Old School

It’s been almost a year and a half since my last blog entry. Where has the time gone? What have I been doing? What have YOU been doing (whatever – you probably aren’t even around anymore! Sheesh!) I can’t really tell you what’s been happening in the last 12+ months over here at the bottom of the Earth, but let’s recap what we already know: I’m an expat living in Chile since July 2009 (holy crap, that’s FIVE WHOLE YEARS this year!), I got married, I went to grad school, I finished then finally started working here, got a bulldog, moved and then had a baby (which we all know wasn’t all peaches and cream for me but now it’s fine.)

Our favorite candy striped wanderer.
Our favorite candy striped wanderer.

A whole lot has happened in between all this, most of which I’ve already written about in previous blog entries but there is a WORLD of ideas, thoughts, opinions, what have you, to share post-baby in a strange land. Although, granted, Chile isn´t so strange anymore but that doesn´t mean that being a parent and having a kid isn’t strange. But that’s a huge can of worms and if I try to interpret every little possible idea I have in my mind about what’s been going on this whole time, I’m going to go batty and most likely lose you somewhere along the lines.

And so, the idea is to fuh-kis (focus) and I’m going to start this new chapter off by telling you that apparently, somewhere along the lines from back then to now, I turned into an adult and got, how do you say?…old. Don’t flatter me with your “But Andrea, you look so young!” nonsense. I’m not talking wrinkles, sun damage and genetics here, kiddo, I’m talking about my inability to navigate the new technology and having NO IDEA who Lorde was until about a week ago (btw – OBsessed)!!! How.did.this.happen? When did I become this person who only has retro songs in her iTunes collection and who owns all classic 80s movies and hasn’t seen a single Oscar nominated movie since circa 2008???

The first time I realized I was getting old was about eight months ago when we purchased really basic tablets for use at work. I couldn’t turn the darn thing ON! There was no middle button like on the iPhone and swiping my finger across the screen proved useless. At the time we had a junior in high school helping us with some adminy work and after several frustrated attempts on our part (my ex-coworkers don’t escape the “I’m-old-and-technology-frightens-me” label), we handed the tablets over to this 17-year old who had them up and running in a nanosecond. I mean…clearly she’s in MENSA, amiright?

Then, one night as I was talking to my 18-year old nephew and his friend, we started talking about Spotify (YES I know about Spotify!) and they were telling me about how cool it was and how the playlists were all saved and you can access them anywhere, etc, etc, what have you and I thought “holy sh*t, they really think Spotify is awesome… why haven’t I tried it?” The thing is, it had never OCCURRED to me to try it… they asked if I still purchased and downloaded music, as if that was “so 2010.” Um, apparently it is. Sweet. Now even HOW I listen to music is old school. They didn’t understand why I would spend money on each song I wanted when I could just add it to my playlist on Spotify. The whole idea of collecting the music seemed odd to them and since, in my opinion, that generation is based on “what’s next, what’s new” I wasn’t about to give them a crash course on how collecting and sitting in your piles of “collected stuff”, albeit virtual, gave one a sense of satisfaction.

So there’s all that and you already know about my whole Lorde debacle because I mentioned it above and, I mean, it’s literally one thing after another with this whole age vs. new technology/new releases thing. I guess I could have blamed the Lorde thing on living in Chile but she just performed at Lollapalooza this past weekend sooooooo …. I’m thinking it’s me, not Chile. Also, I’ve been meaning to blog for about two weeks now but it took me this long to configure my new blog layout and as you can see, it’s quite basic. I did that on purpose because the bells and whistles were getting me nowhere. See that Twitter feed to your left? Literally took me two days to figure out. For reals.

Finally, the last thing that serves as proof that I’m suddenly old just happened. How the hell does one insert an animated GIF into a blog post? Do people still use those for effect? No?
Whatever. I’m over you and your techy ways.

Just kidding, I love you.

