Category Archives: Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Piano shopping

upright piano

My son has been after me for awhile about getting a piano.  As a piano is a major investment, I’d been putting him off.  Then, all of a sudden, my mom is getting rid of MY piano.  It’s an Opera piano made in 1893. It’s a gorgeous upright with a rich, melodious sound. Of course, it is in Pennsylvania and I haven’t played it in more than 20 years, but still.  According to The Antique Piano Shop, pianos made during the last decade of the 19th century (as my piano was) are “some of the finest craftsmanship and quality ever to be put into piano manufacturing.”  So it’s a pretty good piano.

Then, the very next day, there was an ad in the local paper about a piano for sale.  As we determined it would cost more to go and get MY piano than to purchase another one, we decided to go and check this one out.

 

The man who was selling the piano was obviously a music teacher.  The piano in question was a Kimball studio piano and he wanted 17,000 pesos for it.  I sat and played around on it for a bit.  It was ok.  It had been refinished.  The owner went on and on about the quality of the piano, that it came from a New York company and that it should be kept out of the light to protect the finish and sound.  Hmm–Kimball was never more than a mediocre piano, manufactured in Chicago, and I had NEVER heard anything about sound being affected by sunlight.  I said I would think about it and we left.

A few days later,  I sent my husband to ask if he would consider lowering the price.  I felt that maybe 14,000 pesos was a fair price.  My husband arrived and spoke with the owner who said he’d lower the price $500 pesos but then he wouldn’t tune the piano once it had been moved.  As my husband was leaving, he ran into another person who had come to see the piano.  This person said that he had purchased the piano but had returned it since it would not stay in tune.  This indicated to me that there was something wrong with the piano and I crossed it off the potential list.piano logo

So then I tried a google search.  Morelia is about an hour away and is a city with a bit of culture.  Certainly, there must be pianos for sale there.  I found a lovely website with pianos in my price range, however, messages and phone calls went unanswered.  So I went to the second in the list, Su Majestad El Piano (Your Majesty the Piano) a bit of a pretentious name, but I received an immediate response to my message.  They even have a page on Facebook.  I set up an appointment for that Friday and printed out driving directions.

warehouse piano

It was a straight shot to the local.  We arrived a little early and had time to enjoy some tacos de canasta (basket tacos) while we waited for the place to open.  We talked with Lulu the owner who suggested we go to the warehouse to see the options.  As we weren’t familiar with Morelia and it was raining cats and dogs, we all went in her mini-van.  

packard upright

It was an amazing experience.  First, we looked at the upright pianos much like MY piano in PA.  There was a whole room of them in various conditions.  Some were pristine, others looked like they needed some work.  We decided that an upright would just be too big for the little house in Sunflower Valley, so we headed out into the main warehouse.

brabury piano

It was a veritable feast for the senses. We must have spent about an hour walking up and down and looking over these pieces of history.  Lulu saw we were appreciative and had the workers uncover her masterpieces.  

There was a Bradbury square piano from the 1850s, a leather wrapped Wurlitzer piano, The Sting Player Piano, a piano Lulu called a Scorpion Tail Grand Piano, but actually was a concert grand piano, French pianos, German pianos, pianos so old that I could imagine Mozart playing on them, player pianos, more uprights, more grand pianos, more spinets and studio pianos, even a pink piano. What an experience!

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I was drawn to an unpretentious Winter spinet that according to the Piano Blue book was built around 1910.  The inside had slight damage, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. The finish was scratched a bit, but nothing major.  My son approved.  My husband thought it would look good with my brown chairs (See Furnishings).  So a deal was struck.  I paid half down and the other half to be paid upon delivery.  Delivery charges would be $500 pesos.  The piano would be completely refinished and repaired.  I could order a bench for an additional $1000 pesos, however as I had already overspent my budget, that wasn’t gonna happen.  The piano would be tuned once it arrived, by one of Lulu’s sons, and I would receive a written copy of the 5-year guarantee.  

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We could hardly wait until Friday.  I told my son that he could stay home from school to receive the piano.  He was ecstatic.  Only the piano didn’t arrive.  After a few messages, I confirmed a delivery date for Saturday morning.  Then, before I knew it, we had a piano.  My son plopped his butt in a chair and off he went into the musical world.  Yes, it was out of my budget.  Yes, it’s a luxury item.  Yes, it cost more than my moto.  But, oh the sound of a piano!

