I can’t say I was thrilled with the idea at first, but I was never against it either. My daughter spent her junior year at Harvard studying in Spain. She came home with new-found worldliness, self-confidence, fluency in Spanish, and the love of her life. Carlos, a young Mexican man studying law in Spain, was intelligent, outgoing, friendly, enthusiastic, and obviously wildly crazy for Amy, as she was for him. It was hard to resist his charisma, and from the first meeting with him when he came to visit, I knew my daughter had found a wonderful man.
Okay, so Amy still had a year to finish at Harvard while Carlos still had studies in Spain. This put their love to the test of time and distance. Maybe I never thought it would last…..maybe subconsciously I hoped it wouldn’t, although consciously I, too, loved this young man. After graduation from Harvard, Amy went to Spain to spend a year with Carlos while he finished his law studies there. The result of this time spent together was that Amy was determined that Carlos was her future, and she would somehow spend the rest of her life with him. If this meant making his homeland of Mexico her own, she was willing to do so.
Amy returned home after her year in Spain to take only enough time to buy a car, put things in order, and pack her most needed belongings for a long drive to move to Mexico in July of 2002. She planned to drive to Mexico, BY HERSELF, during the span of one week’s time, stopping to visit some college connections in convenient locations along the way. On the day she left, I will never forget the way my stomach dropped when I stood in my driveway watching her drive off ….Her dad, her brother, and I just stood in utter silence and watched the car fade away in the distance. Somehow the finality of that drive away was so gut wrenching. We hadn’t thought it would hurt so badly. It was real, and it hurt.
Amy made it to Mexico with no mishaps and began searching for a job while living with Carlos’ parents. She was lucky enough to find a very good job teaching English to Mexican students in one of the Tec schools. How proud I was to hear of how my daughter forged her way in a country so foreign to her. She took her car across the border, learned to maneuver the Mexican city of Monterrey, and established herself in her boyfriend’s household before he even came home to Mexico.
Carlos returned from Spain in October, and shortly before Christmas of that year, 2002, asked Amy to marry him and make Mexico her home with him. Because Carlos’ family is very large and very religious, they decided to plan to have the official church wedding ceremony in Mexico. They were coming home to Massachusetts for Christmas, so we hurriedly planned an engagement party for them on December 28, 2002, so that people who would not be able to fly to Mexico for the summer wedding would have an opportunity to meet Carlos and celebrate with us. The holidays flew by, and we enjoyed the celebrations and a lovely engagement party. When the time came for Amy and Carlos to return to Mexico, it was the second hard departure for our family. When I brought Amy and Carlos to the airport to fly back to Mexico, I could hardly keep my composure.
This time I knew for sure that my daughter had chosen to spend her life in a distant part of the world away from her family. Although her dad and I had raised her to be independent, to be adventurous, and to strive for her goals and make them happen, we didn’t wish for that to have to include moving away so far from us. I cried for a whole day thinking of Carlos at the engagement party, raising his arm and shouting “Monterrey!” proudly amongst Amy’s high school friends. “Monterrey?” What was there about Monterrey to be so proud of? Did I even want to know what life there would be like?
The wedding was planned for July 11, 2003, and it seemed so far off that it was just a dream in our minds. After Christmas we did go online and shop around for a flight and hotel package to travel to Mexico for a few days before the wedding. We asked around and found out which people could really commit to going with us. A small group of seven of us planned to go, and we booked the trip in late January. With the use of e-tickets, even this did not seem like a reality. In April, I made it a goal to buy a dress for the wedding, and shoes, etc.
Still, it did not seem like reality. In June the invitations came, and emails from Amy started to sound panicky about coordinating all the details. I was not there to be of any help; all her dad and I could do was send the money to pay for it! I’m sure that helped, but it was not the way I imagined planning my daughter’s wedding.
Amy pulled everything together herself, with the love and help of Carlos’ family, who really gave them quite a start by letting her live with them, rent-free, for the entire year. Amy and Carlos were able to save enough money to purchase a new home which they will move into in October.
And then, the week of the wedding arrived! We were to fly to Mexico on July 8, 2003. Thus began a week of breaking down the reserves and falling in love with the country that stole my precious daughter from me. I cannot begin to recreate the experiences we shared there. Our group of seven pilgrims from Massachusetts and our Spanish family of three from Leon, Spain, whose son we had hosted one summer when Amy was sixteen, arrived on the same day about an hour apart.
We were embraced by Carlos’ family immediately and enfolded into a country and family atmosphere of love from the moment of our greeting at the airport. It was a miracle I had not imagined possible, and it swept me away with its intensity.
Carlos’ wonderful family took excellent care of us, chauffeuring us all around the large city of Monterrey. They made sure we were picked up and dropped off everywhere, not an easy task with a group of 10 and especially when they were in the middle of taking care of the final details of the wedding and reception.
On our arrival night, we were invited to a lovely rooftop barbecue hosted by Carlos’ family. We were delighted by a tour of their lovely home: the two kitchens, the indoor gardens complete with singing birds, and the spectacular rooftop patio with trees, plantings, refreshing breezes, and commanding views of the city and mountains. The steak, potatoes, quesadillas, and everything all tasted so especially delicious because we were with a family who wanted to adopt us and teach us to love their city and their ways. It was so much more than a normal tourist travel experience. We took part in gift exchanging and listened to a speech from an uncle in the family complimenting us on our daughter, and there was an enormous building of acceptance and goodwill between the extended families. It was indeed a perfect welcome.
