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First Impressions


Parroquia 1

The Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende


I think it’s safe to admit that I am a ‘firsts’ junkie. I love that feeling of seeing and experiencing something for the first time…that ‘something’, of course, being qualified by a joyful, beautiful, take your breath away type of moment—first time you see your kids walk, first time hearing them speak a recognizable word, first kiss, first love, first concert, first time seeing the Eiffel Tower…those kinds of things.

This sentiment definitely applies to settling in and living in a new place…something we have done a lot of. In that regard, my feelings towards loving ‘firsts’ also has to do with hope—hope for a better tomorrow, a bright today, that we are landing in a good place for my family, my children, my dog, myself.

I do love the childlike innocence and giddiness that is evoked from witnessing something for the first time. Like when we moved to San Miguel de Allende and took our first outing into the city. We ventured to the town center, El Jardin and La Parroquía. It was Mairead and Liam’s first time ever in a 17th century Neo-gothic impressive church, with its two towers, stain-glassed ceilings, and a choir window framed by pink sandstone.

Inside Parroquia 1

A wedding was in progress and the church was filled with the sounds of Ave Maria. To see the look on my children’s faces and sense the emotion evoked in them was priceless.  A first for sure. Something I will never forget.

Upon exciting La Parroquía, we were greeted by 2 larger than life, approximately 20-feet each bride and groom ‘human puppets’ that were spinning and dancing to the live banda music, stooping over to surprise the bystanders, waiting for the bride and groom to exit the church, whereupon a full dance fiesta ensued around the Jardín, wedding party and spectators invited to join in on the celebration! This was a first for sure for our whole family! In all of my years of traveling and living internationally, I had never seen anything quite like it–so much energy, so much joy, so much noise and color permeating the air. ¡Viva México!

20 ft. puppets

‘Puppet people waiting’ for the bride and groom to exit the church

This was a great first introduction to our new town. A radical change from life in the jungle, a massive shift in our consciousness, outlook and ideas around what life would now look like for us. Being in colonial downtown San Miguel de Allende in the middle of Mexico, far away from the coast and the surfing culture, now in a much more modern and cosmopolitan environment, quickly made me realize that it is time to ditch the jungle sandals!

I remember our first few days of exploring the city, me walking around in my sandy flip flops and torn jean mini skirt, definitely aware of the looks I was getting. Apparently beach attire is not the norm around here. Cue in the wake-up call! A wardrobe upgrade is definitely in order. And a shift in perspective in what our lives now look like, being inland in the high desert versus coastal in the hot, wet jungle.

It is an adjustment for sure, a shift, a reality change. Some good, some not so good, some bitter sweet, mostly just an opportunity to define the two realities. After 45 years of living by the beach, my babies having been born and raised coastal and my husband being a surfer at heart, this is a big change for our family. But as in everything else we do, we approach it with optimism, seeking the good, the lessons, the opportunities, the beauty and FUN in it all.

Our children have beautifully assimilated into and are excelling at their new school. They are both involved in soccer 3 days a week at the local community center, take Capoiera once a week at Parque Bonito Juarez, perform at Bellas Artes, know their way around this colorful, cobblestone, colonial town, and navigate themselves in a bilingual and bicultural world seemlesly with a smile on their face and good cheer in their hearts.

Capoiera June 2014 SMA

Practicing Capoiera at Parque Bonito Juarez, San Miguel de Allende

We are settling into our home, opening the boxes, dusting off the personal artifacts, hanging the pictures, making this space ours. Frank and Mairead have been working on our organic garden, we have a compost area up and running, bought 15 meters of grass to fill in the front yard, and when we return from our upcoming 2 week trip to the states we will put in a tether ball and welcome 2 baby chicks to Casa O’Grady.

Do we miss our lives in San Pancho, Nayarit? Parts of it for sure. And there are many parts too that we are happy to do without, like the sweltering heat and invasion of mosquitos at this time of year. The weather here in San Miguel is so pleasant–cool in the mornings, warm during the day, low humidity, no mold issues, no fighting the elements. We get an occasional late afternoon/evening thunder storm and are often entertained with the sounds of fireworks and fiestas. We are making friends, developing community, finding our new way on this continuum of life. Our children continue to blossom in so many dynamic, colorful ways that humble me and amaze me every single day. They are the concrete, tangible ‘proof’ that we are making the right choices, to live this life of adventure and diverse opportunities.

We are often asked if we will return to the states when Mairead and Liam are ready for high school or if we will encourage them to do so for college. Highly unlikely. At a time when fathers are inventing bullet proof blankets for their elementarty-aged children to take to school for ‘protection’ from deranged shooters, I’d say my ideal vision for our children does not include returning to the states for anything other than family visits and travel.

There is a BIG world out there, with so much to see, so much to experience, so many firsts and seconds and thirds to be had. We get this one shot, this one chance at life here on planet earth. There are no retakes or do-overs.  I want my children to suck the marrow out of life and get out there and LIVE it in whatever ways they deem good for themselves. If that involves returning to the states, then that will be their choice, and I will support them whole-heartedly and unconditionally. Considering the dynamics of their upbringing, I have no doubt that they will approach their decision making with a sound, global, discerning outlook. There will be mistakes and hard lessons along the way, no doubt, and I can’t shelter them from those. My babies are blossoming, they are reaping the benefits of all of the many firsts they themselves have had.

Our twins turn 10 this month, entering the world of double digits! Another big first for sure! This is a huge rite of passage for Mairead and Liam, and an emotion-filled one for their Mama. I am grateful they are such little adventures and fun partners in this dance of life.  I treasure every moment I am gifted with them and embrace the opportunities for a lot more firsts!

Stay tuned!

The O’Grady Adventure continues…

About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 18-year-old twins who were just 8 when we immigrated to Mexico in 2012, we have created a joyful life of design and freedom South of The Border. Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Saludos, Katie 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Donna Q June 10, 2014, 4:31 pm

    Great writing again Katie and Frank, we love the stories… It inspires so much hope.. thank you 🙂

    • Katie O'Grady June 10, 2014, 5:30 pm

      Thank you for following our journey Donna! Love seeing your comments!

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