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My Labor Story (complete with Q & A)

I talked about it, I wrote about it, I griped about it. I feared for the day and lamented the day. I had anxiety everyday for the past two months over it and imagined the worst-case scenario with every article I read about it.

Then finally, on April 30th, I lived through it. “It” being actually giving birth – me, the person who has had the recurring anxiety dream since I was a teenager that I all of a sudden go into labor without previously knowing I was pregnant. No joke, I spent years haunted by this dream so you can imagine what the thought of giving birth did to me in real life.

This is not the labor you've heard about....

At first I didn’t want to believe I was going into labor, but the pain, which felt like taking a brutal hit with a baseball bat right to my lower back was different from all the other pains I had experienced in the last two months of pregnancy. Still, my attitude was “sit and keep watch.” The reality was that I didn’t want to be going into labor. First of all, it was nighttime and if there was ANYTHING I had repeatedly hoped for was to go into labor during the day. You know, so I could count on a full night’s sleep and proceed with energy the following day for the labor portion of the agenda. The mere thought of being up all night in pain just made me want to crawl into bed and sleep. And that’s exactly what I did. After a long, hot shower – where yet again I was met with a debilitating pain I can now recognize as contractions – I crawled into bed and decided that this wasn’t labor, but instead, false labor known as Braxton Hicks contractions.

Yes my good people, I tried to Jedi-mind trick myself into thinking that I was NOT going into labor. This mind over matter exercise I was putting into practice was destined to fail, of course. I was obviously in labor and as much as I tried to carry on with my evening as if there was nothing to see here, this baby was RSVP-ing her appearance to the outside world in a matter of hours.

And speaking of … one always hears these cray cray stories about women being in labor for a million and a half hours. To the unknowing mind, this sounds like one is doing the stuff seen on tv the entire time – i.e. pushing and sweating and hurting for 30+ hours. The reality is that labor involves the ENTIRE process of giving birth, and the pushing, sweating part, is a small fraction of the process. Also, it’s not bloody and it’s not painful (that is, if you have a lifesaver called an epidural.) Don’t get me wrong, before the epidural I was in the most painful state of my life. I didn’t realize that something could hurt that much. I always used to wonder: “What do contractions feel like?” and I’ve read answers that state “like really bad menstrual cramps.” UM – WRONG!!! It’s like really bad menstrual cramps times 5,000. No, times a million. Then imagine a baseball bat being involved, hitting you right where it hurts most – and hard! And it’s not just your lower stomach but also your entire torso! It’s a sharp pain that starts either in your abs and immediately grabs your back, or vice versa. In any case, your back is involved which makes it ridiculously difficult to “walk it off” as many sites tend to suggest. You can barely stand up straight, let alone walk it off. I also tried to breathe through it but that was a joke as well. Whoever suggested either of those as possible solutions to the pain was clearly a Birkenstock-wearing, hippy.

In any case, my labor story started off like this and continued on until 5:56 am when the little pygmy hippo made her debut out here. Between the time elapsed with the details above and the actual time of birth, a total of 10 hours passed. Of these 10 hours, 5 were spent in complete and total, utter and relentless, pain. For all those who are interested, I’d really like to address some true-to-life questions about how it all went down between the Jedi-mind trick, the contractions and the actual birth. To do so, I think the best way would be via a Q&A of the top questions I’ve been asked about the whole ordeal. If there’s one thing I won’t do is sugarcoat it so here it is, in all its gutsy glory.

My Labor Story Q & A:

Q. Does your water really “break?” Because that sounds gross.
A. I don’t know if your water will break but mine didn’t “break” … it kind of just sprung a leak. Since tampons are forbidden during this time, I had to bust out the woman diapers – I mean, the maxi pads – which was all kinds of gross. But in short, no, I didn’t all of a sudden gush the new Niagra Falls from in between my legs. It just felt like I had my period – and I was 12 again, with a big ol’ pad to weather the storm.

