We started school again on Wednesday, meaning the boys and I have had to revert back to waking up at 8 AM, as opposed to 11:30 AM. We huddle in the kitchen, pajamas wrinkled, draped in fuzzy blankets whilst the space heater blazes.
It isn’t so much that it’s cold outside—generally 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit–it’s that we live in a refrigerator. Our home, with its stone walls and tile floors, is a icy slap of awful compared to flannel sheets and down comforters.
But leave it we must, and on good days, we’re dressed, backpacked, and fed, and walking to school. On not-so-good days I’m driving them to school, their mouths still smeared with Nutella.
My days are always better when we walk to school. People see me; I see them. I join the crowd. And I am renewed.
You see, it’s easy to be alone in Spain. Most of the homes have large gates around the perimeter. It’s possible that I can shut the gates, close my doors, and seal myself up. Only when I step outside, do I hear Spanish, and remember that I am an extraordinary place. Un nuevo sitio.
When I buy my strawberries and bread, I ask people about their holidays. The answer is always the same, “Mucho bebe, mucho come.” Lots of eating and drinking. I nod hello to the capped men sitting on benches, and watch a terrier trot across the sidewalk. Abuelas push their grandchildren in strollers, as a man sells lottery tickets on a corner.
There is a still a separateness, in my accent, and my lack of family. Forever la americana, an odd bit of thread in the tapestry of this pueblo.
And yet–while I love the gentle snoozes of the dog, as she basks in the sunlight, the quiet meditation of slicing apples in my kitchen, I recognize that I cannot allow the house to subsume me.
I must walk the streets. To join the throngs, to hear the words, and to be a part of something much larger than my own head. My footsteps must echo in las calles, not in my hallways.
I never knew if I was an introvert or an extrovert, but living in Spain has made it clear to me: I must have la gente. Their voices, smiles, and even their messes free me from my muddled little head.
I breathe, and move, and reclaim the promises of this land.