Paul and I are headed for Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the little beach town made famous in the movie (and book) Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne escapes from prison and says to his friend Red Redding, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Paul and I are busy living.
We traveled to the humble town of Zihuatanejo in 2015 and fell in love with it. We could go to the sleek high rise hotels of Ixtapa a few miles away, but there is something about Zihuatanejo that calls us back. We love it for its grubby, funny, sweet places and people. I hope, like last time, that as soon as our taxi leaves the highway and begins bumping along the pot-holed streets, the children in their school uniforms will run along next to us smiling and waving through the window.
The quaint, raspberry pink-hued hotel, Paseo de Morro, is our very own Grand Marigold Hotel from the movie by the same name. It clutches the rocks on the side of the cliff hanging over Zihuatanejo Bay. There are 166 steps from our hotel down the hill into town. A few times we started the margaritas earlier than was advisable and the climb back to the hotel was demoralizing. Paul got cranky and told me to quit counting the stairs—he couldn’t bear it. I cackled and shouted the numbers.
I have prepared myself that the magic of “first times” will be fewer. However, I will go to the bay one dawn when the long and fast panga boats hurtle towards the familiar landmarks that welcome them home each sunrise. The fishermen who cast their nets by the light of the moon or by headlamps on moonless nights, slide onto the beach and push their bounty over the side of their boats. Fish, some still flopping, rain onto the sand and wait for the restaurants from the resort town to come and select the catch of the day. No matter how many times I see that flotilla heading for shore, I know my breath will catch in my throat just a little.
We’re returning to the beach town called Troncones to volunteer with a turtle rescue organization. We’ll release protected and newly-hatched baby Ridley turtles. They struggle out of their shells and trundle towards the incoming surf which cartwheels them back to the sand again and again. Smaller than the palm of my hand, hundreds dash towards the water determined to make it under the waves. Last time we visited, we watched a mother turtle dig a hole and lay her eggs next to our dinner table where our bare feet were burrowed in the sand. It was my birthday, and I thanked the massive matriarch for providing a beautiful spectacle that will reside in my mother heart forever.
To return to where you have been, to be young where you were once younger, to expect the unexpected all the while knowing full well what to expect—it is a rather odd place to be in the universe. If anything, those two ghosts of our past—the younger Paul and Lesley—better at least push us up the stairs or we won’t tell them how much more wonderful their lives get in the future.