It was 3:00 am on the first day of the new year. Finally, after all the anticipation, it was time for us to go back to the island. The kids were ecstatic and, to tell you the truth, so was I. I was ready for a nice break from the cold Winter and although going to Puerto Rico is never a real vacation for us, Enrico and I were both ready for a change of scenery. Nothing like 80 degree weather, fried food, rum drinks, family and friends to get rid of those Winter blues.
Everything went perfectly well that day; no airplane delays, no fuzzy kids onboard and no lost luggage. We got to San Juan on time and the kids couldn't wait to open their Christmas gifts and to see their beloved cousins and grandparents.
Our first night was great, and the children were so happy by the end of the night that Lucia even thought all grandparents were going to have a sleepover at Abuela Heidi's place. I just smiled and said Mamita, you'll get to see all of them again very soon. She was in heaven. That night, after everyone left she hugged me and whispered I am so happy, Mama. I don't want to ever go back home, I want to stay in Puerto Rico forever. It broke my heart.
Puerto Ricans were complaining about going through a cold Winter. Instead of their perfect January 85 degree weather, they were going through rainy days, light winds and painfully cold 73 degree days. You need a jacket to go out was all I could hear from absolutely everyone. The kids are going to get cold in those tank tops. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Caribbean natives, they are so spoiled, they have no idea how good they have it, so I just smiled and nodded by saying I think we'll survive.
The first four days were all rainy days. Not the best case scenario, since the kids were eager to spend some time under the sun, so we decided to engage into more touristy activities like going to Old San Juan to visit Fort San Cristobal, where the kids pretended to be the original pirates of the Caribbean! It was a great day and we ended our tour with a fabulous lunch at Raices Restaurant, that was actually recommended in the show Man vs. Food a few months ago.
Shortly after our arrival, we drove the kids to Ponce to spend the day with my Abuela Guapa. Lucia and Joaquin are not used to seeing elderly people on a regular basis, so I was a little nervous about their reaction towards their Great Grandmother. To my surprise, it was all hugs, smiles and I love you's with Abuela. They couldn't stop talking to her and she was the happiest I've seen her in a long time since my Abuelo Harry passed away. It ended up being the best rainy day so far, but by seeing Abuela all the getting old questions began.
Where is Mami Cuchi? Lucia suddenly asked. Mami Cuchi was Enrico's Grandmother who had passed away over twenty years ago. We were not sure how she came up with the question, but it all started after visiting my Abuela Guapa. Mami Cuchi is in Heaven, Lucia, next to Abita, Abuelo Harry, Nando, Pito and Papi Henry and they watch over us every day and every night. She looked at the both of us with a puzzled expression on her face and said that she wanted to go visit her. How do you explain the concept of death and getting old to a young child? This was a tough and unexpected question.
Lucia, we all get old and, at some point, we die and go to Heaven; it is all part of the circle of life. One day, we'll all see Mami Cuchi again. This explanation created even more confusion and she just looked at us and said I don't want you guys to get old. Can we go visit Mami Cuchi now? We just smiled and told her that one day we were all going to see her again. Shortly after our existential conversation with our four year old, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
The following day was Three Kings Day, which is also referred to as the Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas. The magic kings were coming with their camels to deliver presents to all the kids in the island that night; we were reliving the Christmas Eve excitement all over again...
(to be continued)
For today's recipe, a traditional Puerto Rican drink: coquito.
Pour the water, milk, rum, and coconut milk into a blender. Add the cinnamon and salt. Blend until well combined, then refrigerate for at least one hour, or until ready to serve.