Being Thankful - A Christmas to Remember

I  landed in the middle of central Mexico and I had a 103 degree fever.    It was our family trip scheduled over the Christmas holiday.   We would celebrate my in-laws, Earl and Eileen Eliason's, 50th wedding anniversary.   We were to arrive at Hacienda las Trancas in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.   As I stood in line waiting to show our visas to the customs officials, beads of sweat were forming on my brow.   My eyes darted about reading posters about Ebola and the symptoms that would preclude a tourist from entering the country.   It began to dawn on me that I might not make it into the country with my family.   I made it through  and  was thrilled to find our welcoming party did not include trumpets, tequila, mariachis and  sombreros.   Wait ... that was Cancun 1990 with my college friends. Thankfully, our driver spoke little English and allowed me to sleep for 90 minutes   in the front seat as we bumped along the Mexican highways to the small town of Trancas, Mexico. In the same way I conduct my business travel with little more than an iPhone and the map app, I had done little research on our destination.   Over the course of the trip, I began to realize that just like America fought to declare its independence from British rule, Mexico was rich in revolutionary history in their triumph over Spain. This central part of Mexico was the epicenter where it all took place in the early 1800s.   In other words, we were in the Boston, Massachusetts of Mexico.   It would be a trip our family would always remember, as we pulled up to a 450 year old ex-hacienda.   We felt like Spanish royalty entering a fortress through the giant wooden arched doors.   My wife was smart to point me to an area we later called the infirmary.   It was my own suite with a king-size bed where I slept for hours until my fever broke.

When I walked out into a daze into the courtyard, I realized that we were in the most magical of places in Central Mexico, north of San Miguel de Allende,  Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato.   The same site was photographed by Vogue magazine in this shoot. The dinner  bell rang out at 6:00 p.m.   I found the rest of the family (who somehow escaped my germs)  at the dinner table waiting to be served.   What's this ... a staff of fifteen would be caring for our every need and serving us homemade Mexican cooking (every fruit and vegetable was safe to eat). Each day also brought homemade tortilla chips and margaritas at 5:00 p.m. in the courtyard. At dinner, I made sure to keep my distance as we sat at a Spanish style table that was no less than 30 yards long.   We were greeted by Yolanda, the sweetest Spanish cook and caretaker you could ever meet.

While our trips into each town provided cultural and artistic surprises, it was our sanctuary at the Hacienda that we looked forward to the most.   Our two boys had a blast riding horseback and playing ping pong every day while Kristen and I enjoyed hot stone massages, riding bikes, reading books in the hammocks, watching the sunrise and sunset, and playing games with our family.   There was even a full-service gym next to the spa that was as nice as most fitness centers in Dallas.

This Christmas was not full of the tradition of driving to different houses to open presents like we have done in years past.   In fact, there were no presents to be opened at all with one exception ... Kristen and Lois had reached out to all of Earl and Eileen's friends and family over 50 years of marriage and asked if they would provide a memory, write a letter or furnish a picture for the anniversary book that was being secretly put together for Earl and Eileen.   Watching them open the gift, cry together like two teenage sweethearts and savor every page was unforgettable.   While all the credit goes to our awesome  wives, it allowed us all to play a part in presenting a special gift to the two most deserving of recipients.

As our trip started coming to an end, we got concerned we were running out of time.   Earl and Eileen concluded the celebration anniversary dinner by sharing some memories and Earl read a poem he wrote entitled a "Half Century Day".   One of my favorite evenings was when the parents and kids all joined together to play Uno.   As we pulled away from Hacienda las Trancas, we signed the guest book with the same wonderment we shared when we arrived. A half century day ... turned into a magical week ... full of cool nights and seventy degree days that our family will never forget.   Memories made that will last a lifetime ... and 50 years of marriage celebrated  in the grandest of style.

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