Holy OUCH!! via nysora.com

Q. What does the epidural feel like? Does it really NOT hurt because I call bullshit!
A. Let’s get one thing straight – the actual insertion of the epidural hurt like a MOTHERFUCKER. Like seriously, I burst into tears. I wasn’t sure if the contractions hurt more or if that ginormous whatever-you-call-it being inserted between two discs in my spine hurt more. It wasn’t just a prick, wham, bam – pain is gone in two seconds type of thing either. It hurt, then it hurt some more, then it REALLY hurt, then I thought I’d pass out from the hurt and just for shits and giggles, it hurt one last time. And then all of a sudden ….nothing. Bliss. Heaven on Earth. Zen. In.the.zone. Call it what you will, all of a sudden after 5 hours of intense pain and then 10 minutes of spinal cord pain – no pain. Ahhhhh, the almighty epidural. Trust me when I tell you that despite the pain of it going in, the relief you feel afterward is SO worth it. And no, seriously, you don’t feel the pain of the contractions.

Q. You pushed a 6 pound baby out of your va-jay-jay… tell the truth – are you a disfigured mess down there or what?
A. Oh the vaginal birth … good for quick healing, bad for your post-baby sex life? On the contrary, my dear friend! That is, if you have a doctor like the one I had who made sure that after all was said and done, I was neatly put “back in my place” so to speak. I didn’t know it before, but birth is a sure way to leave your inhibitions at the door. What I mean is that there is NO ONE – NO ONE – within a 10-foot radius of you, who doesn’t take a gander at your hoo-ha at some point or another throughout the ordeal. Most of these people will take a gander repeatedly throughout the three days you’re in the hospital (clinica). It gets to the point where you just spread eagle for anyone who walks through the door, just to save time. All this is normal, of course. What I found to be off-your-rocker strange is the fact that EVERYONE wanted to see the stitches of the episiotomy … and what’s more, they wanted to see them because it was my doctor who had performed the procedure – they all agreed, he does “fantastic” work. Never before, and probably never again, have I had so many people oooh and ahhh in splendor at my nether region. Amidst the bloated middle, disheveled hair, makeup-less face and swollen feet, I could rest assured that my hoo-ha was left in top-notch condition. Thank you, Dr. Alcalde! I salute you.

Q. Holy shit!! You had an episiotomy???!!! What the hell?
A. Yeah, I know, crazy. And no, I wasn’t expecting it and no, the doctor didn’t tell me about it until right AS HE WAS PERFORMING it. However, I didn’t feel anything (all hail the mighty epidural) as it occurred and so, it would be a lie to tell you that it hurt. What DID hurt was the healing!! OMG it hurt. I couldn’t sit straight for about 5 days and the first few days were awful! But at that point, the baby was out, I was in recovery and apparently my hoo-ha was looking spectacular – what was the point in complaining?

Q. Is the post birth bleeding “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style?
A. Good Lord, where did you hear that? Actually, yes and no. The first few days it is … then it’s not. Then it’s like a normal heavy period that eventually gets lighter. You’ll survive. I did.

Larger than life. via Wikipedia.org

Q. So that means you have to wear those “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” pads that the hospital gives you?
A. Yeah and they suck. It’s like you’re walking around with a throw pillow between your legs. I wasn’t a fan and I don’t think you will be either. You’ll feel better knowing that by the time I left the hospital, I didn’t need the throw pillow pads anymore so you just have to suck it up for a few days.

Q. So you gave birth to an actual human being – do you now have feelings of self-entitlement? Are you all “I am woman, hear me roar” now?
A. Listen buddy, I’m not sure I like your attitude! But since you asked, no, I don’t feel entitled just because I’m able to make a person and pop her out. Yes, when I think about how crazy it is that a woman’s body knows exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it, I find it downright miraculous. But after the fact, when the baby is out and you’re faced with actually having to care for it, your ass is kicked from here to Albuquerque in such a way, that any feelings of smugness quickly fade. In fact, it’s the worst “standing-naked-in-front-of-the-classroom” equivalent because you are vulnerable, have no idea what you’re doing and all of a sudden realize you’re faced with the greatest challenge (and opportunity) in your life. There is no smugness to be had when all you feel is, quite simply, humbled. Scared and humbled.

