If a looming January has you dreaming of an escape to Mexico, travel with me for a moment to a sweet little cooking school in Puerto Morelos:
To duck beneath the arches of the breezy hacienda terrace of Casa Caribe is to escape instantly from the sun-baked attractions and adrenalin-soaked adventures that are the core of a Mayan Riviera experience on Mexico’s Yucatan coast. Beneath the high ceilings of this unassuming guesthouse, the smell of coffee wafts past a mural of Mexican lovers in a jewel-toned landscape and white wicker chairs beckon from across the cool terracotta tiles…
Consider the case of a 1990 prenatal class, where five couples took a break from their Lamaze breathing to muse about their future as first-time parents. Two months after the birth of their May babies, they got together to compare notes. And never looked back.
Coffee time became brunch, which became hikes and camping trips, skating parties and ski days. The burgeoning clan developed rituals, as extended families do. Pumpkin carving in October. New Year’s in Whitefish, MT. Canada Day in BC’s Columbia River valley. And May barbecues to celebrate the births that brought them together.
In a Mel Brooks moment, they nicknamed themselves “The Producers” and proceeded to be just that. Time brought not only new babies, but overseas moves (and returns), career changes, high school graduations, and departures for university. And while the kindred bonds stretched a bit, they never broke.
Now twenty members strong, the tribe’s traditions continue and the young Products have established new rituals of their own. Think wing nights and club-hopping and community sports teams – with whoever happens to be in town.
It’s been 25 years as a “family by choice” for our gang. Worthy of an epic anniversary celebration. So in a mammoth effort that was more than a year in the planning, we pulled our family members from jobs and schools across the country to descend for one week on the unsuspecting Yucatan coast.
Fortunately, the NOW Sapphire was up to the task: yoga and tennis and water sports for the active set; a long white talc beach for our shore-seekers; and engaging and efficient bartenders for the cocktail crowd. Our family ebbed and flowed in groups of 2 to 20 according to energy and inclination – and the resort proved small enough to track each other down but large enough to steal away for a little alone time. We squabbled over tipping; debated dining choices and politics with equal vigour; shared cocktail discoveries; and caught up on matters of love and career.
But we’re not ones to stay put for long. The scuba divers among us made their way to shadowy cenotes and shrouded wrecks. The foodies chopped and charred to their hearts’ delight with Chef Salvador Fernandez at The Little Mexican Cooking School. And a large snorkeling armada bobbed among the reefs, discovering barracudas and eagle rays and a sea turtle swimming off with the current.
The whole gang assembled with the knowledgeable and ever-amiable Jonhy and Ismael from Alltournative EcoArcheological Expeditions for a classic Producers’ adventure: kayaking across marshes and swimming in caverns; rappeling into cenotes and ziplining through the canopy . We gorged on traditional village cooking and scrambled up and down the Coba temples. And when the Mayan elder wafted sweet-smelling smoke over our heads, he didn’t need to tell us that we were truly blessed.
Our 25th anniversary celebrations reached their ultimate crescendo at the Sapphire’s sparkling New Year’s Eve party – with winter wonderland decorations and Cirque-de-Soleil-like entertainment that took direct aim at our Canadian hearts. Dinner brought compelling wines, ambitious courses of beautifully-served food, and a DJ astute to our tendency to break into dance at the slightest excuse. As the midnight fireworks burst along the shore and torch-light glittered off the water, we made a hearty toast to our good fortune, hugged our adopted kin tight and close, and breathed a wish for 2016 into each other’s ear.
To you, too, I wish FELIZ AÑO NUEVO and a HAPPY NEW YEAR. May you all find family where you need them in 2016.
And to my Producers family – here’s to the next 25!
(With thanks to Mark Brownlie for his remarkable memoir, Ill-Mannered and Misbehaved: The First 25 Years of the Baby Gang.)