Sunday mornings usually begin with breakfast at The Waffle Shop, which is a franchise that is part of the California valley area, for the most part. It is Old School with a static menu of waffles done several ways and other hearty fare. We go there for the food, to a certain extent but as I told Alba, last Sunday, we go there for her and Santos. We found out, that day, that they were going to realize the American Dream, big-time, because the lady who owns the building refused to renew the lease to the "company" and asked them if they would like to have it and turn the WS into their OWN vision. She told me that they had not done anything to the restaurant because they were worried about losing the upcoming lease and because THEY were going to be the new owners of the business, the building was going to have a face-lift and the landlady was finally going to fix the roof (for THEM). I swear, I got tears in my eyes because THIS is how immigrants come to this country and make a life for themselves and their family. Hard work, love and dedication.
We are sort of Regulars, I guess. We have been getting hugs and long conversations at times and when Rod fixed the calculators (we use the same ones at home and at shows) for ease of sales tax, we became friends. I could not get over it, last Sunday, after I told Alba what an amazing job their oldest daughter did, in their absence. Right then and there, Alba invited us to The Big Party. Melissa was the honoree at a traditional Quinceneara and we were asked to come. Well, alrighty, then! We had a free day and decided to be a part of the celebration.
The mass took place at the lovely St Patrick's (he is my saint and anybody who knows me and animals would not be surprised) Catholic Church in Placerville. It is a modest church with beautiful wood and treasured stained glass and I felt very comfortable there. We found a pew and waited for what was coming, nothing that we knew. The music was provided by a family of mariachi instead of an organ. We all rose and in a procession down the aisle came little girls in long purple dresses, carrying baskets. Following them were Alba and Santos. She was Gorgeous in her long purple gown and Santos looked proud, checking the crowd and catching the eyes of friends and family. Following the parents were the "court" of Melissa's friends and cousins; girls in pretty dresses, carrying pillows or pillowy books and boys in military style dress. Melissa, in her gorgeous dress, fit for a princess, was escorted by her favorite handsome cousin, who flew in from Mexico with lots of his family, for this special event.
Melissa and the court walked through a bower of flowers and while the girls and boys went to opposite sides of the aisle, she sat in a chair in front of the altar. A mass was said in Spanish and two young cousins got up and read parts of the ceremony. I was grateful that the priest gave his sermon in both languages but knew that I wanted to learn Spanish, at that point. There were many songs from the mariachi and a special time when Melissa and her consort went to kneal at the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe shrine, leaving flowers for her, which is part of the tradition. I LOVED it! There was next a part of the mass where you Meet Your Neighbors and we shook hands with our surrounding folk while the family went around and hugged people. (adorable) We got the final blessing fromt he priest (I used to sing at the Catholic services at the Treasure Island naval base and so I know some of this stuff) and the recessional began with Melissa and her cousin leading the family in purple to the back of the church. The little girls came back down the aisle and gave out little trinkets (I was given a little rosary) while people began moving toward the doors. Alba came over to us and said "Don't Leave! Stay for Pictures". Ok... So we dutifully stayed while the Birthday girl took pictures with this group and that group and then it seemed that she was going to pose with everyone! Yep, we were bullied into going up to the altar steps and having our pictures taken with Melissa. Adorable, seriously.
We made our way over to the Hall, to deposit our gift on the big table and ended up sitting with a gal who is ALSO a regular customer. Yup...adopted. It gave us a picture of who these people are and suddenly, I felt like part of a small village, invited to this special event.
The Mariachi family (mom, dad, two sons and a daughter) were all set up, on the stage and the tables were arranged around the dance floor. Family members came around with piles of homemade delicious chips and several salsa bowls. Then, the middle daughter came around, wheeling a cart filled with carved out pineapples filled with fruit. She couldn't be more than 9 or 10 and was very bouncy in her beautiful purple dress. Alba came over to tell us the saga of the cake and the cranky baker, saying that it had not arrived yet. Oh my, when it did arrive, it was bigger than any wedding cake that I had seen; three tiers in the middle with two tiers on each side that were bridged together. One those bridges, on either side of the main tier were little girls and boys, to represent the Court.
We had salad delivered to us and then, the main course, which was the most delicious carnitas with rice and a bean and pumpkin puree that was amazing with complex spices. I think that someone in the family did the cooking but Santos was busy in the kitchen.
The young woman of honor had still not arrived and we found out that she and her Court were having more photographs taken, down in El Dorado Hills! She was due back at 5 pm, when she and the family would eat and the BIG party would begin. Oh my. It was 4 pm and Rod and I knew that we would not last, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous to the wonderful mama and papa before heading out. I looked Alba in the eyes and thanked her for the great honor of being invited to this milestone event.
