If you are Cuban, you have family in Miami. If you live in a cold clime, like Chicago, you welcome going to visit them during the relentless winter. That sounds simple enough, no? It is. Until you have children. And you’ve gone Green. (Or, “loca”, if your abuela was to describe it.)
Packing was easy enough. Organic everything, including sun block. I also packed my BPA-free baby food maker. (Yes. I made all of my child’s food on holiday.) Traveling wasn’t too difficult, as I had cleverly sent the safest car seat to my family in advance. Right. I also sent a sleeping cot. (Fine. Full disclosure: I also had bought airplane air purifiers. I made up some story about my eldest having multiple allergies that required such an odd thing. It was my most Michael Jackson in a mask moment, I promise.)
Off we went.
I cleverly stayed at a hotel, that I might avoid offending la familia with my fear of…everything. Thinking my plan flawless, I was soon to discover that I could confuse and annoy my sweetly indulgent familia, even on my own “turf”. (In their defense, no one questioned my seemingly deranged ways. I was treated as any other hysterical first time Cuban mama. Bless.)
This bit shall be titled: The 5 Top Ways to Look Absolutely Loca
1. Act Bananas
We had our first familia breakfast, poolside, at the lovely Biltmore Hotel. My tia handed my son a banana. I took it away. Then out from my baby bag, voila! An organic banana! Naturally, I was asked from whence this fruit, only one day into our trip. I stopped at Whole Foods on our way from the airport, I explained. Oh. Bueno, they said, feeling sorry for my must-be-suffering-husband.
2. No Pools
Pools are ubiquitous in Florida. I know that we have the ocean, but by Zeus, one must also have a pool. The Biltmore Hotel has one of the largest hotel pools in the country. My primas and tias had all brought their bathing suits for a swim. Let’s take Alden for a swim! said they. No, said I. Why not? They wondered. Chlorine. ¿Qué? Chlorine. Then a good 15 minutes of my explaining the dangers of pools to my primas. A moment they still can’t describe without dissolving into louder than Anglo laughter.
3. Santa Maria
All Cuban children teethe on Maria cookies. I don’t know why, but we do. I did. All of the babies in our families had. Until mine. Surely, they reasoned, a few Maria cookies would be fine, as we all had eaten them and hadn’t keeled over? No. Disculpa. And then my second lecture of the day. I had, of course, memorized all of the offending ingredients, which then led into a dissertation on sugar. (This moment has not only not been forgotten by my family, but it assured that I should always have a fresh pack of Maria cookies left for me on my bedside table when I visit. To this very day.)
4. Not Very Polished
A common family activity in my tribe is to go for a mani-pedi together. (You know where this is going.) Let’s go get a mani-pedi while tia watches the baby! suggested my primas. I can’t, I explained. ¿Por qué? They asked, as clearly the baby wasn’t coming along. I’m still breastfeeding, I explained. And I don’t want any more chemicals in my already, pre-green, polluted breast milk. A quick “okay”, was offered, as they didn’t want to hear what was going to be another, inevitable, science lesson on nail polish. (I was sent a nail polish collection one Christmas later. Cheeky, those Cubans.)
After a few hours in the humidity, my primas and tias joined me up in my room. Alden was a bit sweaty, so I decided to give him a bath. The entire familia followed, (as Cubans will die if not within touching distance of another human). WHAT is THAT?!?!, they asked in unison. (Oh, I forgot to tell you. I also packed a bath water ball filter. Yup. I did do.) It’s a filter. For the water. For the baby.
No one asked ¿Por qué?