Madrid: A Toddler’s Gem (or gym?)

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Dear Evangeline,

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.

Yours Truly,

Maman Pearce

  2 comments for “Madrid: A Toddler’s Gem (or gym?)

  1. Mary Boccard
    March 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Too funny! You can never know what to expect when traveling, but adding a one-year-old “ginger” to the mix is
    really adventurous!

  2. Carolyn Singer
    March 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Hi KT!
    Had I known you were planning this trip, I would have been the one (of the few?) to tell you that I thought it was a wonderful idea! I have been traveling to Europe with my children almost annually since my eldest was 3 months old! I nursed her on a curb in the Cotswolds, pointed out all of the mountain lake scenes and hiked with her in a backpack around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, and then when there were then two, dragged up and bounced down all of the bridges in Venice with a double stroller! Indeed, experiencing anything with a child (of every age) allows you to experience, appreciate, and enjoy it with a dimension that you couldn’t without them. People respond to you as tourists differently, more openly, with children, as well. I remember another time, in Florence, counting all of the colors of marble on the duomo, because at least we could enjoy looking at it from the outside, if waiting on the long line to get wasn’t realistic with the children. And in Rome, being in the Coliseum, looking out over the surrounding area, playing ‘I Spy’ with different shapes and colors.
    By traveling with Eva, you are setting the bar high, tho not too high, at a point that will allow her to have a broad world view as an adult, and an appreciation (hopefully a love) and respect and open mindedness to all people and cultures. This can give her a confidence to live as an adult in the world and always, with her parents’ love and devotion to ground her and come home to.
    Welcome home!

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