Since college, I've been challenged to think about the ways I had always thought about hospitality.
I went to a Lutheran college, and maybe it was just the people I hung out with and their families, but ELCA Lutherans (other Lutherans, you may be just as good about this, but I've got a lot more ELCA friends than LCMS or smaller denominations), in my experience, tend to go above and beyond when it comes to being hospitable. For example, at a friend's wedding a few hours from my house, I had some vague plans about where I'd stay, but nothing had been formalized. Once I ran into my friends coming in from the East Coast, I figured that we'd split the cost of a hotel room together. However, one of these friends had an aunt and uncle in the town near where the wedding was held. By the end of the rehearsal dinner, my friend had invited at least 5 of us back to her relatives' house. I was a bit nervous to see her aunt's reaction, but the aunt couldn't have been more gracious.
Really?!? FIVE unexpected guests?!? And she seemed HAPPY about it?!?
Who does that?!?
Mexicans do, too, but in a more limited sense (in my experience). The month after Clara was born, we played host not only to Mario's parents and younger sister, but his elderly aunt, older sister, two nieces, and cousin. All but the cousin arrived in one Pontiac Firebird. Yes, that is a 10-hour drive. I let them figure out where they'd all sleep, and it all worked out quite well.
I've been in on the receiving end as well, when we descended in on Mario's aunt in Veracruz one year for New Year's, along with his parents and sister. Already living in the house were his aunt, uncle, 3 cousins, 100-year-old grandfather, aunt, and a very old parrot. Again, it all worked out, and I remember being surprised how well I did sleep, packed in like sardines as we were.
Family is always welcome at any time, in any amount, and for however long (in most situations).
Currently, Mario's cousin is living with us, and has been for a few months and will be staying rather indefinetly. One of my gringo friends wondered how we do it, do we feel like the house is ours, our space comprised? Not at all. I enjoy having another adult to talk with, glad that Clara's finally getting a steady source of Spanish, and she works so much that she's hardly ever here. Furthermore, she often cooks and does dishes when she actually is around, so I'll never complain!
Slowly but surely, Clara's getting more and more attached to her Tia Patty. They often hole themselves up together while Patty puts on her makeup for work, liberally dousing Clara in lotion, which she loves. Within the last two weeks, she's been practicing saying "Tia Patty", which comes out either "Tia" or "Patty", but rarely together.
But yesterday, Patty sealed the deal on Clara's affections. When Clara woke up, Patty told her she had bought her a present. They went to Patty's room, and Clara came back triumphantly clutching a plastic bag with something inside. At that point, it probably didn't matter what was inside--Clara's a big fan of toting bags around. Eventually, she did get curious enough to look and see what the real present was, and it was a new water bottle (with pink princesses) and a PERMANENTLY ATTACHED STRAW!
When you're two, it doesn't get much cooler than a new cup with a straw.
Usually, during the day when it's just me and Clara in the house, she's often preoccupied with asking where Mario is. "Papa? Papa?" Yesterday, after Patty went to work, she changed her tune. It was all, "Patty? Patty? Tia?"
Ooo--we're getting lowered on the cool scale. And I couldn't be happier. I'm glad she's branching out with her affections.