Today in Moratinos me and Paddy attended the “Golden Wedding” of Celestino and Esther. Celestino is a son of Moratinos, the brother of Milagros, the man who opens his bodega in the summer to passing pilgs, the man whose bum knee a couple of years ago was miraculously cured by San Antonio. He is the man who gave us advice on how to repair the bodega roof. The man who told us the tale of the mysterious pilgrim at the bodegas, back in the 1930s. He’s only here in the summer, but hundreds of pilgrims remember Celes as the local who showed them inside a Castilian wine cave, who gave him a taste of the rough local vino and a slice of divine sheeps’ milk cheese. Celestino is the original Moratinos spokesman.
Today, all the family came back to town to celebrate Celestino and his Basque bride Esther, with a Mass and the Coro de Sahagun singing, a huge dinner at the bodega restaurant, a dance in the plaza, and God knows what else after, with everyone dressed up to the nines, the Autumn sun shining, with all the bells ringing, rockets booming, open bar and chorizo and lomo laid on. We were invited to all of it, even though we weren’t totally sure how much. We dressed up for the 1 p.m. Mass, maybe because we are fond of Celestino, maybe because the whole town was awake and stirring.
|Esther y Celestino, back in the day|
Celes was one of dozens of local boys who left Palencia to seek work elsewhere during the 1950s and 60s. He found work in a cardboard-box factory in Bilbao, where he met Esther, who grew up on a Masia in Basque country, and who spoke not a word of Castilian Spanish. But love conquers all – four years later, in 1964, the two were wed.
Everyone and his sister came to the Mass, even the neighbors who don’t usually attend these things. It did not disappoint. People came who have not been seen here for decades. Tears were shed, the Gospel was read, and impossible notes were reached-for by amateur sopranos. The couple re-exchanged vows, their daughters and grandchildren read readings no one could hear over the yowling descendents, and then we all said Amen and headed out into the sunshine, out to the bodegas, to taste the vintage, to taste the real wine, brought down from Esther’s native Basque Country.
|Celes and Esther, today|
We had a copa, we ate the embutidos, we said “enhorabuena,” we made to head home. But Celestino headed us off at the door – “No no no! You are family now! You’ve been invited since a month! It’s all paid-for!” he said. “I will be crushed if you go now!” So what could we do?
So we sat, and so we ate: grilled shrimp, crabs, razor clams, mussels, salad, grilled cuttlefish – all served with a dry white Albarino. Jose and Esteban outdid themselves for their uncle. Then came the meat: lamb chops, chips, dark red Tempranillo. Mas y mas. Paddy dropped out before the wine changed. I stuck with white, but did not last much longer.
|a crab who did not die in vain, with Carlos|
I found my way to the terrace, where little Isabel, “the daughter of Moratinos,” was making an appearance along with the day’s dose of pilgrims. Down in the plaza the dancing started. I shared some vino blanco with two lucky French pilgrims. (I must pay for it on Tuesday.)
And then I realized that yes, it was time to head home. I’d lost the feel of my pointy-toe shoes, and another trip to the bathroom in my complicated underpinnings might prove too much for my architectural education.
Here at the Peaceable I trust Paddy has fed the dogs – they are quiet. If there are pilgrims, they are equally invisible.
And so, after great swills of water and a full milligram of Tylenol, I shall retire to my bed, to sleep the sleep of the righteous, well-fed and watered, como la familia de Celestino.
Como una Palentina de pura cepa – like a purebred daughter of Palencia.
|long may they wave|