Friday, 29 June 2007
The Ladies Take Me in Hand
It's been an extreme sort of day, with emotions of hormonal proportions sweeping through like thunderstorms. I am not like this, really. I almost thought I was losing my mind a couple of times.
Early this morning the remolque construction-debris wagon was duly delivered to the doorstep by Estabanito, one of the Milagro Boys. The sun shone, the sky was cloudless, the Placido bird sang me out of bed with his strange mix of Mozart, Broadway show tunes, and "The Lark Ascending." After a breakfast of boiled eggs (god, the EGGS we've got...!) me and Una took a long hike, all the way to the Palencia/Leon county line. I realized I was giving the contractor dudes time to arrive (usually between 10 and 10:30 a.m.) and get started hauling tons of rotten lumber out of the house. I phoned Paddy, and found him well and on his way to Artieda.
We stopped at St. Nicolas del Real Camino, and I had a coffee at Casa Barrunta. I finally learned the names of the two older men who run it: Angel and Restitucion. ("Resti" to me, he said.) Imagine naming your kid "Restitution." His mom must've been a trial lawyer.
Una Dog didn't even vanish into the Hare Field on the way home, as is her habit, but stayed right by my side. She must have known. We got home after 11, but nothing had moved. No one was here.
I saw red. All my meditative detachment flew right out the window. I made my first mistake right away: I called Paddy, and asked him to phone the boss and find out where the buggers were. He called right back. No work today, he said: it's a fiesta in Leon, where the contractors are from. I freaked, which always makes Paddy freak. (He is the only one allowed to be angry/low/negative. When I show signs of being upset and needing support, he immediately plunges into despair, which is always hugely helpful.) The phone call did not end positively.
So... all my gymnastics getting a remolque here were for naught. These buggers do two days of work per week, and vanish without a trace, and no communication about fiestas or when they'll be back...but a remolque has to be waiting when they get here. I lost it. I phoned Mario El Jefe myself, and gave him what must have been a completely incomprehensible Spanglish ass-kicking. Not that it did any good, but it made me feel better for a couple of minutes.
And right after that the delivery truck pulled up from the building supply company. Mario evidently still has not paid his 5,000 Euro tab. No more wood or nails or fittings. I wonder where our thousands of Euros have gone? Are we now officially in the shit? Is this the end?
I sat down in the patio and cried like a baby.
Esteban, Milagro's husband, came to get the remolque. He saw me all red-faced. He must have told. News travels fast here.
Meantime, I decided to be busy. I went into Sahagun and paid the car registration and ate an eclair. Back at home I made an excellent lunch with fresh tomatoes and spinach, with herbs from the pots outside. I cried some more, tried to take a nap, and went over to the bodega to prep the outside walls for concrete or plaster or whatever. It was inspiring, all the little spaces where bricks used to be, the little slots and niches all over the place...it would be a shame to fill it all in and smooth it over. More thought is needed. Ideas. Good things.
I think The Plan got into action about then. I'd agreed earlier to take a paseo (afternoon walk) with Julia, the neighbor lady, but she showed up at 5 p.m. with a shopping bag. Inside was a pressure cooker. "It's too hot to walk right now," she said, "but we are going to do something with all these eggs. I am going to show you how to make flan. Where is the sugar?"
My kitchen was a disaster. I haven't washed dishes in two days, and these ladies spend their lives with bleach in one hand and a scrub-brush in the other. Their houses sparkle. Mine crunches underfoot. I really could not bear the thought of cooking with her among the ruins of my last six meals, and I told Julia that. And I also said Paddy is the real flan fan, and we oughtta wait til he's here to help eat it.
"Don't you worry then. Next week," she said. "So now you're coming to my house." And so I had to.
We sat in her little patio garden, where her daughters were babysitting Finn and Poppy, the only people in the village under age 15. Poppy is 2 years old, and was pleased to see me. She curled up in my arms and laid her head on my shoulder and hugged me close. I dissolved into tears again. (She is such a little healer, this one!)
Julia's daughters, Juli and Christy, chatted and talked with me in Spanish and English, and had me read their English lessons aloud to them, then asked if I'd do a paseo now that the sun was lower. We walked out to Villa Oreja, and they invited me to the big fiesta concert tomorrow night at Terradillos de Templarios. And on the way back through town we stopped in the plaza to greet the ladies sitting there on the corner. Victoriana and Tina are in their 90's, in wheelchairs; their daughters, Milagro and Esperanza, are in their 50s or 60s. And lurking in the background always is Victoriana's caretaker, a chain-smoking dame from Rumania whose name I've never learned. They all take the sun every evening there, watching the tractors move in and out of town, waving to their various descendents and relations. (a couple of days ago Una offered a dead partridge chick to Tina, who politely told her "no thank you. I'm not hungry right now.")
"Hold on a minute," Milagro told me. "I have something for you from the garden." She disappeared into the house, and I sighed to myself, wondering what I would do now with 6 pounds of green beans or asparagus or alfalfa.
When she came back out she was hidden behind an armload of roses and lavender, gathered up in a bouquet with foil and plastic wrap at their base. "The white ones are falling apart already," she shouted. (Milagro always shouts and gestures wildly when she talks to me.) "They're not lasting this year. But they smell good." She loaded them into my arms. The thorns prickled my thumbs. "I have too many over there. Your garden is smashed this year by those lazy bastards. Take these."
I started crying again, and walked home down Calle Ontanon like Miss America, embracing a hundred fat blooms of pink and white, red and orange and yellow and purple.
And it wasn't till I was overturning the house looking for a container to put them in it occurred to me what had happened. Esteban saw me sad, and told Milagro. She put out the word. And the ladies, all of them, conspired to make it all better for me somehow.
Yeah, I am still crying as I write. But not so much for sadness and despair. It's the sweetness now, the kindness of this place. That un-earned favor called Grace.