And that, my friend, is where you find yourself immediately after giving birth. But that’s a story for another day.

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End of the road

I’ve been consumed with doctor’s appointments this week and visits to the clinica (hospital) for one thing or another. Why? I guess there comes a moment in some pregnancies where the woman’s body just says “peace out” or “get this ball of baby out of here because it’s literally cramping my style.” This is what seems to be happening with me and as a result, my doctor has turned the hourglass over on this journey called pregnancy.

Like sands in the hourglass .... via 411onsoaps.com

And when I say hourglass, I mean that the days are numbered. By that I mean either tomorrow, Thursday, or next Monday, at the latest. Are you getting what I’m telling you? It means that by THIS TIME NEXT WEEK I’LL BE A MOM. Let’s ponder that for a second….

When one first embarks on this journey (again, if you’re like me), you spend a bit of time trying to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re now one of those women who breeds. You spend an equal amount of time trying to come to terms with the fact that you can no longer enjoy the glass of wine that made all lousy days bearable. Just when you need that glass of vino most, all of a sudden it’s one of the biggest no-no’s around. That and caffeine. Just like that, your morning and evening drinks are no longer applicable to your body’s new role of “baby making.”

After that initial shock and disbelief, what happened with me is that I just kind of “forgot” that I was pregnant. I use the term “forgot” quite loosely because the reality is that I took care of myself, signed up for all kinds of preggo lady newsletters, downloaded apps on my phone, went to all the necessary appointments, took all the necessary tests (pin cushion, anyone?) and took all the required vitamins (and we’re not talking the Flintstones anymore) expected of a mom-to-be. I took on the role of pregnant lady like I would take on any other responsibility and I did it as completely as possible. So what do I mean by “forgot?” I mean that I didn’t go all agro crazy about the baby. In fact it was during this time that G and I took our fabu vacation to Southeast Asia. This was followed by the craziest three months at work where I literally ate, breathed and slept all things work. In short, I didn’t buy baby things, or think about baby names or decorate the bedroom or even imagine in the slightest what the baby would be like. I wasn’t consumed at all and kind of took an “out of sight, out of mind” stance to it all.

This was a fine and dandy strategy until riiiiiiight around January of this year when we moved from our first apartment together to the one we’re in now, a move motivated exclusively by the arrival of this bundle. But even during this time, the reality of the pregnancy and the baby didn’t really, truly, sit in. I mean, sure, we all of a sudden had a physical space for the baby by way of an actual room, but up until a month ago, said room was really a storage area where G kept his tools. Even Obi wasn’t too sure what to make of that room and decided that it was the perfect place to poop on the newly rolled out carpet – hey, when in doubt use it as a bathroom.

I guess that the real “culprit” as to why I haven’t really registered this pregnancy as perhaps a “normal” woman would is that I’ve thankfully felt fine throughout the entire ordeal. It really wasn’t until about 3 weeks ago that I started to feel horrible (thank goodness for government backed maternity leave) and since I worked until the very last day the Chilean government and my employer would allow me to work, my mind was on other things: things I know, things I’m familiar with, things I’m good at. In between of course I read everything under the sun (“What to Expect When You’re not Sure What to Expect,” “What to Expect of Yourself When You’re Expecting to Blow It,” “What to Expect of a Baby with Expectations,” “When Expecting is not What you Expected Unabridged version” “Low Expectations, High Expectations and Baby in Between” etc, etc, what have you) and in reading found out way too much information about va-jay-jays, secretions, stretching and tearing and pooping when you least expect it. So what I’m saying here is this: I prepared as best I could but in reality, I prepared as if I were going into a final exam at the end of the nine months where I’d be tested on all things studied.

