And what a week it´s been.
Sunday: Thomas the wandering pilgrim handyman arrived again, so we put him to work. He´s putting in concrete footers on our north-facing exterior walls, so they don´t fall down. He´s repairing the cracked, moldy old trough in the patio. He´s working like a draft horse, and eating like one, too.
Tuesday: Kim and I drove all the way up to the Ikea in Oviedo and had a wildly successful shopping trip there. We did Live Geometry Exercises in the car park, turning each box and bag into the back of the car just so. Every one fit, barely. So what that one of us had to ride home in the little jump-seat behind the driver? We now have upped the guest capacity at The Peaceable by four. The Salon is now a guest room for three people! (almost.) Bring on the pilgrims!
(except we don´t have mattresses for the beds. I bought some in Sahagun, Twin size. Turns out Twin size in Leon Province is a good 10 cm. shorter than Twin size in the rest of the world, probably owing to the petite proportions of people here. So next week the Mattress Men have to come and get the little Leonese ones, and switch them for the Rest Of The World Twin Size, which they think is absurd.) The Ongoing Mystery of the Leonese mattress is another blog post in itself.
End of the week: Got the house really really clean, went to Madrid, got my mom.
I had not seen my mom since July 2008. I expected the worst, as every time I see my mother she looks a bit more small and aged. My mother´s health is not what it once was, and her life is further challenged by caring for a husband with even more handicaps. She is often tired, or ill, or feeling poorly. I was afraid of what the 14-hour Pittsburgh-to-Madrid odyssey might do to her.
And when, after our respective long journeys I found her at Terminal 1 she did look rather damp and bedraggled. But her smile lit up the Arrivals Lounge, and her big hug was so perfect and familiar and soft, I didn´t even mind paying 45 Euros for a cab into the city. Mom was limping, towing a good 30 kilos of luggage, much of it gifts for me. No one was going to get in my way. And no Mom of mine was going into the Metro with all those bags.
We did not see much of Madrid. She slept, while I bought coriander and garam masala and tumeric and five kilos of basmati rice at the Indian grocery in Lavapies.
On Friday I put all those things in my backpack and bundled my mom and her wagon train down to the metro after all. At rush hour. To get a train at the northern train terminal that a railroad ticket agent at the downtown Atocha station assured me does not exist.
We made it home just fine, and found not all railroad employees are so incompetent. I asked the conductor for a window seat, so my Mom could get a good first look at Spain. He kindly moved us into our own four-person section, and she didn´t miss a single castle or palace or mountain view the whole way home!
Things have gone at a very leisurely pace since then. We have chatted, and cooked, and put away the several tons of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinners she schlepped across the Atlantic for me. Mom is sitting in the sun, reading. She is being waited-on, a little. She´s unraveling Thomas´s sometimes-odd English. (she and Kim think it´s a laff riot, how he says "peanut butter.") She is closing her eyes and listening to Bob´s afternoon program of birdsong classics. But mostly she is napping, and sleeping, and dozing.
The Peaceable has that effect on newcomers. My mom did not walk 250 km. to get here, but like most of our pilgrims, she is evidently making up for many, many hours and days and weeks of stress, anxiety, and lost sleep.
She´s only here for 12 days. I don´t want her to miss out on the historical monuments and cathedrals and palaces of Burgos and Leon, or the Romanesque churches in the mountains, or the little Camino villages -- if those are what she wants to see. I told her so last night.
And she told me something wonderful.
"Yeah, I want to see all those. But I didn´t come here for that, you know. I came here to visit. To talk. To see you. And to relax."
And so she is. And so she will, until she´s ready to go tooling around. We gave her a walking stick, so she and Paddy can hobble companionably with Una. We´re teaching her a few good Spanish phrases. She did a star turn this morning at Mass, with all the ladies cooing over how young she looks, how alike we two are, and how pale her skin is... all in rapid-fire Castellano. With no Spanish, Mom looked a bit mystified, but she nodded and smiled and shook hands and cheeky-kissed like the trouper she is.
And in the afternoon we bundled up and drove out to Villa Olmeda, the newly reopened Roman Villa museum about 20 km. north of here. Mosaic everywhere. More Calderiums and Peristyles than you can shake a cane at.
I think she likes it here.
I love her so.
Happy Mother´s Day to all you moms out there.