MARISA CAPONI- I had been counting down the days until my (real) Mom arrived yesterday to spend a long weekend here in Madrid. There was some talk over the summer about her visiting, but expensive plane tickets and her job teaching autistic children yielded some doubt as to if this would really be a possibility. Despite the irritating 6 hour time difference that often prevents effective communication to the EEUU, we finally got on the phone and planned the trip together about a month and a half ago.
I owe a lot of credit to my mom for her unwavering support and gentle guidance; without her motivation and open-mindedness I would have had a much harder time adjusting to (and even entering) this entirely new culture and language. So, it was only right that we dedicate a few days to celebrate and spend time together in this lively city, soaking up every minute of her short 5 day stay.
To be honest, I was a little nervous for my real mom and my host mom to meet, anticipating that after the hugs and dos besos, the language barrier would only create awkwardness – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. My mom, Christine, learned a bit of Spanish from working as a flight attendant when she was about my age (and from the Ecuadorian guy she was dating, of course), and so I figured she could get by from knowing a few words and I could teach her ‘Encantada!” really quickly to foster a more meaningful connection when she met Gema, my host mom. I also didn’t realize the level of English Gema had under her belt, not only because I’m not supposed to know but also because I realized she also is not very confident in using it. I thought about my two families meeting each other, wondering how it would go and if we’d eat dinner together or simply say hi and then I’d go to the hotel for the rest of the time.
Yesterday, I met my mom at the airport and took her right to my host family’s house, allowing her a lens into my everyday life here and to ensure her that I’m in good hands. When my two families met, naturally there was a ton of hugging, “hola’s,” (how are you’s from my host sisters who I heard speak English for the first time) and you could literally feel a surge of warmth in the room. Gema offered my mom coffee and to use the bathroom, and went to get ready for the day as well. My mom was re-organizing her suitcase in my room, showing me the candy and fall clothes she had brought when Gema popped in and said they were going to get Chinese for lunch, asking if we felt like going. Before I was even done translating for my mom, her face had lit up and there was no doubt the answer was yes.
The five of us walked to the restaurant, luckily only about a 15 minute walk, in the pouring rain. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that this was the one day it wasn’t 80 and sunny since we’d been sweating in the Madrid heat, or that my mom had only packed open-toed shoes, jokingly scolding me for “lying about the weather.” I was so happy everything was going well that I didn’t mind being the only one without an umbrella and consequently looked like a wet dog the rest of the day. I was thrilled at how my two families kicked it off, my mom speaking English with my host sisters and I mostly translated between her and Gema. We talked about food as we shared nearly 6 plates together, about my brothers and how much different it is to have sisters, about New York City and Toledo. Our conversations were in two languages and literally jumped across continents as the cultures and worlds collided smoothly together. Body language, smiling, laughing and high fiving really put words to shame when it comes to communicating personalities and feelings. Both undeniably strong and beautiful women, my mom and Gema hit it off so well that they joked about trading places for two weeks, and decided we all have to take a trip together next August. I would absolutely die if this worked out.
I don’t think that this meant more to anyone at that lunch table yesterday than it did to me. In two countries where flawed political systems, disrespect for law enforcement, and terrorism plague the news and have become part of our realities, still so much love can exist and be shared. The sheer joy I felt all day yesterday can’t even be put into words and I am forever grateful to be in such good hands throughout this entire journey.