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Travels With My Nephew

In her family, eighth-grade graduation doesn't just mean a diploma. It means a trip to Mexico with Aunt Mary Beth.

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 10, 2004; Page P01

"I'm feeling a little nervous," volunteered my 13-year-old nephew.

Bobby was standing in the hot white sand of the Mexican Pacific, strapped to a parachute harness. For months, he had been dreaming of parasailing.


A steep staircase wends through the shops and restaurants of Janitzio, an island village in Mexico.

Nervous? Even I, who have no kids, knew that teenage males would rather be flogged than admit weakness. Clearly, he wasn't nervous.

He was terrified.

"I'm sure they have done this lots of times!" I said hopefully.

Then the rope from the speedboat jerked, and Bobby lurched forward a few steps. And suddenly he was soaring over the ocean, a billowing purple and red parachute behind him. Now, only his aunt was nervous.

This was my fifth trip to Mexico with a niece or nephew, a tradition that dated from my time there as a foreign correspondent in the 1990s. I had loved working abroad, but keenly missed my four siblings' children. So when the oldest finished grade school in Kentucky, my gift was a plane ticket. Soon, the Mexico trip was a rite of passage.

Over the years, the eighth-graders and I had climbed Mayan pyramids and snorkeled in the Caribbean. We had stayed in restored haciendas and ridden horses through Copper Canyon. We had had some mishaps: blistering sunburn, a lost passport, an upset stomach. But each kid had survived to tell the tale.

So far.

Bobby had especially looked forward to his weeklong trip. A gentle, dreamy boy just hardening into adolescence, he had intently studied Mexico. I had always suggested itineraries to my nieces and nephews, but Bobby had his own ideas: to visit Patzcuaro, a beautiful colonial town west of Mexico City. And, above all, to parasail.


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