Green stalks rustle in a hot September breeze, the last vibrant greenery left in our garden. I stand beside them and lift my chin back…back…back to look up at the tops of the stalks. However, it is the heritage, not the height, of the corn that glorifies that planting in our garden’s history. My first trip to Mexico was just a family vacation, but it turned into an adventure that imprinted me with many memories. When I would look up at those stalks reaching into the sky far above my head, I didn’t see merely leaves and stems. I saw a parrot fish gnawing on coral beneath turquoise waters, the mysterious grandeur of El Castillo, and the smiling faces of a humble Mayan family we had the honor to meet.
My first full day in Mexico was colored by a trip to Isla de Mujeres where we rode bicycles to Tortugranja, a turtle farm, browsed the small souvenir shops, and went on a haphazard snorkeling trip. I was still in awe over the clear turquoise ocean and was eager to try snorkeling out for the first time. When the boat stopped, the people over the tour rushed us to follow the guide, who was already off and swimming. Under pressure, I jumped off the stern with my street clothes still over my bathing suit and my breathing tube unhooked from my goggles. Despite stinging salt water leaking into my goggles, once in the water I learned quickly and was able to watch parrot fish munching on coral, hold a starfish our guide plucked off the bottom of the inlet, and get so close to a school of fish that I could feel the small jets of water they produced.
If I thought the wonders of that first day could not be matched, I was wrong. Patrick was the name of the driver who would introduce us to the side of Mexico unimaginable from our beachfront resort. The first stop on our journey was Chichen Itza, where I marveled at the mystery of the lost Mayan civilization and the magnificent El Castillo, the famous Mayan pyramid. Next, Patrick drove us to the beautifully exotic Il Kil cenotÃ©, a well of deep infinite blue water dotted with catfish. While the cenotÃ© cooled me off, our final stop warmed my heart. Patrick surprised us by taking us on a side trip to a Mayan family’s home. They didn’t have much—hammocks, stick buildings, a wood cooking stove with a fifty-gallon drum lid for a griddle, a few pigs, a TV that looked out of place, and, of course, corn. My sister and I were shown how to make tortillas on the improvised skillet. The Mayans spoke no English, but we communicated with them through gestures and smiles. When we were shown the corn crib, the mother placed a handful of their precious kernels into my mom’s hand. My mom nodded and put them into her pocket appreciatively.
I didn’t want to leave Mexico after the week was over, but I was home all too soon. It was a few days later that the laundry was sorted out, and it was then that my mom found the corn kernels, forgotten all this time. Now, there it was, our gift from the other world we’d found, a world where, sometimes, corn is gold. I planted it tenderly in our garden next to our own corn. Ironically, out of all the plants we grew that year, only those seeds flourished.
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