When our plane landed at JFK at 2:03pm yesterday, I felt a huge boulder lift off my chest. Yes, it was 2:03pm exactly. I counted down the seconds. The flight was 8 hours and 13 minutes long and you made sure I was physically and emotionally present for every last moment of it. But leaving my pride and sanity on the tarmac at MAD is not why I took you to Spain. Of course I knew that in-flight catastrophe was likely, if not inevitable. I’m not an idiot.
Upon hearing that I was taking my one-year old to Madrid, most people responded with some snarky comment to the effect of, “are you bat-shit crazy?” or “make sure to take enough Xanax to numb you for the trip”. In fact, I heard these comments so often, almost 24/7 it seemed. Why? Because if someone wasn’t saying them, I was hearing them in my own head.
Yet, even in the face of all the anxiety and questioning, I had an absolutely ravishing trip with you. You even taught me things about Europe that I never would have had the chance to see through my jaded adult eyes. For one, despite having spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, it had never dawned upon me why there are cafes on every corner that specialize almost exclusively in espresso. Why not enjoy a nice hot cup of cappuccino? I used to wonder. In fact, I was so excited to be at the Parque del Retiro that I thought I would sit at a cafe and celebrate with a nice foamy latte. You had different plans, of course, and they tragically included a soppy funeral for my new silk shirt. And so, I learned the culture of espresso. Brilliant, madres, just brilliant!
You taught me humility. And not the second-rate kind, like a kid striking out at her first at-bat. I mean the real kind of humility. We took you to the Prado, of course. I’ve waited half my life to see Velazquez’ masterpiece, Las Meninas. In fact, it was the art historian in me that finally decided to break the bank and take the trip, one-year old in tow. As your eyes landed on the painting from across the room, you excitedly bounced out of my arms and ran toward the work. “She’s just like me!” I yelped to your daddy. “Our wee little connoisseur! She has a brilliant eye! I just knew she would appreciate Spain! Oh….Billy?…uhh…is she POOPING!?!” Just as you approached the crowd around the masterpiece, the masterpiece!, Eva, you squatted, red-faced, and squeezed one out…grunts and all.
Yet, despite the spills and poops, you showed me a grand time. The way you floated through the gallery spaces at the Reina Sofia, wide-grinned, magnetized by the pure colors and new sights. How you giggled every time a Spaniard pinched your cheeks and asked, “que tal?” Your charisma as you rolled in the dirt at the botanical gardens, passing the perfectly tailored partitions without as much as a glance. How you didn’t notice your ginger coloring amongst the Spaniards and the way you “chatted” them up without self-doubt or hesitation.
You showed me Madrid through a toddler’s eyes. Through you, the banalities and grit of the city became more magical than even the holy Las Meninas itself. So….to Dublin in August! And I can’t wait to bring you with me.