It was a full and fulfilling Saturday, the 29th of December, a day significant for many people near to us. Two family birthdays fall on this day: Pedro's sister Nina, entering the final year of her 20's and expecting child #2 in a matter of weeks, and our nephew Jonathan turning 24 and becoming a first-time dad in the new year. WhatsApp messages were exchanged on our "Garcia's habla" chat with lighthearted banter and funny memes wishing Nina a happy birthday (which she insists is her eternal 28th!) Happy birthday greetings were sent via Facebook to Jonathan, who would be celebrating with extended family at home later that evening.
To keep a holiday tradition and promise alive, I made and served our favorite coffee cake this Saturday morning. After months of loud construction, the unusual silence and lazy morning was inviting us to do something different and meaningful. We piled onto our two couches and found the first chapter of Pastor Greg's sermon series on James through my parents' church's Facebook page, connecting it to our television. "Look! The choir!" exclaimed Eva as we tuned in just at the choir's exit. Mom-Mom's faithful participation and ours last year while on furlough, lent itself to sentimentality. "That was a long prayer," Owen opined as the sermon opened, but to their credit the kids sat quietly and listened in a rare low-key moment of family togetherness invested in something much worthier than another Netflix cartoon.
It was a great way to start the morning and somehow tempered the news that Mommy would be unveiling a summer activities' list to be completed before electronics each day. For the most part, our kids took the news in stride and began checking items off, one at a time. While bedrooms were tackled, I spoke with my parents through WhatsApp video chat and filled them in on the morning's events while catching up on their recent news. Mom shared her excitement about starting the New Year with her new Bible studies, both personally and at their retirement community and church. Several of our kids made cameo appearances on camera in between chores. Eventually we said our goodbyes and I headed to an overdue shower in preparation for shuttling Isabel to her first responder training in a short while.
Eva and Silas accompanied us on the drop-off across town, and we returned home by way of the peninsula (for slushies) and the grocery store (for food items and flowers.) After briefly stopping at the house to deliver the groceries, I drove to the cemetery nearest our home. Silas fell asleep and Eva willingly stayed in the car to keep him company. I carefully crossed the four lanes of traffic to climb the sloped hill to the grassy plateaus dotted with headstones. This cemetery is perhaps the greenest place in Iquique and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is peaceful and beautiful and sad, and on this day was also crowded with two funeral processions taking turns to drive up the single lane with foot traffic following behind and mournful music playing. On a 29th of December six years ago, our friends and colleagues were marked by tragedy with the untimely death of their young adult daughter. I knew it would be meaningful for them to know we had been here since they now live too far away to come. I was not the first visitor, as evidenced by matching bouquets on either side of the carefully kept marker. Placing ours in the middle, I snapped a picture and said a prayer for our friends before sending the photograph to them.
We'd not been home long again when Eva's search on Yapo led her to a unexpected sale of hamsters and the request for a ride to pick them up immediately, as she and her friend Meme have a breeding program planned out for this summer. I had just enough time to place chicken in the oven and leave it in Pedro's capable hands. It was nearly time to pick up Isabel but the hamsters were on our way, so Silas, Ian, Eva and I departed on this newest adventure. Long story short, we returned with Isabel and not one or two but three dwarf hamsters to Eva's lasting delight! To my delight, Pedro had the rest of the meal prepared but he was off delivering Owen to his evening's activities so we got the table set and served just as he returned.
My to-do list was left mostly undone throughout the day - reports and bills and unexciting but needful tasks still to be completed. I oversaw Silas' bath after dinner and when he fell asleep, so did I. Nothing of earth-shattering significant was accomplished on this Saturday, but time was invested in people and moments of life together as a family. And on this full and fulfilling day, somehow that was simply enough.