The second day there, our group went to see Amy and Carlos’ new home under construction. We toured the model homes and saw what a finished one would look like all decorated. Then we actually were able to drive right down into the construction area to see their actual lot and home, under construction – the first floor was up, and workers were on the top working on the second story.
Although we were asked to move out because we were blocking the construction trucks from their access to the area, we did get to take some pictures! Carlos has a way with people and usually gets what he wants!!!
That evening we were to go listen to the band for their reception. Amy and Carlos had asked the band to learn some special songs, and they wanted to see if the band had learned them well enough to play at the reception. The poor band – when they saw the twelve of us trooping in to see if they passed the test! Yet they were gracious and found room for all of us to sit in comfort to listen. As they broke into the first number, I had my first emotional and significant experience of three that really moved me there in Mexico. I immediately recognized the opening strains of “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. I had asked Amy to consider using this song at her wedding during her visit to Massachusetts at Christmas time. She loved the song and took a copy of the CD back to Mexico with her, but she also expressed some doubts about using it since it would be in Italian or English, and most of the guests would understand neither. What a thrill to realize she had gone ahead and requested it! What a wonderful and moving surprise! I cried during the entire rendition of the song, which was admirably done by the two lead singers. This proved to be a good thing, though, since I did not feel the need to cry during the performance of this song on the actual wedding night. The band went on to perform for us for another hour or so. We had a wonderful private concert which we thoroughly enjoyed and which left us anxious to dance to their music at the wedding in two more nights.
On Thursday morning, most of our USA group wanted to go to the museums in the downtown area of Monterrey. I opted to go with Amy to Carlos’ home to work on the final details of the wedding and to spend time with her while she packed for her honeymoon. It was precious time to me, and I hope to her also. Carlos’ parents were around the house, but left us to spend our time together. Although we could not speak directly because of my lack of Spanish and their lack of English, I wanted to express some of what I was feeling with them. I asked Carlos to call his parents to his room and through the translations of Amy and Carlos, I tried to express to Gloria and Carlos senior just how much I appreciated what they had done for Amy and Carlos in giving them their start in life by letting Amy live with them for a year rent-free. I also wanted them to know that I appreciated how they were a family for Amy and had supervised and protected her while she was there.
I told them I hoped they never had to experience the turmoil of losing a child to such a distance, but that it was now much easier for me to let Amy go to Mexico and to them as a family, since I had experienced first-hand their love and acceptance. We all cried, and then we took pictures of ourselves crying, but I felt better for the bonds created in spite of the language barrier. After a while I didn’t know if we were speaking Spanish, English, or just the language of the heart, but the message was given and received, loud and clear. This was the second of my three emotional bonding experiences, and it was far more important than the first.
On the day of the wedding, Friday, I went to the hairdresser with Amy in the morning to get her hair and makeup and my hair done.
Shortly after these few hours came my third and most powerful bonding experience with Amy and with what her experiences with loving Carlos, a Mexican man, had done for her. When we returned to our hotel to dress for the wedding pictures, Amy and I had a few moments together before all the women in our group arrived to help mother her and get her dressed.
Amy had had to go to confession before the wedding ceremony. We laughed about this because although raised as a Catholic, Amy had not practiced the rituals faithfully. Growing up, her father and I taught her CCD classes and she had made First Communion and Confirmation. In fact, I was the one who instructed her class in second grade on how to go to confession. When she reached Confirmation age, I told her it was now time to make up her own mind about embracing religion and what she would do about it. I was only concerned that she be a moral human being. Amy took a very nonchalant attitude toward going to church and all of the other rituals.
Now, suddenly, in the few quiet moments we had in the hotel room with her face beautifully made up and her veil and pearl tiara on her head, my little girl asked me a totally unexpected question. She asked me “Mom, how do you say the Hail Mary?” We recited it together, stumbling along and both remembering as we prayed together. Then she asked the same about the Our Father, and we said that one together too. Turns out her penance for the confession she had just made was to say some Hail Marys and some Our Fathers, and she was sincere in wanting to do them, and do them correctly. What a moment for me – to see my child embrace a religion and take it on willingly, for the love of her new husband, his family, and his country. This was my third and most emotional moment of the trip, for I realized the depth of the bonding that had taken place for my daughter with her new culture.
The wedding itself was almost anticlimactic for me after these three experiences. Amy was a beautiful bride, and her Carlos was dashing and handsome. The church was lovely, AIRCONDITIONED, and the service was beautifully shared by friends and family from three different countries: Mexico, the USA, and Spain. Amy’s brother Jim carried the Bible to the altar, our exchange student David did a reading, Cris, the mother of Amy’s best school friend did a reading, and Ani, her best friend carried the gold coins. Felipe and Marimy, her Spanish mother and father, were the patrons of the rings, and as such, signed the marriage certificate as witnesses. Amy’s father and I walked her down the aisle together, and later lit a family candle, as did Carlos’ parents, from which Amy and Carlos lit their own new family candle. The traditions of the Mexican service were wonderful and moving.
The reception was a gala affair! The band lived up to the preview we had had. The food was delicious, and the dancing lasted till 1 AM!
Mexicans must be the best dancers in the world!!! And do they ever have stamina! The success of the wedding from my point of view was in the bonding of the two cultures.
This bonding is now mine to share. I look forward to continuing a love affair with the family and the country my daughter has introduced me to. Watching her take all these changes in stride with such grace and maturity was the greatest gift a mother can get from her child. I know that I have succeeded in launching my daughter into her chosen life of independence. MONTERREY!!!