Palm Sunday. Palms don´t grow here, so we brought branches of rosemary and bay leaves and pine to church, the fragrant green stuff that grows all around us. We stood in a circle on the sunny steps while Don Santiago walked among us, sprinkling the greens with holy water. These will be tucked over doorways and rear-view mirrors, a sort of good luck charm, a sign that spring happens every year, year after year.
Mass was heavily scented, herbal even. Delicious. Lots of people were there, the ones who come for holidays are back again, like the swallows in the barn. They kissed our cheeks, admired the new crop of babies. It was a smiley morning, full of sunshine and good will.
In the afternoon we went for coffee to the Ayuntamiento. I knew something was up, and my suspicions were confirmed when I opened the door to the meeting room and Sopresa! A cloud of confetti fluttered down over my head. My former English students, my neighbors, and an assortment of their friends and relations were crowded into the small room, and they burst into a chorus of "Appy bortay to joo!"
They had streamers, balloons, even a piñata loaded with candy and more confetti. There was a big bouquet, a bottle of nice cologne, a t-shirt with bugle-beads, a bottle of Valpolicella from the Italians, a bottle of Reisling from the Germans, all wrapped in jolly paper. They had six bottles of champagne and a huge cream cake with "Felicidades Rebeca" written in chocolate on top. Someone had even chalked a birthday greeting on the blackboard.
On Thursday I will be 50 years old. I don´t feel much more than about 23. Today, for an hour or so, was was 8 or 9. I was delighted! I never saw the meeting room so dressed-up for a birthday celebration, and I have been to plenty of those. Maybe it was because of the milestone birthday. Maybe because it was a surprise. Or perhaps because Paddy had Milagros do the planning -- and Milagros LOVES this sort of thing.
The best of all was seeing everybody there, even the factions of families that don´t usually mix. Everyone chatted and feasted and popped balloons and tickled the babies, and took home an extra bit of cake for breakfast tomorrow. The cleanup was monumental, but with so many hands at work we got that done in a trice. And so I can go ahead and be 50 on 5 April without disturbing the dignity reserved for Holy Thursday.