Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Healing in Spain

Six weeks ago, on March 15th--the Ides of March--my mom slipped quietly from this life to the next.  Todd had just arrived from Spain, completing our family circle.  He sat next to her hospital bed, looking out over the view from my mom’s bedroom, holding her hand.  Although she had been mostly unresponsive for the last couple of days, my mom must have sensed, finally, that it was okay to go.   With us three daughters taking a brief reprieve downstairs, and just Todd and Rich—the two surgeons—in the room, my mom quietly and peacefully crossed over. 

I was overwhelmed by a welter of emotions: sadness, relief, gratitude, and deep, abiding love for my mom, for my sisters, my husband, my daughters, my stepdad, my brothers-in-law, Parviz, my aunts, my whole family gathered around.  Tia and Sasha faced their Nana’s death with sadness and acceptance, asking to come see her, holding her hand, kissing her cooling cheek, remarking on the chill in Nana’s hands while her chest was still so warm.  They were not afraid to be with her, and their show of tenderness and love was a soothing balm to my own pain.  Their acceptance of death, mirrored in her own approach to the end of her life, was my mom’s last gift to all of us.

Cupertino sunrise: Appreciating the beauty

And so, with great relief and heavy hearts, we returned to Spain 10 days later.  The celebration of my mom’s life was joyful, tearful, funny, and packed with those who loved her deeply.  We owe a huge debt to my sister, Suzanne, and Felipe Escamilla—Suzanne’s colleague and friend and now a friend of the family, too—who spent hours putting together a video of my mom’s life and words.  It is a marvelous compilation, and I am grateful to be able to return to her words over and over—I continue to learn from her, even now.

Found on the beach by Simone:  A message from Mom

Spain and the amazing people we have met here have opened their arms and embraced us on our return.  From the sweet little public-catholic school, Nuestra Señora de La Merced,  to our multiple groups of friends, to our landlord, to my dance compañeras, to the folks at the hospital, to the guy in the panaderia next door, everyone has swept us right back into our life here.  While Tia and Sasha were a bit nervous their first day of school, it took them about 10 minutes to readjust, thanks to the help of their friends Daniela and Isabela.

First playdate back in Spain

What I had missed most (aside from my husband) was flamenco.  I have been fascinated by this music and dance since I got here; the desire to understand its intricate rhythms and forms has only intensified, and over the past 8 months I practiced my five bulerias and the sevillanas whenever I yearned to return to Spain.  I danced for my mom on occasion, and was sad to have missed performing in the Christmas zambomba as well as an actual performance in Madrid.  I jumped right back in, not only with my original class with Concha Baras, but with an additional two classes per week in the morning with Lola de Cádiz, and then another group of friends started a class Friday nights with Estefania that I just couldn’t pass up.  All of this brought me right up to speed pretty quickly, and all of a sudden Concha had arranged a performance in a caseta for her bulerias students…Ole!  Goal achieved!  I danced bulerias at the feria!

With friends Angeline, Carolina, and Montse at the Puerto Feria Gates

The Feria, the Feria, it’s feria season.  Tia, Sasha, and I practiced our sevillanas, which wasn’t tough, and even Todd got in on the action, doing a manly version pretty well, bolstered by his improved Spanish (8 months on your own living in the middle of Puerto was quite an incentive to learn).  We went to the feria for four days straight, staying out until way past midnight (even the girls!) and taking in this most Andalucian of experiences. 

With Daniela and Isabela--¡Ole!

And the dresses—oh, the dresses!  I went out and bought two new ones (new for me, anyway), and felt like a medieval Spanish princess all night long.  My newly-acquired affinity for dressing up in the most outrageous mode possible is matched only by my fascination with how the other women dress—truly, there are so many styles and ways to match colors and flowers and accessories that I walk down the street, marveling at the pageantry.  And then you get to DANCE in these dresses, all night long!

A Carmen de Sevilla wannabe

My Frida Kahlo look, with friend Christina

Vamping outside the castle portals

This feria season lasts over a month, if you only stay local: Puerto went first this year, starting its 6-day run on April 24.  Rota was next, from May 2-5.  Jerez came next, the cradle of flamenco and Andalusian horseflesh, with a spectacular show of dresses, for both people and horses, from May 6-12. And Sanlúcar, in the Feria de Manzanilla, starts May 28. 

Dad can dance, too, it turns out

Watch for our next update to find out if the next flamenco class I’m adding—a weekly evening class where you learn just how to perform in public!—does me any good.  I know my mom would take delight in what we are doing; my only regret is that she can’t see Tia and Sasha all dressed up.  She would laugh at the exuberance and joy of all this craziness—and that makes me feel better.  Gracias, España. 

¡Muchisimo gracias!

1 comment:

  1. I just love all of this so much. I can't think of a more perfect tribute to your mom than to live fully, splashed with color and dance and family and joy.


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