At the moment, every surface in my office/living room/dining room is covered with stacks of papers. I’ve been plowing through files and old folders looking for additional stories to include in a book about my first few years of living in Mexico, but in doing so, I unearthed an earlier book, also unpublished, about our initial trip down to San Miguel to investigate it as a possible place to live for a year. So, I spent most of the morning and afternoon reading the entire book with the result that I’ve decided that maybe it makes sense to publish that book first, since it will better introduce readers to Bob and to the background of my move to Mexico. With that in mind, I’d like your help in reading two or three of the beginning chapters to see if they hold your interest. They are a bit longer than earlier “possibles” that I’ve shared with you over the past week or so, but I guess that will be a test of whether this book is going to hold your interest. Remember, as this story begins, the year is 2001 and so the information about our Mexican experience is 22 years old. Please let me know whether you feel it is still relevant and interesting. That said, here is the possible first chapter of:
Innocents in Mexico
Chapter 1, Leaving the Familiar
(Jan1-May 3, 2001)
How we came to decide to move to Mexico is unclear. Bob claims I tricked him into it by first suggesting a two-week trip. By the time he had agreed, the trip had grown to two months. Then, the next thing he knew, I was telling people that we were renting out our house and moving to Mexico for a year, where we would live off the rent we were collecting from our house. But it was Bob, in fact, who suggested that if we left for a year we’d be coming home during the worst weather of the year––which led to our decision to move to Mexico for a year and a half.
The transition from the redwoods of central California to the central mountains of Mexico was not as simple as the decision to move there. We had intended to return from Christmas with my 91-year -old mother in Wyoming, to spend a month packing our personal stuff out of the house and getting it rented out, then to leave by February 1. But a week or so prior to leaving for Wyoming, I found that I needed major surgery. Since the recovery period was six weeks, that would delay our leaving by a month if we scheduled the surgery as soon as we got home in January, so we put off our leaving day to March 1. If I packed just one thing at a time and left Bob to lift the boxes once they were filled, I should be able to do the packing even with stitches in.
The day I got home from surgery, my mother went into the hospital in Wyoming. I’d been told not to ride in cars, climb stairs or lift for a week, then to take it easy for another month at the least. My mother and sister insisted I not come, my mother even saying that it was too hard to visit over the phone when I called, due to the oxygen. She liked to be left alone when she was sick, even had them put a “no visiting” sign on her door. She would be going home soon, they all said. But within a week, my mother had passed away. Since she had known no one in the Wyoming town where she had moved a few years before to be near my sister, we decided to hold her memorial service in July in South Dakota, where an all-town reunion would be going on in the town where we all grew up. My brother-in-law accompanied my mother’s body to Tucson, where she would be buried with my dad. Both of my folks were not big on funerals. My mom would have approved. I put all of my efforts into planning her memorial long-distance. Bob and I would drive up from San Miguel the last weekend in June for the memorial.
Now, along with healing, I mourned the loss of my Mother. For days, I worked on art projects which reflected her life story, and after my second day home from the hospital, I worked for two hours at a time packing books, then rested two hours, watching every video movie my friends could dig up to encourage me to get the rest I needed. I began to get a bit agoraphobic, which was helped along by the fact that I wasn’t supposed to ride in cars. On the night that my Mom died, Bob and I went for our first walk since my surgery. It was nine o’clock at night as we walked up the road near our house to the top of the mountain. The stars were vivid in this sky away from city lights as we discussed the afterlife. There was something about the irrevocable ending of a life which pushed us in our resolve to put off no longer the next stage of changes in our lives.
Even though we planned to rent the house fully furnished, the packing proved to be a much larger job than we’d expected. My mother had left us her car and any furniture or art we wanted. My sister insisted that to send it would incur no loss to her or my other sister, since it would come out of the part of the estate the majority of which would go for taxes, anyway, so we decided to store our own furniture and rent our house with my mother’s. This meant also changing all the art and decorations in the house, since her color scheme was different. For a month, I’d packed books, which Bob would then carry to one studio or another to store. Then I tackled the kitchen, leaving what I considered to be bare bones. We were beginning to feel like we’d make our new departure date of April 1, but the date should have been a tip-off. When they heard we’d be leaving, we suddenly had friends and relatives popping in with great regularity. With each group of friends, we took the time to talk and play, to go to the beach and out to dinner.
One of the reasons we were moving to Mexico was to get our life back and to reprioritize after 14 years of running our lives around the demands of a business. We had felt rushed, pressured, buried under the minutiae of the details of bookkeeping, scheduling, mailing, travelling to art shows, setting up our booth, tearing it down, keeping track of the thousands of details involved in not only making art but selling it through craft shows. Every vacation we’d taken to visit family had been scheduled to coincide with our show schedule. Most of our friends were artists, which was great, but we spent more time discussing the business of art than art itself. We wanted off the bandwagon. We wanted the time to talk and experience life without pressure. But now the business of moving was taking over our lives. How to get all the loose ends taken care of. How would we pay our bills? Collect outstanding debts? We had lamps to mail off to customers and galleries, files to sort out. What to take, what to store, what to throw away? I had twenty-five years of writing files: poetry, stories, unfinished novels, movie scripts. Bob had the same. We had business files, tax files, personal correspondence files. All of this needed to be sorted and dealt with. One studio rapidly filled up to the ceiling with boxes of books, extra kitchen supplies, clothes and art. Then another one filled up with furniture, extra studio supplies from my jewelry studio, which we’d reconverted into a bedroom, writing files, tools and more tchotchkes.