I fell in love with the Mexican culture, right there and then. Hispanic folk treat their women with respect and revere them for being the mothers and future mothers of the families. Bingo. We talked with a young woman at our table who was the mother of one of the girls in the court. She said that in Puerto Rico, the ceremony includes the father changing the shoes of his daughter from the flats of a little girl, to the heels of a young woman. What is not to love about this? You honor the womanhood of your daughter and she will be a terrific mother and partner to her future husband.
It was just lovely and now we are totally bonded to this beautiful family. We finally got to see their youngest son, who is SO like our Schnickle. (They are the same age.) He is the picture of his papa and just adorable.
I told my daughter, this morning, that I wish that Syd could have such a 15th birthday party! Melissa did not know if she wanted to go through such a big whoop-te-doo but was happy for it, at the end. I am happy that she did it because we got to experience it. Happy Birthday, big time.
9:30 AM and it was HAT weather, in the chapparal region of El Dorado Hills. (This is not the manufactured Orange County in the Foothills part of eDH but the original ranchland area, south of highway 50.)
We picked up Lorrie and her friend at the last chichi outpost before heading south on Latrobe Road into the the land that has meant The Real California to me, all of my life; the golden rolling hills dotted with ancient oak trees, sizzling in the summer sun.
We pulled into the ranch that the Grace Foundation inhabits and found a bustling place with kids, adults and happy horses. This was the place. We went into the office, which is in a trailer and immediately got the feeling that everyone here was volunteering because of the love of animals. Period. Young and not young, alike. We introduced ourselves to our guide, Jeanne, who is the Director of Operations, which means that she has given of herself to be Beth De Caprio's surrogate, running the ranch, fielding questions and watching over the whole place. There are others, many MANY others...an army of volunteers.
We signed the waivers (if you get stepped on...it's your own fault, stupid) and headed out on our guided tour of the facility. We began with the temporary dog building, which was, and will be again, their Classroom. The first thing that I noticed was that this building smelled like...clean. These are the few dogs who do not live with families, as Trixie did.
We went back outside to get the scoop on the big area at the heart of the facility. This is the riding arena for children who come for therapy. It is a magical place with storefronts sponsored by companies, small and large, where certified therapists work with kids with lots of different disabilities. Volunteers can be trained to help, here.
We moved on and visited the area where the littlest outreach ambassadors roam around with the big horses who would be picked on, in a normal situation. They seem to coexist beautifully. We saw some of these little guys at the End of the Trail for the Wagon Train celebration, this year.
As we moved on around the land, we met a couple of kids who were learning how to groom horses. You see, The Grace Foundation has Horse Camp and Vet Camp for kids, in the summer. How wonderful.
This young man was VERY serious about his work. You can see, in the background, the area where horses are shod, by folks learning to be farriers. This is another way that The Grace Foundation keeps all of their responsibilities while keeping the costs down. It is a win-win situation, in my estimation.
We kept walking and saw the area where they keep the last of the mustangs, who have been deemed a little too wild to be broken and adopted. They are a beautiful bunch and all bear the neck brands of animals that roamed on BLM land. (I wish that they could still run wild, personally.) I got a sniff from one mare and felt quite honored.
Across from the Mustang paddock is this riding ring, where kids at Horse Camp were learning to ride, thanks to the tutelage of the young ladies who began riding at the ranch, when they were little. Jeanne said that she really misses these kids, when they graduate High School and go away to college.
We left this area and began walking back toward the buildings, observing an eagle scout's project, which was turning a tractor trailer into a stage for events. It was just one of the many many donated projects, here on the ranch.
I was hoping for but not expecting to be able to meet the Susanville Mares but, we were ushered through the Do Not Enter gate and into the world of the Mamas and their foals.
This is the newest baby and his Mama. She is so healthy and gorgeous and went through so much hospitalization for a bad leg and other complications. She is sweet and beautiful and her little guy is adorable and just two days in the atmosphere!
Another of the mares and her older baby.
The new mama followed us, looking for some loving. These horses are SO beautifully cared for, by people who LOVE horses. This is as it should be and there so many dedicated volunteers, making it happen.
This is what we got, when we came over to let them give us snuffly nibbles. Hellooooooo!
I loved the look of this girl. She is so shiny, except for the rolling in the puddle, part. Her foal was jumping for joy, a little after this photo was taken. There is your Appaloosa influence.
I loved this wobbly baby. Look at those legs! He got up very fast, when his Mama walked over the top of him!
This is the area where the First Arrivals live and aren't they beautiful. You would never guess that they had been in such poor condition. It takes a lot of $$$ to accomplish this big turn-around, to be sure.
Speaking of Money. We officially raised $5334 and because we did this today, Rod got the ball rolling with Chevron for the additional $3k matching grant. We handed over the check today. Lorrie, Rod and I with Jeanne, who was getting a little teary-eyed. You see? One skein of yarn at a time, we made a big pile of money. I decided, yesterday, to wrap up the initial yarn sample that Lorrie did and let her present it to the foundation. We did GOOD!