas!

Christmas Eve was very peaceful, my family only at my sister Ana’s beautiful home….with delicious food and gift exchange. This is a time to celebrate being together and so we did.  Laughter and enjoyable recollections of times past.  It is wonderful to see that after all these years, my sisters and I still can make each other laugh. Unfortunately, I was under the weather, so Camille, Frankie and I went home early.

Next year, we will get together again and celebrate our similarities and our differences!! After all that is the real Spirit of Christmas!!!