When a woman who came to see if she wanted to be our property manager saw what we considered to be our stripped-down house, she said, “I’d clear out all this clutter. Get it down to the minimum.” That was what we thought we’d done!
Into this chaos drove my friend Patty, who’d volunteered to drive my mom’s car from Wyoming to California for us. She stayed a few days and we took time off from packing to see the sights and talk. Then came other friends. We did the same. When people heard we were leaving, they called to schedule dinners. We went. We were now worried about the April 1 leaving date. With our departure date just two weeks off, Bob received a call from his sister. His mom had gone into the hospital and wasn’t expected to live. He flew to Michigan. After ten days, less than two months after we’d lost my mom, his mom passed away.
The day he flew off to Michigan, the first of our ads to sell vehicles appeared. We were selling a Blazer, a Mazda MX3, an ancient motor home, a trailer and a fork lift. For the entire time Bob was gone, every bit of my time was spent jump-starting them, cleaning them, having them smog-checked, answering phone calls, showing vehicles and placing new ads. Finally, when Bob got home, we parked the cars one at a time on the street. The first time we did this, we got a ticket for parking a for sale vehicle on a county road. Then we found a wide place that was evidently private land, but visible from the highway. Within the month, we’d sold all of the vehicles but the travel trailer we had converted into a trailer to move our our big lamps, jewelry, ikebana vases, tents, cases and other display items to shows in. This we kept to store our unsold display items in.
With May fast approaching, Bob finally said he was beginning to feel we’d never leave. In addition, he was starting to have reservations about whether he wanted to leave all his tools and studios. What if we got to Mexico and didn’t like it? We’d have rented our house out and would have no place to go. In the end, we sealed up the house, paid a friend to deal with our bills and mail, packed up our cat that we had been unable to find a new temporary home for, packed up a few clothes, a lot of books and art supplies, and headed out for Mexico on May 3, 2001—only 4 months later than we had initially planned on starting out, but we were finally on the road. On the way, we would visit Bob’s son, daughter and grandkids in Flagstaff Arizona, his friend Carey in Tucson and my friend Judy in Alamogordo. Then we would be free, unscheduled, with no timeline. On our way to Mexico.
Go HERE to read Chapter 2
Interesting stuff Judy. The part about shows really “spoke to me” in a visceral way!
Yes. You held my interest. It is as important to detail the departure as the arrival
Leaving one life too begin a new one always has issues. I’m glad you finally managed to leave.
Very Interesting to keep me reading, Judy. I’m relating to this story because we are also in the process of moving from our house.
Where are you moving from and to, Aletta?
We are not moving to far from where we are now, building a cottage by the sea. Live in Langebaan South Africa, moving up the coast to Laaiplek a small village by the sea.
Aletta, I just found an article from the johannesburg paper from 1969 when I was there..A reporter had taken me and three other girls from the University ship we were on and escorted us around the city and did an article on us. It was in a box I haven’t looked at for probably 50 years or more…of letters I wrote home during that 4 month trip.
That is just amazing! Hope you are going to write about it!
This is good. Two deaths in two months, moving out of a country, selling and packing up. 👌👌👌
You have narrated well and yes it calls for I want to continue reading.
Thanks, Ganga.. this really helps.
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I want to keep reading…so personal and interesting.
Soon some characters will enter the scene.. once we get to San Miguel..
Very good beginning of a book.
I started writing, then wrote too much for a response here, so I’m writing an email instead. I’ll send it later. Thanks for inviting me in. You have quite a story to tell and I know you’ll find an audience. The dream of so many of us–to get away from it all and start over.
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I’ve done it 8 times! I think this was the last time, but—who knows?
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Hi Judy – while I am obviously a fan of your poetry, your pivot to prose stories of your life is an excellent decision. If I understand correctly, you’re weighing whether to first publish the book about your departure from Boulder Creek with Bob and then publish your book about your new life in Mexico after that.
I have three suggestions. For years, I have been a voracious reader of tales written by ex-pats trying to put down roots in a new country, France, Italy, Mexico, etc. In each case, I never felt the need to know the backstory before diving right in to the author’s ex-pat adventures. They all seem to have included “just enough” personal history context in each ex-pat experience book to set the stage at the appropriate time(s) in the story.
I can envision you going in three directions.
1) Write the life in Mexico story and incorporate “just enough” personal history context (like Peter Mayle, etc.) I think this book would have the largest commercial audience appeal for readers new to you.
2) Do option 1 (above) and position your second book about leaving Boulder Creek with Bob as a “prequel” book that you publish second. This book would definitely appeal to readers who have been following you and also to new readers who read option 1 and were wanting more.
3) This option may be quite challenging to write. Structure your book so it is two stories in one – do alternate chapters weaving life in Mexico with flashbacks to the before times. So you would have flash backs and fast forwards, like they can do in film.
If I were to wander into the local B&N today and head to the travel stories section, I would first buy your book about settling in to your Mexican life. When finished with that book, my next choice would be the prequel of you and Bob leaving Boulder Creek.
I would eagerly lap up both stories, and in that order.
Apologies for such a long comment. Enjoying both versions of your story.
No need to apologize. So generous of you to give so much of your time in consideration of this question. Actually, both books are about Mexico..the first our initial trip down and first three months in San Miguel..The second book is about my returning to Lake Chapala to live. That said, your comment about not needing the backstory is very helpful..Another commenter said she would like to know more about who Bob and I are at the beginning and perhaps I could do this by including more glimpses into our personalities..See what you think when we arrive in San Miguel and start to observe life there. Again, I so appreciate your comments.
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