I should have known from the start that the wedding would be a success. I was too quick to doubt the power of such an event to unite people across physical, social, cultural, and linguistic barriers. And perhaps, too, I doubted the desire of my family and my in-laws to meet and communicate with each other. After all, my parents lost me to a foreign country, and my in-laws gained a daughter-in-law who may at some point threaten to kidnap their son and make a break for the United States. Yet the wedding was an experience in bonding between families and cultures, just as my mother described in her article.
I think my mother has just about said it all in her article, which was something she took upon herself. She wrote it with the wedding fresh in her mind. I was slower to react to the events of the wedding for a number of reasons. One, like an actor that has rehearsed extensively for a play that is no longer running, I hated to admit that everything I had worked so hard to put together was over. Two, I was still marveling at the success of the wedding and the days leading up to the event. Everyone was absolutely enchanted with the wedding, and the two families could not have hit it off more splendidly, even if everyone had been able to speak the same language! And three, I felt like writing about the wedding would mean it was officially over. I was (am) still reluctant to close the first chapter of the rest of my life.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading my mom’s words, and I was even jealous of her intended audience; her readers would know her most intimate feelings about the wedding, many of which I didn’t realize until I read her article. Curiously enough, I was shocked when I read her reaction to my asking for help remembering the Hail Mary prayer. I had no idea that she would interpret that as a sign that I was trying to adapt to the Catholic culture around me. I hadn’t given the incident a second thought until I read her article, but I realized that she was right – it was an expression of my desire to adapt. You can always learn something from your mother, no matter how old you are!
If you read my mom’s article, you will have realized by now that hers was mostly about the joining of two people, two families, and two cultures. I definitely agree with her that the wedding succeeded in uniting just about everyone that took part in some way or another. It even created intra-cultural bonds as the people that traveled to Monterrey together for the wedding forged friendships. But for me, as an American woman marrying in Mexico, the wedding was more about change and the realization that my home is here now. I’m not so much joining two cultures as looking for my identity within a new one.
I suppose Monterrey really felt like home to me for the first time when my family and friends arrived for the wedding. Carlos and I were trying to show them the best of Monterrey in the 4 short days we had before the wedding. It was an impossible task – there was so much for them to see, do, eat, etc.- but we tried. We had to prove to them that Monterrey is a great place to live, there aren’t (many) donkeys here, and chile is really a wonderful thing! It was a strange sensation because I found myself showing them all the things that I had been shown just three years before when I came to Monterrey to visit for the first time.
This time though, I was the expert, and I was proud of what “my city” had to offer.
When I picked everyone up at the airport and drove them 40 minutes across the city to their hotel, they couldn’t believe that I was able to navigate such a large, chaotic city without getting lost. I have to admit, I was surprised because I don’t even think about it anymore. I feel like I always know where I am, and I can get myself around a large percentage of the city for only having been here a year.
As my friends and family remarked upon customs, traditions, food, etc. that they encountered over their four days in Monterrey, I realized how much these things have become a part of my life. My favorite example of how accustomed I’ve become to Monterrey is drive-thru liquor stores. Monterrey is littered with these places. They are often built in the shape of beer cans, and girls in short skirts come out to take your order. These drive-thru liquor stores are certainly not anywhere to be found in the United States. Imagine ordering beer while driving in the US! But I had honestly forgotten to be surprised by these places.
Taking my family and friends to visit the house that Carlos and I are buying was also an experience that made me realize the magnitude of the change that I am embracing. All 10 of my guests piled into two cars and went to the construction site. We tumbled out of the cars and immediately overran the place. We took pictures in front of the unfinished house. I was dreaming of someday hanging the “before” pictures alongside “after” pictures, taken of us sometime in the future standing outside the finished house. This was my dream, but after the fact, I realized I might never get to take the “after” picture. What event, other than a wedding, could unite the 10 most important people from my old life with my new life again? Not even my first baby is likely to bring so many people at once to Mexico.
This is when I think I truly realized I was facing a lifelong change – a fissure between the way things used to be and the way they will be from now on. I will not always have my mom down the street, and most holidays will now be spent in the company of my in-laws. Parents and friends can always come to visit, and I can visit them, but I can never again go “home” to Boston because my home is here in Monterrey now. Someday my parents will move away from the town I was born in. My brother will also go where life and ambition take him, and although my memories and my heart may still consider Boston my childhood home, my adult home, my married home, my family home will be here in Monterrey.
Therefore, whereas my mother sees the wedding as a bonding of two cultures, I tend to see it as a crossing over of cultures. It was my transition from one culture, one country, one life to another. Whether I like it or not, I have become Mexican. (Luckily, I do like this change!) I live here now, I work here now. I will raise my children here, and I will grow old here. So while my parents and in-laws gained an additional culture to appreciate, I must admit in a way I feel I have lost one. I will always be American, there is no denying that, but now I must try to identify primarily with Mexico if I want to be successful here.
Therefore, I must embrace my new citizenship, my new culture, my new home. I must embrace change. MONTERREY!!!!!!!