Note:  All pianos pictured (except for MY piano and the Winter piano) are available from Su Majestad El Piano.

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Pianoforall
Men, Women and Pianos

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Chambelan at the party

No Quinceañera event would be complete without the party. Despite what you may imagine, it is a highly organized affair, well, at least until that last hour anyway. Remember, this tradition comes from formal presentation of a newly transitioned woman to society, dating back to 500 BC in Mesoamerica.

I was able to make short videos of the various activities at this Quinceañera, but the quality is not the best. I apologize for that. You’ll be able to see my gorgeous son though throughout!

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We arrived a bit earlier that the Quinceañera party. We wandered around a bit until we found tables that weren’t reserved. We were in the chambelan family section. Instead of sitting all at one table, however, each set of parents opted to have their own table for 8. Whatever! I did notice however that the resemblance each chambelan had to his father was marked and we could therefore easily identify the family of each.

chambelanes

Before too long, the Quinceañera and her escorts arrived and made their formal entrance. My son’s pants seemed to be the only one out of the four that were so tight.

After the formal entry, there was the Ceremony of the Change of Shoes. The Quinceañera’s shoes are replaced with high heels, symbolic of her change in position from child to woman.

After she had received her new shoes, the Quinceañera was crowned. She will always be a princess.

The chambelanes next danced the waltz with Quinceañera. Traditionally, the chambelanes would be eligible young men who would have been considered appropriate mates and thus would have been allowed to pay court to the young woman.

Following the chambelanes’ waltz, was the father-daughter dance. In this case, I thought the choice of Total Eclipse of the Heart an inappropriate song, but hey, I didn’t pick the music. The godfather also took a spin around the dance floor with his goddaughter, but I didn’t record that.

The dancing paused for more ceremony at his point. Next, there was the presentation of flowers. The Quinceañera received two bouquets of blue roses. Then she presented a rose to each and every person who was considered essential to the event, parents, godparents, damas, chambelanes. It took awhile, and several of those so honored were not present, but finally, it was over.
presentation of flowers

Following the flower bestowal was the Ceremony of the Last Doll. The Quinceañera was presented with a large doll dressed just like her as her final doll of childhood, based on a Maya tradition.

Also as a symbol of her new status, the Quinceañera was toasted with wine. At this party, only the godparents, parents and chambelanes received wine. The rest of us had to toast with soda.

Then followed the final waltz and exit of the Quinceañera and her escorts.

After a costume change, the Quinceañera, the chambelanes and the damas performed a modern dance sequence. The man of honor, the Quinceañera’s boyfriend, defended his lady love from the zombie like attentions of the unacceptable chambelanes. I didn’t think it was a fair fight. He whipped out a pistol and shot them at the end.

Finally, there was a solo dance by the Quinceañera. It was a bit hoochie-coo for a 15-year-old to perform in my opinion. But I’m not her mother.

Surprisingly enough, we were not served carnitas (pork) but fried chicken. It was ho-hum and certainly not worth the money I’d spent in costuming. After eating, there was a bit more dancing by the young adults.

As I sat there watching my son revel in the power of his youth and beauty, the music like a second heartbeat, I got a bit teary-eyed. How fast he had grown!

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My son dressed for his kindergarten graduation ceremony.

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My son dressed for his role as chambelan.

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Chambelan at the church

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Part of my son’s duty as a chambelan (escort) was to attend the pre-party misa (mass). The church of choice in Moroleon is El Templo del Señor de Esquipulas. The church had been adorned with a few additional touches, like this white flowered lighted tree thingy.

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The ceremony began with the priest anointing everyone with holy water and a march down the aisle to stand before the altar. The Quinceañera had a special seat front and center while the court (chambelanes and damas) had seats to either side of her. Her parents and godparents were also up front.

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I’m not Catholic, and although my husband is, he’s never attended this special Quinceañera mass, so wasn’t much help in explaining things. There was a sermon. The gist of it was that the Quinceañera was now an adult and able to make decisions as an adult, but as a woman of faith, those decisions should be in line with what the holy church dictates. The godparents passed a lit candle to her, representing their obligation of transmitting the flame of faith to the Quinceañera. The Quinceañera read from a red book that I assume is the particular holy book for such events. She promised her devotion and offered her heart to the faith.

