Moms Perfect Trip to Spain
My goal was to deliver moms perfect trip to Spain. I’d looked forward to this day since peering through the window of my taxi at Jennilou and the girls waving me good bye from our apartment lobby. Now it was finally Thanksgiving, and I found myself at the Ankara Airport about to board a Pegasus Airlines flight for a four-day trip through southern Spain. With Esmei deciding to stay back with her cousins, our group would be my mother, Louisa, Jennilou, and I.
In my favorite photograph from our visit, my mom and I appear as if on the stoop of a castle. Behind us is a cinematic backdrop: the Alhambra towers amid clusters of trees. We’re standing on a wide open garden terrace, wearing our sweaters. Mom clutches her map in her right hand and leans into my shoulder. In the corner, over our heads, there are slivers of blue sky.
I recall arriving at this place, to the staggering sight of the snow-capped mountains opening up beyond the valley and then, my mother’s voice. “I’m just out of words,” she said as she sat on an open park bench. “Isn’t it something?”
My mother was famous for documenting our family trips as she did most everything in her life. “Mom, please. All you do is take pictures,” I likely said to her. “Don’t you have enough? However, there are no photos of my mother from most of our outings. This is the fate of many mothers, I guess, who are so busy capturing memories for the family archives that their existence is obscured behind the camera. This is the version of my mother that I remember most.
Thirty years have passed since our first family getaways. After too many surgeries and years of chasing her three boys around, she struggles a bit with her mobility. She is shaky in the sense that the ordinary world has become a hazardous place, full of precipitous traffic, careening action, and unpredictable weather. However, living each day safely at home was never her style. During this trip, I was determined to widen the breadth of her constricted routine. Together, we would try new foods and saunter the old towns.
We drove my trusting mother out of the Madrid airport rental car parking lot Thanksgiving morning. Headed for Granada, we broke into a world of rolling hills, olive groves, and blue sky. Our pace was rapid. We moved hotels each night, staying in Madrid, Granada, Seville, and Cordoba. With limited rest, we visited the iconic sights of Capilla Real de Granada, Catedral de Granada, Alhambra, Plaza de Espana, Real Alcazar, Catedral de Sevilla, and Mezquita Cathedral de Cordoba. We ate tapas and she even drank red wine. She seemed delighted.
From the start, I hesitated a bit. “Mom, is this ok?” I imagined her asking for a rest.
“I’m great” My normally hesitant mother waved us onward. “I want to see it all.”
It was her grand journey, rolling down the sidewalk forever, block after block, and never getting tired. She crossed streets, stopped at cafes, art galleries, shops, and museums. Fields, towns, and miles moved underneath us. She would not live in the past, she lived in the now. She met new people and talked to everyone.
“I don’t feel well,” my mother complained, snapping me back to reality: it was 2:00pm on our last day in Spain. “Let’s go a little further,” I urged, “We are almost back to the car.”
But in truth, to my mother, the 100-yard path cutting across the park looked never-ending. “Look at that long, uphill stretch,” she droned. “Almost there. We can make it. Yes we can.” The path rejoined the sidewalk and we continued on down to our rental car. My mom grew concerned. “My bags are gone,” she fretted. For now, since I could not save her, I would just do what I could: pack up her belongings strewn around the car and try to console her.
We’d only gone a few miles towards Madrid, when I heard the dry heaving in the back seat. I tried to pull over, but it was too late. Jennilou did her best to clean the back seat, while I rubbed her back on the side of the highway. “I think I have food poisoning,” explained me Mom. “I think you do too.”
Like anyone’s idea of a good journey, I had tried to strike the perfect balance between effort and payoff, and to contain just the right interval between departure and return. From where I now sat, it was clear that the perimeters of this wide world were drawing close and the horizon had receded. As the reality set in, I was forced to acknowledge that my fantasy trip would end far less glamorous. It’d entail her heading back to Vermont and living on her limited terms. Any future visits would require us heading home.
As I left for the airport early the next morning, I looked at my mom and honestly felt like crying. I was blown away that my mother appeared content. “Let’s put this one on the good memory page,” she said aloud. I can only surmise she was imagining her photo albums stuffed with snapshots of Maine and Disney World and how this time she would actually be in them. I squeezed her shoulders, grateful to have shared this foray with her, and then started for the door.
“A perfect trip to Spain,” she shouted as the door closed.