Published: January 7th 2011January 3rd 2011
Backyard fireworks, wild dancing women, generations of extended families gathered at long tables under vine-draped arbors at country estates, the traditional Argentine parrilla
(barbecue)--my New Year's celebrations were like scenes from a romantic film. Nothing in my nomadic (military) childhood of nuclear-family-only holidays prepared me for the openness, acceptance and love extended to so many cousins, in-laws and strangers passing through. It was a joyful model of peace on earth. Unfortunately, I'm horribly shy about taking photos of people, so I don't have photos to show the magic--next time I'll be better.
These gifts were given me by Mariana, a Buenos Aries journalist (next to me in the photo), I met months before in the wild Esteros de Ibera. Then, watching the sun set over the lake, listening to the birds and feeling the wind, we affirmed our love of being present in nature, our appreciation for regular times of stillness and beingness, and our zest for travel. It was like meeting a sister soul. Then, when I was headed back to Buenos Aires after a four-months journey, she generously invited me to share the holidays with her.
The opening round of our parade of New Year's parties was
an intimate gathering of wild, wise, funny women--friends of our host, Lola. We gathered in the suburban, country-club home of her sister. It was a Santa Barbara-like home that I didn't even know existed down here in my visits to big cities and small towns. We swam in the pool, talked astrology, and considered reuniting at Machu Picchu for 12/12/12. Other friends drifted in and out and were instantly included in the circle.
In the early evening, huge waves of siblings and cousins and their families began arriving. Really, one would need a family tree to track them all. As in all families, there were differences, yet there was also genuine respect and affection, and everyone really listened as each spoke (except when they got excited and everyone spoke at the same time).
I was so impressed by the generations, who had grown up and would know each other throughout their lives, Perhaps others take this for granted, but I grew up not knowing any cousins or relatives, and meeting one grandmother only twice in my life. For me, this was a revelation, and I felt so gifted to be a part of it.
The children were
charming and got along and didn't interrupt the adults, fuss or demand attention (like many American children). They generally formed groups by age and sex. The teen-aged boys skulked together on the edge of the group and then headed out to smoke a bit of pot (legal here in tolerant Argentina); little girls giggled and whispered; pre-teen girls watched us women as models for the adults they will become. Truly agreeable children.
At midnight, we and all the neighbors set off fireworks and played with sparklers--something completely forbidden in my fire-prone Santa Barbara. We had just finished toasting the new year when another couple dozen family members arrived to swell the party. We all stayed up chatting and dancing until 4 am. Argentinians know how to party.
The next day, many scattered to visit other branches of their families. Mariana and I headed to join her parents, siblings and beaus at her aunts' estates in the countryside outside small-town Pilar. The town was deserted--not a taxi in sight--as everyone was with their families. While I was buying giant, sweet cherries to take along, a couple offered to drive us deep into the countryside and then wouldn't accept payment.
hammocks and pools
lots of places to hang and chat
More kindness and magic.
Her aunts (one, an exuberant Auntie Mame with hats and flowing dresses; the other, a leftist with whom I had great discussions) had neighboring estates with plenty of room for dogs, horses, and swimming pools (so appreciated in the 30C/80F heat). Many of their children had also designed and built houses nearby, so the zillions of cousins would grow up together. For the next two days, they would drift in and out as they traveled from branch to branch of the family, greeting the new year in the company of their loved ones.
As before, we swam in the pools and basked in each other's company under the long verandas by day; at night, her dad fired up the parrilla to barbecue slabs of meat while we women prepared salads and lots of food that I liked. We then savored leisurely meals at long tables under the arbor and stretched the sweetness into the wee hours of the morn.
Back home, my Mexican and Latino English-language students had written compositions describing these joyful, all-night, extended family celebrations, Thanks to Mariana and her wonderful friends and family, I got to experience and share the
To continue my fabled life, I left my dorm with the 5 loud guys and treated myself to a private room at my beloved Augur Hostel. In this 19c building, I have parquet floors, high ceilings with intricate molding, tall French windows and a balcony overlooking a leafy-green sycamore tree and city sights, a table for my computer and dozen books and air-conditioning. I'll soon enough be back to dorms, but for now, I'm enjoying the high life as I museum-hop and spend time with sweet friends in beautiful Buenos Aires. A perfect start to a new year.
I wish everyone a new year full of friends and adventure, wisdom and joy.
Blessings to all.
There are more photos below