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Christmas Together

December 25, 2015

Dear Martin, Pilar, Lucia, and Avram,

I’m so glad we all got to spend Christmas together. That Martin and Pilar were able to fight the jet lag for the whole seven days they were allowed to spend with us, that only Avram had a sniffle. (Montessori School, know that I am sticking pins in a play-dough model of your building each time my son comes home and sneezes in my face.) I cleaned. I washed. I cooked for two weeks solid to make sure that we had enough bread, cookies, and more to feed you all. Martin is eating for two or three at the moment, and has inspired Daddy to see how much he can hold, too. At least Martin helps with dishes.

We got an actual Christmas tree from Bragg Farm sugar shack, instead of the scrubby juniper tops we were using in Texas. I now have reason to think I’m allergic to Christmas trees. I made an honest-to-God centerpiece for our table and put up paper garlands in the windows. There were candles. There were twinkling lights and pine boughs. I pulled out the Christmas dishes that I had to buy because your Aunt Cathy gave Mom’s dishes to someone else. I made three kinds of cookies—chocolate ginger, molasses, and pizzelle—while you napped, because another second of “help” after decorating the tree, and I might have said things I’d regret someday.

We all went to the Unitarian Church on Christmas Eve and sang songs that had the lyrics slightly modified to be more inclusive. Is it possible that referring to the Christ child as “he” could bother anyone?

Afterwards, we had a feast for all comers. There were Jews, weary travelers, wild beasts, and new arrivals with a baby. The wine and nog flowed, the dinner was like a delicious brick in everyone’s stomach, and we packed up dessert to go as everyone filed out into the night promptly at 8:45 for small person bedtime. We checked out where Santa was on the NORAD Santa Tracker, and I convinced you that he wouldn’t bother if little bodies weren’t in bed by the time he left Antigua.

Santa came and filled up stockings with personalized, individually wrapped delights. He ate large bites out of each cookie and downed the tequila you left for him. He even located the black swan Odile ballet costume for Lucia’s new doll that she requested early in December. He didn’t forget, even when she did, and when he received her letter requesting something else. Santa is very grateful for Etsy.

As ever, I am in awe that my mom did this, joyfully, every year until we were well out of college.

And now that you are grown, you can know that I hate doing all these things. I would rather be reading a book in front of the fireplace while you all shovel the driveway. I do them for you, because I love the way you all laugh together and the looks on your faces when you open that special present. When you remember them someday, you can rest assured that I really, really love you all. Because only love would make three kinds of cookies.


Your loving mother,



Starting Over Again, Again

May 15, 2015

Dear Lucia and Avram,

By the yearlong stretch from my last missive to you to this one, you may have guessed that there was a little hiccup with our move to Spain. The kind of hiccup that means you now live in Vermont.

I’ve been avoiding writing this for exactly six months, which is the amount of time from when we put our new suitcases back on a cramped international flight (again sans Bear and Bunny. I am failing at parenting, but they made it safely here by February.), although they weren’t so carefully packed this go around. It is also the amount of time we have spent battling the coldest winter in Vermonters’ memory and trying to make sure we don’t have any frostbitten fingers to hack off at the hospital.

Now that we can see the backyard that has been hidden under snow, I feel like we are starting to thaw out from the shock and disappointment that is starting your life over again, twice, in two continents, with two small children, in one calendar year. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I encourage you, as adults, to bloom wherever the heck you are planted. There is no one “right” place. Just put your head down and plow ahead.

We found out in October that we had made a critical error with our funds. We had three weeks to evacuate before we had to file taxes as the dumbest Spaniards on the planet and then be stripped of all our burdensome savings.

Well, you guys are Spaniards. There was also the little issue of Mommy having overstayed her EU visa by three months waiting for her residency. “Deported” is not a word I had ever thought would apply to me, but hey…

Mommy might have cried a lot and threatened to chain herself to the lovely terrace railing to prevent leaving.  On our way to Bilbao, we joked that both our families had fled persecution in Spain, but we were finally going back. We should have realized they might not be the last ones.

Anyway, we got out with our heads, if not our hearts, intact. We left behind some of the truest friends we’ve  ever known, even for the short duration of our acquaintance. Lupe made us an enormous Basque feast at bar Okey on our last night. Eva writes often and is sending her cousin here this summer to expose you two to Basque language and culture and maybe let mommy and daddy go get some wine in peace. Inigo and Leire outfitted you with the sleek scooters that made so much sense in perfectly paved Spain, and are giving you so many head injuries on the bumpy Vermont sidewalks that Mommy gave up and bought you helmets. Sorry. You’ll thank me someday.