Here's what I imagined via Babble Blogs: Strollerderby

Except, now I know that this isn’t really going to go down like I thought (and by that I mean “read”) it would.
I hope I’m not alone in revealing that BEFORE this whole preggo ordeal I imagined birth to be like in the movies: blood, screaming, gooey, disgusting mess and total unexpected craziness. In the movies, the water breaks, the lady starts with her blood curdling screams, we fast forward to a sterile, cold birthing room, blood splattered walls, more screaming and then a slimy baby popping out from the hoo-ha. In fact it would seem that the first part of my experience isn’t going to catch me off guard at all. I had these visions that I’d be walking around the grocery store and then SPLASH!! – said water breaking and everyone around me slipping and sliding to avoid a gross encounter. I imagined having to call G detailing how “far apart” the contractions were coming and subsequently speeding down the highway so as not to pop a baby out in a car down by the river.

I know that this preggo journey is going to be over either tomorrow or, at the latest, Monday. I feel like I’ve had a total of one month to mentally prepare for this and, OF COURSE, I don’t feel prepared. I should feel like I’ve had months and months to prepare but because of my own idiosyncrasy, I didn’t afford myself this luxury of time. But then again, who’s to say that I didn’t actually do myself a favor? I mean, birth and having a baby isn’t something that one can “study” or “train” for. In fact, nine times out of ten, each time I read something, I end up freaking out or imagining a worst case scenario version of whatever I happened to have just read. What I mean by all this is, had I afforded myself the time to marinate on the pending momdom that’s fast approaching me, I would have ended up more neurotic than I already am. Despite this, I know that sitting on this side of pregnancy, a day will come when I’m on the OTHER side (i.e. with baby outside) and I’ll think back to this period and kick myself for not having known better. Even now I know that I should have embraced it more, but in the moment I just couldn’t.

And so, where do I stand given that possibly tomorrow (or Monday at the latest) a baby (A BABY!!!) that’s been a-cookin’ for the past 9+ months will make its debut? Yes, I’m scared – there’s just no way around that. However, I can’t say I’m not armed with information. If there’s something that I’ve been doing it’s reading every single day about every single possible topic related to pregnancy, newborns, bringing home baby, pooping and all that’s in between. If I were to be tested on this matter, I’d pass with flying colors, win a spanking brand new baby and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax 5-in-1 Fresh Shine Protectant. Pass me the Scantron, my #2 pencil is sharpened!

I seriously can’t believe that this period of my life is almost over. I’m not gung-ho-happy-to-be-preggo lady but it’s a time in my life that will never happen again – kind of how I view my wedding. I’m glad I have pictures of that so I can look back and remember “Oh yeah” about all the details. And speaking of pictures, throughout this pregnancy I never really shared any pictures of my pygmy hippo-ness … well, for the sake of posterity, here are a few:

6.5 months

7.5 months

9 months (with my numba one stunna)

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Thicker than water

For the past few weeks I’ve had family on my mind. I’ve been delving into all kinds of definitions and portrayals of family and here are a few of my faves and not-so-faves:

According to a simple Google search:
fam·i·ly/ˈfam(ə)lē/
A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.

From Wikipedia:
In human context, a family (from Latin: familia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children.

From Merriam-Webster:
a: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
b : a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock
c : a group of persons of common ancestry : clan

From the U.S. Census Bureau:
“A family is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together.”

After a while googling and contemplating two-dimensional meanings of the term family, I considered more entertaining portrayals of family, such as:

The Bluths. (and my personal faves) Photo courtesy of Womansday.com
The (new) Addams Family. Photo courtesy of Fanpop.com
The Arnolds! Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com
The Hoovers from Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

I much rather the depictions of family that Hollywood provides because the mom, dad, sister, brother, dog, cat realities that are out there are, frankly, a dwindling version of the kind of family that currently exists in the majority of households around the world.