Te ofrezco, Se­ñor, mi juventud; guía mis pasos, mis acciones, mis pensamientos. Concédeme la gracia de comprender tu mandamiento nuevo, el mandamiento de amarnos unos a otros. Que tu gracia en mi no resulte vana, te lo pido por Jesucristo, tu Hijo, nuestro Salvador y Redentor. Amén. (I offer you, Lord, my youth; Guide my steps, my actions, my thoughts. Grant me the grace to understand your new commandment, the commandment to love one another. May your grace in me not be in vain, I ask you through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior, and Redeemer. Amen)

There was some mention of La Virgin de Guadalupe, and I saw a bouquet of flowers in the Quinceañera’s colors of blue and silver at the foot of her altar.

Madre mía, presenta mi ofrenda y mi vida al Señor. Sé siempre mi modelo de mujer valiente, mi fortaleza y mi guía. Tú tienes el poder de cambiar los corazones; toma pues, mi corazón y hazme digna hija tuya. Amén. (My mother, I present my offering and my life to the Lord. May you always be my model of a brave woman, my strength, and my guide. You have the power to change hearts; Take, then, my heart and make me worthy your daughter. Amen.)

There was some praying, some kneeling, some standing, some bell ringing and some sitting. I wasn’t able to understand it all with the acoustics in the church being what they were.

I did find the promises that the Quinceañera made above and some additional information on the mass procedure. (Misa de  Accion de gracias de Quinceañera, Quinceañera misa guia, Misa para celebrar los 15 años)

Then there was the call to partake communion. At this point, my husband’s latent Catholicism kicked in. He nearly jumped out of his seat with the comment that our son could not partake of the wafer. I just rolled my eyes. Our son certainly was astute enough to know that without being told.

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The Quinceañera and her entourage marched back down the aisle, concluding the services. My husband and I took our leave. We headed to the centro (downtown) for some churros and cacahuates (peanuts) while the picture taking session took place.

About an hour later we headed to the party hall to continue the festivities.

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Chambelan Preparation

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My son was asked to be a replacement chambelan (escort) for a school friend’s Quinceañera (Sweet 15) party. Although he’s attended a Quinceañera before, this would be his first time actually participating in this traditional Mexican coming of age event.

Preparation began two months before the scheduled date. All members of the court (chambelanes, damas and the Quinceañera) had been taking dance lessons. As my son was a replacement, he began classes at a disadvantage. However, he was pleased to report after the first class that the dance instructor was highly impressed with his skills. Dance classes twice a week it was then.

The formal event required a suit. It was $450 pesos to rent, $650 pesos to buy. Not much of a difference really, but we went for the rental option on the basis that he was growing so fast that it wouldn’t fit in 6 months and it was silver, so not practical for other types of events. A week before the party, my son and the other guys went to the tailor to have their measurements taken. The suit was ready for pickup the day before the event. So we went and picked it up.

We peeked at it when we got home to discover that the jacket did not have the two front buttons. Hmm. A few frantic messages later, we were on our way back to the tailor’s for repair. Unfortunately, I didn’t have him try on the pants too. When he put them on, right before the event, he could hardly move. They had been cut too small. Well, there wasn’t any time for any more alternations.

Then there was the outfit for the modern dance section. The morning of the event, he was informed that he needed to wear jeans, a gray t-shirt, black shoes, a leather jacket, and sunglasses. Fortunately, he had all but the last two. I had just bought him a nice modern black jacket and could not understand why that wouldn’t be good enough. I certainly didn’t have the money for a leather jacket. He also didn’t have any sunglasses. So we headed to the market until we found a sunglass vendor. $70 pesos. We also found a vinyl jacket for $375 pesos. The total for this honor was racking up left and right!

He needed to be at the girl’s house at 5:00, so we all dashed about getting ready. We hopped into the truck. My son handed me his sunglasses, and they broke. ARGH! After we dropped him off, we headed to the mall to pick up some super glue. $11 pesos. We went to have our parking validated. In order to validate the parking ticket, we needed to spend a minimum of $50 pesos. I marched back to the store and bought a jar of peanut butter. $55 pesos. My husband repaired the glasses in the truck, and we headed to the church for the pre-party misa (mass).

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