Aunt Laura took us all in on short notice, and let us live in her cozy basement for three months until we moved into our lovely 1915 craftsman that is turning into our magnum opus. Once we get out the asbestos, radon, vermiculite, mold, leaky pipes, broken appliances, and ugly wallpaper, we think it will be the perfect place to raise a family. In the meantime, you played with your cousins until they were as tired of you as if you were their own siblings. Avram cried himself to sleep the night he realized we’d moved in here, and we weren’t going back to Aunt Laura’s. You had a great birthday party where we hit the piñata in the snow. In April.

We’ve spent six months telling people that we like snow, that we moved here because your Aunt Laura had been sent here against her will last summer by the military, and that we don’t really know where we’re from anymore. That one confuses the seventh-generation mountain people. We miss our people in Far West Texas every day, but we are one life removed from them already. We try not to read too much news from Euskadi or watch too many Robin Food cooking shows, because our sobbing tends to unsettle you. Even though we appreciate when you put your hand on our shoulder and tell us we’ll be okay, it makes us feel a tinge of guilt.

As Raul, our fruit vendor’s, wife said when I told her our tale of woe while announcing our departure from Bilbao, “Tu tienes otro destino.” We have another destiny. We’re going to be just fine. Welcome to Yankeeland, as we called it in Virginia, or Central Vermont, as it’s known here.

Maybe you can win scholarships for being the only hispanics for miles. Silver linings.



Trailing Crumbs to Spain

June 10 (finally. I’ve thought it was the 10th for four days now), 2014

Bilbao, Vizcaya, Spain


Kaixo Lucia,

Welcome to your new home! After a full month since the movers arrived to pack and take all our things from Alpine, TX to Bilbao, Spain, here we are. You did fine on the plane, are eating croissants and chocolate like a native, and even occasionally deign to speak Spanish. Your best phrase is, “No hablo mucho Espanol.”

You are enjoying terrorizing pigeons and pressing the button before your brother on every conceivable elevator, apartment call system, and more. When you don’t get to “press the butt,” as Avram says, you throw a mini-trantrum. In public.

Avram is realizing that the stroller is not the “special seat” we told him it was at first, and is arching his back over the safety bar to mop the sidewalk with his beautiful curly hair and scream like there are razors in his socks. Which might be believable, if he hadn’t already kicked off his shoes and socks over the last few blocks.

The Spanish government is in no hurry to give your daddy the documents he needs to get our container out of purgatory at customs, so Bear (and the rest of our worldly possessions) may or may not be rejoining us in a few weeks as originally promised.

We are currently enjoying the musical stylings of city jackhammers. Lucky for us, our temporary street is getting a complete sidewalk and pavement overhaul for the entire five weeks that we’re here. You both love looking at the heavy construction equipment, and we all enjoy the early morning wake-up calls. The apartment vibrates—for free! You have to pay for that in the nice hotels.

We have also, apparently, rented our temporary apartment on a street full of local color. While mommy thought the flags with the Basque region of Spain and the paintings on the local bars of fists raised in the air were a fun sign of local pride, our relatives here think we might have to duck a few Molotov cocktails before moving to our new place. Don’t worry. I’ll throw my body over yours if need be. You were too much work to use as a human shield.

You’ve been helping us pick out our new apartment by running out onto seventh-floor terraces and giving old, hacking realtors small cardiac events. They also comment on how ably you both operate the light switches in rapid succession. Lucia wants the one with the pink room and creaking, original pre-war (WWI) armoires. Avram seems to want the one with all the light switches installed at wheelchair level. We’re just looking for something with the master bedroom far, far away from yours.

We hope that everything works out, and we don’t have to turn the container around and slink back into Alpine. We hope we get our new terrace appropriately childproofed and no one takes a swan dive down to the charming pedestrian street on which we will live. We hope we twist enough arms to get you into school despite missing the deadline and looking like we live on the streets (is it too much to ask of a vacation rental to have a hairdryer and iron??). We hope that you learn Spanish and Euskera (ancient, insane local language) so you can translate for us at PTA meetings. We hope that we can find an affordable computer, find the IKEA, and find brown sugar so we can once again eat cookies.

We mostly hope that our new lives here bring us happiness and opportunity, and that you like it here so much that you don’t move overseas after you have our grandchildren someday. Sorry, Dad.

2014-10-25 12.25.07
Taking care of Brother at the Guggenheim. Did you know the Guggenheim babysits? When we found out, we bought a deluxe membership, and used it to mainly have coffee on the terrace.