Fortified

In our old life, my husband worked forty minutes away, at an office I never visited, with people I never met. I handled children and schools and medical care and a thousand little domestic details. I went out with friends a lot, and helped edit an online writing community.

We had our own orbits.

Presently, our trajectories have merged. He speaks military, a choppy language of numbers and acronyms, and I lean on him to translate. I speak marginally more Spanish than him, and I speak school almost fluently. We need each other, not only to finish, but to start each other’s sentences.

We have cheap phones and no wi-fi, so the intense (and oh-so-distracting)  electric world has lost its buzz. In the evenings, each of us takes a kid and reads, or kicks around a soccer ball in the backyard.  We eat most of our meals as a family, for we’re not yet rushing to sports or clubs.

Life had moved from 11 to 5. There’s a large part of me that screams for the Internet, because I want to Skype with my friends and family, and connect with the people I love. But yet? Being separated from all that makes me realize that our family is strong. When we change, we are fortified.

Spain is all about family. Many restaurants have playgrounds attached, and children routinely eat dinner with their families at nine in the evening. In San Lucar, I saw a nine year old boy fetch a beer for his father at the tapas bar, while two other children dribbled a futbol near the fountain.  At the beach, my oldest was splashing in the Atlantic, screaming and tossing sand. Lo siento, I said, to an older Spanish couple. Lo siento. I was ready to sink into the sand from shame.

De nada, they said. They laughed, they smiled, and they soaked in the sunshine. Being that my children are so obviously American, and I’m unable to pretend they are somebody else’s kid when they misbehave, this was an act of grace. Gracias for loving my children, Spanish couple. Gracias.

So, while I ask Paul, “What time is it really when it’s 22:00?” (they do this kind of time in Spain, it’s not just a military thing), he withholds his exasperated sigh and says, “10 PM.”

And when he asks me to go to the store at 7 (pardon me, 18:00) with two grubby youngsters while he goes on a long run, I do it without complaint.

Because we can learn a lot from the Spanish people about slowing down, and being patient, and keeping family first. We can build our new family, one moment at a time. We can laugh, we can smile, say de nada to the little things, and soak in the blessed sunshine.

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3 thoughts on “Fortified

  1. This is so lovely. It reminded me of some of the essays in Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Hightide in Tuscon”. She lived in Europe for a time with her young daughter (I forget exactly where she was living). There seemed to be a greater appreciation for children being children on that side of the Atlantic.

  2. I love your writing, Nancy, regardless of the country, and am looking forward to reading about this exciting Spanish chapter in your lives! (as for military time, you’ve probably heard this, but if you subtract 2 from the second digit, that should give you the time… for example, 1500 (5-2=3); 1900 (9-2=7). When you get to the hours that start with 2 (like, 2100), the same math works, 21-2=19, but just use the second digit as the answer, so 19 = 9pm.) Tell Paul we said Hello! 🙂

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