In Denver, Colorado, where my mother grew up, is a monstrosity/restaurant called La Casa Bonita. Approximately 20 billion acres, it is situated in a economically diverse section of the city. Its speciality is a neon-cheese burrito concoction, and the tourists herded in from the tour buses receive said burritos cafeteria-style. Inside the restaurant there is an arcade, cliff divers, Black Bart’s cave, pirates, and all-you-can-eat sopapillas.
Naturally, when we were children, my brother and I found this place to be magical. So, on a recent visit home, when my mother suggested taking my own children there, we were game.
Make no mistake, it was a nightmare. The cliff divers were less thrilling and more hairy and disturbing. The Velveeta was all the processed gumminess one would expect. The children cried.
And yet, when we got in the car, my parents, brother, and I flipped the script. We compared the merits of meaty cheese vs. non-meaty cheese, and considered which nipple piercing was the most appropriate for cliff diving. We forced joy out of the experience.
And that’s the way you do it.
Living in Spain has hardships. My children are not invited to school parties. People talk about me in Spanish when they think I can’t understand. I constantly second-guess myself. I miss my friends and family. Pettiness abounds.
But yet? It is in that space that grace also abounds. I went to Madrid this weekend with a friend, and had the stomach flu. I was in the hotel room for much of Saturday, feeling miserable. As I write this, I am still not myself.
Despite this, I mustered enough Tylenol, coffee, and bread to stand upright, and my extra-understanding-kind-patient-thank-God-independent friend and I walked to Madrid’s version of Central Park, Los Jardins del Buen Retiro. We smelled the roses, and watched the Spaniards run along the gravel paths. We entered a glass house, in front of a small pond.
We sat in rocking chairs, and watched the clouds drift above us. For that moment, I was in Madrid, and I was comfortable. That was enough.
Soon, the friend and I will share a glass and laugh about the weekend of stomach flu.
We will smile, because good always peeks out.
There is forever that glass house, surrounds by greens, with rocking chairs and sunshine.