When I was growing up in San Francisco, I didn’t really pay much attention to the family units of my classmates. When I moved to the suburbs, said family units were all up in my face and I quickly realized that my type of family unit was just…”weird” (for lack of a better word AND to use a word that an insecure, 14-year old might use.) I had my mom, of course, the solid rock in my life growing up. I also had a stepfather I actually really, really hated though I think I blindly tried to convince myself that I liked him AND, even funnier, that he liked me. I had a sister but said sister was always in Chile so I never really grew up with her and for the record, never, ever – to this day – bonded with her. I had aunts, uncles, cousins – all who lived in Chile, all with whom I never shared more than a week out of each year with. In short, I kind of grew up a loner (in the family sense.)

Given this, who, in turn, did I look to – and still look to – as my family? Well my well-intentioned, solid-as-a-rock, often-times-pain-in-the-ass mother, for one. And I could NEVER even utter the word “family” without immediately conjuring up images of my Tio Pato. Along that note, no image of my family could ever be complete without also picturing my cousin Tony, Uncle Pato’s son. With this, I also throw into the mix a handful of amazingly good friends and at that, we call it a day. For reals.

When I was younger, my “weird” version of family really bothered me because I compared myself to other people and what their families looked like – from the outside. But that’s just it – I saw their families from the outside and most likely projected my ideals onto them, even if that wasn’t necessarily their reality either. Who knows? Maybe their families were even weirder than mine! And of course, as one grows up and meets people from different walks of life, one begins to realize that all KINDS of families exist out there and that, just because I grew up in Edward Scissorhands-town where all family units seemed to be derived from the 1950s mold, not everyone had the standard, formerly stereotypical family. It felt good to realize this and it felt good to let it go.

That’s not to say that certain things about “family” don’t really toy with my emotions and/or generally piss me off. To begin, yes, it does make me a bit sad that my soon-to-appear kid won’t have little cousins and lots of aunts and uncles with whom to share memories with. I have one sister, divorced, (that I never see) who happens to have kids that are either 15 or 9 years older than my soon-to-appear kid; G has one brother who isn’t tied down and who doesn’t have kids. Between the two of us we have one aunt and one uncle to offer our kid and two cousins, both boys. It’s slim pickins’ for the little one, slim pickins’.

That makes me sad. What pisses me off is the fact that my father’s side of the family, father included (and yes, biologically I do have a father) kind of threaded through life pretending I didn’t exist – type of “out of sight, out of mind” just because I lived in another country. And the irony here is that THAT family is typical in so many ways and there are lots and lots of cousins and second cousins, etc that would MORE than make up for the lack of siblings G and I have to offer … but alas, that entire group is pretty much a non-issue due to the way things worked out in my life. As a result, they’ll be a non-issue for the soon-to-emerge kid.

My immediate family now consists of my husband, my beloved Obi and of course, my mom. Soon we’ll add a daughter. I think about G’s kid’s version of family and I actually think it’s awesome. They have an active mom and dad, they also have a stepmom (me) and will soon have a stepdad. Then they’ll have a half-sister (the current pea-in-the-pod) and I’m sure that their mom will likely have more kids and so then they’ll have yet another half-sibling. In addition to this, they have three or four uncles, all of whom have small kids ages 2 months – 6 years old. Despite not living in a “traditional” mom and dad household, they truly have a lovely version of what is family. For them, family get-togethers are truly family get-togethers.

I think the best those of us with the non-traditional sense of the word family can do is embrace the people that matter. I know this sounds simple and elementary but at the end of the day, I realize that as time passes the “traditional” family has morphed. It no longer includes JUST your dad or JUST your mom. It no longer includes only a sister and a brother, uncles, aunts and cousins. And it might just be a mom, dad and dog or mom and daughter. Or uncle and son. There are a million variations and everything seems pretty legit.

