Sometimes words spring from my fingertips, and the keyboard is an indulgence. I unwrap phrases like a truffle, and widen my eyes at the explosion of images, words, and emotional release.
Other times, it is another obligation. I confess, three years into our Spanish adventure, I’ve run out of ways to describe jamon. Living in Spain isn’t much different than living than living in, say, Pittsburgh (although they don’t put french fries on their sandwiches here).
It is in times that I grow a bit complacent that I’m reminded that Spain is different.
For example, there is Manolo. Manolo is the portero at our school. He serves as the custodian, assistant, gardener, handyman, and, most importantly, as the muscle. In a world is which everything happens manana, Andalucia is oddly tyrannical involving school start and end times. School starts at 9 AM. If you show up at 9:15, Manolo will have already locked the doors, and no amount of pounding or pleading will sway him. Try again manana.
If your young child is screaming, he will pull him or her out of your arms, take him or her into class, and then lock the door between you and your screaming child. He speaks with authority, herding out the chatting mothers with a clear, “Vamos, por favor!”
If the school is a kingdom, Manolo is the moat, the dragon, and possibly the guillotine.
Spanish birthday parties, unlike those in America, involve the following:
1. The parents invite you the day before, or possibly the day of. Never earlier.
2. The party will take place in a field or country home. Often, there will be nothing for the kids to play with but twigs and fallen oranges. And yet, everybody is content.
3. The spread always includes a variety of sweets and chorizo sandwiches. There are two cakes, one for the children, and one for adults. The host encourages guests to eat at least three pieces of cake. The adults sit around tables, drinking coffee or soda, and children are expected to leave them alone and let them talk.
4. Invariably, at some point the kids are dancing to Pittbull.
How easy it is to find normalcy in the oddest places! Two ponies live in the field across from my home. I discussed the merits of fried vs. fresh cuttlefish with a friend. I walked into a store and a woman blocked me from the door until I tried on a feria dress. I went to watch an Italian opera, translated into English with Spanish subtitles, at the movie theatre. I ate popcorn, and then had champagne in the lobby. The name of my son’s karate teacher is Sensi JoseMaria.
And yet, I lack words at times. Even though there are never enough.