Cajón del Maipo

Last weekend we were invited by our new friend Francisco (Josh has a Yakima-based colleague who employs Francisco, a Chilean, to do design work for machines that Josh often sells as complimentary equipment to Giro machines) to spend time with him and his family in Cajón del Maipo—a place worthy of its fame and reputation. We were delighted—both in an escape from the city and the chance to speak lots of Spanish! He traded cars around and he and his girlfriend Jimena even managed to pick up all five of us including all three children in their bulky, big, un-easy American car seats and drive us out to his parent’s home. Now. His parents live on a golden little piece of property that is surrounded by rising hills that look somewhat like Santa Barbara, CA and the outskirts of Phoenix. But somehow prettier and more sensual. They even have a swimming pool and a little yurt separate from the main house where we slept. It was fantastic. It was lovely. It was the kind of weekend that I know we will talk about for the rest of our lives. We were gobbled up by this family. Francisco and his sister (a pediatric neurologist) have yet to bless their parents with grandchildren. Francisco’s mother LOVES children. Before retiring, Christina ran a daycare. She marvels in children. She is warm and loving and funny and everything a foreigner like me wants when I’m struggling to feel like my children are safe and secure. Francisco’s father LOVES children. Victor teased Francisco all weekend about his great need for grandchildren; that all he had left were his dogs. He would take Carter’s hand and they would go and look at the orchard, at the garden, at the pool. Our three children were loved on by the spirit of all grandmas and grandpas from the world over last weekend.

And we needed that. And so did they.

And we needed the wine and the food—THE FOOD!—and the conversation. We had a typically late Chilean BBQ dinner that started at 8:30pm and lasted until far past 10. I even managed to joke and be a bit of myself in Spanish during dinner. Oh, what joy that is! When we finally all got ready to go to bed, Christina asked me what time our kids normally get up in the morning? 6:30. And I said it with regret. Yes, I did. Because I knew this sweet grandma-wanna-be was NOT going to be pleased to get up at that hour. And indeed she proceeded to show me where all of the food was for breakfast so I could help myself in the morning.

We slept in the yurt. Kind of. Those kids. Too excited to be sleeping all in one big room. Big kids in one big bed together. Giggling and carrying on until much, much too late. And of course they made me a liar. They were up at 5:30. FIVE thirty.

And so we boiled some water, drank our Nescafe (Chileans LOVE their instant coffee; we do NOT) and tried to keep the kids quiet and entertained in our yurt. Around 7 I ventured out to the main house and hit the kitchen for cereal bars for the kids and hard boiled eggs for me and Josh. At 8:00 we ventured into the house and sat at the nicely laid breakfast table and had bread, honey, and hard boiled eggs all the while insisting the kids whisper. EVERYONE else in the WHOLE ENTIRE house was STILL ASLEEP.

When Christina got up around 9:00 she asked me what I wanted for breakfast. Because I had not yet learned to speak in the past tense—this was Sunday, I’d learn it at language school Monday—nor did I know how to say “already” I could not, for the life of me, explain to her that I had already eaten breakfast. TWO TIMES.

And so. We had eggs for breakfast For the third time. And I loved them.

Later that day we drove up into the mountains and experienced the awe of the Andes that people always talk about. Francisco’s father Victor had somehow received a special pass to drive up into a normally closed area where there were no people, no traffic, no houses, just a long straight road straight up a canyon that seemed to go forever. There were herds of goat and sheep, guarded by dogs but no people. There was the constant muddy river flowing beside the gravel road. The Andes are barren, dramatic, and shocking mountains that seem to rise straight up from the floor with no warning, no foothills. They angle upwards in dangerous and awesome ways. The colors of the rocks are breathtaking. These aren’t my mountains. They aren’t my husband’s. We are children born of the Colorado Rockies and the lush Washington Cascades. And still. These mountains are so severe and desolate and incredible. We saw Andean Condors—several—and could not believe how massive they were. We stumbled upon a ghost town with one lone tree and terrace upon terrace of beautifully made stone staircases that led nowhere. I was quite taken by the staircases. I marveled at them. They were so beautifully made and were literally all that was left of what must have been a village built for workers—long since departed. Christina had, of course, packed a delicious picnic lunch and we ate under the unforgiving skies of the South American sunshine, shifting to stay in the shade of the tree.

We slept all the way back to Christina and Victor’s. And then we all swam in the chilly pool in the late afternoon sun and smiled long and slow smiles. And I wanted to hold that weekend in my mind forever. And I hope I do.

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