From my personal experience, blood does not a family member make. The proof for me is apparent in my reality. I have five uncles and aunts on my mom’s side of the family and in turn, through them, have 12 cousins. The reality is that of all those “family members” I truly only consider half of them family and only 2 of them true, immediate family. On my father’s side I have four aunts and uncles and through them about 12 cousins as well. Aside from my nephews, I consider NONE of them to be family (they should be so lucky.) And we’re supposed to believe that blood makes the relative and that relative makes the family? This truly is a subject matter that is up for interpretation and a subject matter that begs the redefinition of the concept of family.

Would you agree that the word and meaning of family is fantastically loaded? Do you think it’s open for real interpretation?

Discuss.

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When Surprise Visits Make Your Weekend

One of the things that really, truly bummed me out when I got married last year was the fact that none – literally none – of my friends back home attended. I understand why, of course, and can even explain to you the reason behind their absences. Mainly it had to do with the fact that initially G and I were planning to get married in November 2010 and instead, moved the date up to April 2010. I communicated this change about five months in advance but of course, I understand that Chile is far, it’s expensive to travel and that they (my friends) had every right to prioritize their spending. After all, I was the one who randomly switched the date on them, regardless of the advance notice.

Truth be told, it hurt a lot. I couldn’t believe that I was finally – FINALLY – getting married and not one single friend was there. The sting was lessened because I was completely and 100% happy to have had the friends I had made in Chile present, almost symbolizing the here and now. I was also really happy that my most favorite person in the whole wide world came: my Tio Pato.

Only the most amazing uncle of all time.

I grew up in San Francisco, far away from where the majority of my blood relatives lived – Chile. On both sides of the family I happen to have many aunts and uncles and a ridiculous, only-in-Latin-families amount of cousins. The thing is that they all lived down here while I was happily growing up in Northern California. The only family I had while growing up were my mom (obviously), two-great aunts, my Tio Pato (my mom’s brother) and my Tio Pato’s son (and my cousin), Tony.

Tony and I shared a similar story actually. He was born in the U.S. but his mom had moved there from Chile in the late 70s/early 80s and like me, Tony had family down here but rarely saw them. He once traveled with my aunt and uncle to Chile but apparently he was too young to remember and it wasn’t until he was well in his teens that he finally began to fully embrace his Chilean roots. Again, a little like me.

Tony and I also grew up a lot like brother and sister. He’s an only child and though I have a sister, she didn’t live in the U.S. with us and as such, I also grew up pretty much as an only child. Since my mother counted her brother as one of the very few family members with whom she could share things with, we spent a lot of time with my aunt, uncle and cousin: camping trips, 4th of July bbqs, Chilean asados, birthday parties, Christmases, New Years, etc. There was even a time when my mom and I went to live with them, result of a nasty separation she was going through. The point being that Tony and I share a lot of fond memories of growing up in the late 80s and early 90s.

My First Communion. I was 7, Tony must have been all of 3.

When he was a toddler, he was an annoying little sh*t who cried for no reason and when my mom used to babysit him, she’d quiet him down by literally sitting his naked little butt in a sink of ice, cold water. (This was the 80s and the ‘time-out’ business parents use now wasn’t the norm.) When he got his first Nintendo, we played Super Marios Bros until we couldn’t see straight, well past our bedtime, defiant until the end (we needed to raid the castle to rescue the princess!) Rumor even has it that Tony got stoned for the very first time with one of my high school boyfriends! I told him everything he needed to know about high school: dances, lockers, class schedules, popularity, cheerleaders, newspapers, what-have-you and assured him that since I was going through high school first, I would make sure to be super popular so that when he got there, it would be a breeze for him (he ultimately ended up going to a different high school. Good thing because I don’t recall ever being the said Miss Popularity I promised him I’d be!)

