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The Bus to Maitencillo

Christmas Eve on the other side of the planet, and we had just missed our bus. Raw chicken was thawing in my backpack as we trudged along la Alameda in Santiago’s 85-degree heat, through throngs of late shoppers and sidewalk vendors, from one bus station to another.

Susan and I were visiting our son Danny, who had just completed his foreign study program at la Universidad de Chile. Danny’s Chilean host family had invited us to overnight at their beach house in Maitencillo (my-ten-SEE-yo). They had already left for the beach, but since Danny had visited there once before, he remembered which bus to take for our two-hour ride to the Pacific.

Though we lived in California, we traditionally spent the holidays in Arizona with our extended family. We missed our other son and our son-in-law, our cousins, nieces and nephews. It was hard to be away from my sister, who had lost her husband at the beginning of that year, and our mom, then 95. We came from a Jewish family, but my sister had married a Catholic guy years before, and their three grown daughters had married two Protestants and an Orthodox Jew and produced six kids of their own.

So we had quite a sampling of Judeo-Christian religions. Our family holiday gatherings, which often numbered 15 or 20 at someone’s house or at a restaurant, were warm and gabby, inclusive and nonreligious. Sometimes we got together separately with the Jewish relatives to exchange Hanukkah presents, sometimes . . . CONTINUE READING: The Bus to Maitencillo