We even fought like brother and sister. One time, I was (per usual) making fun of his name – not Tony, but his full name, Domingo Antonio. I ran around his apartment laughing and taunting him “Ha ha, your name is Sunday, your name is Sunday!” I must have been 14, he was probably around 9 and in response to this taunting (which I smugly found to be brilliantly humorous), he did what any 9 year old would do – he punched me in the face. I remember cupping my cheek and looking at him, totally in shock and with my mouth gaping open. “Oh.my.God.” I said to him. “You… are.. going…. to… be… in… so… much… trouble… I’m totally going to tell on you!!” And I ran off and locked myself in the bathroom for a good half hour. It didn’t really hurt, you see. I just wanted to make him suffer and for that entire half hour, I was pleased at myself as I heard him banging on the door freaking out “Don’t tell my mom, don’t tell my dad, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” (In the end, I don’t even remember if I ended up telling on him, but I’ll never forget how much he freaked out after punching me.)

I’m guessing I’m 19 or 20 and he’s 15 or 16. This was years after punching me in the face but actually it occurred in that apt!
Tony and I as tourists in Valparaiso in December 2006.
Tony and I at my uncle’s 60th bday in Jan 2006 – buzzed hair not a good look for you, primo.
Does anyone else feel like I’m equally chronicling Tony’s hair through the years?

Tony didn’t make it to my wedding either, but this was mostly due to bad timing on our part. You see, Tony moved to Australia to work for a magazine right around the time that G and I got married. I was

sad that he wasn’t there because even though there were many cousins in attendance, he was the one cousin that really, truly mattered. The last time I saw him was in 2009, during a trip to CA, before he moved to Australia. All that changed, one random day, about a month ago.

Now, let me preface this with telling you how Tony’s evolved as he’s stepped into, yes, manhood. For one thing, post-high school he chose to use his birth name both professionally and socially. He is not known as “Tony” to anyone that has met him post 20-years of age; he’s known as Domingo (yes, Sunday!) It’s funny because the difference is clearly marked. His high school friends and his entire family call him Tony … everyone after, calls him Domingo. Also, he’s turned into an amazingly cool guy. Meaning, that same kid that was kicking and screaming outside the door, freaking out that I’d tell on him for punching me, would now be like “whatever, dude” and somehow manage to turn the situation into nothing, simply by being charming or saying something bogus and out there (perhaps he’s mastered the Jedi-mind trick, who knows?) He’s a little bohemian, a little hippy-ish, a lot artsy and definitely an outside-the-box thinker. He isn’t a planner and more so follows the moment, the high (life high, that is), the movement, the flow, what have you.

This is the guy who randomly called me on an insignificant Friday in May – OUT OF NOWHERE – and said “Hey cuz, it’s me, Tony. I’m in Chile.”

WHAT THE MOTHER-F*CKING WHAT??!!

Yes, he was in Chile and yes, he’d been here for about a week, doing his thing and, as usual, going with the flow. Venturing out and randomly landing in Chile. Such is life with him. He didn’t have time to see other family members and so it meant that much more to me that he called to make sure we saw each other before he returned to Australia.

The bearded cousin, circa now.
Our signature go-to awkward smile-for-the-camera. Years of perfecting this, people!

I’m not sure any other visit would have made me quite so happy, truth be told. We only hung out a few hours, three tops. We all went out to dinner to a typical Chilean restaurant and basically hung out, shot the sh*t and had a nostalgia-filled time. We reminisced, just like old people. We called my uncle (who, by the way, nearly cried at the thought of both my cousin and I hanging out after so much time living outside CA.) We laughed, we drank wine, we called each other “dude” one time too many. All we needed to make the night complete was a round of Super Mario Bros. And as silly as it may sound, I was happy because I was able to share my life now, time with my husband, my apartment, my dog – everything – with someone who has always meant very much to me, through the good and through the bad. The only thing that would have made the night complete, would have been to have my uncle right there with us.

That’s ok, though. Mantuvimos al Tio muy presente. Even force-feeding Gonzalo in the same manner Tio Pato is known to do (with family and complete strangers, mind you.)

Open wiiiiide! Who doesn’t like sea urchin, anyway?

Dear cuz: Thanks for the random call, thanks for the extra time. See you in your neck of the woods in October.

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