Several weeks ago Yenni and I went on a field trip with the 7th graders to a nearby mountain/national park.
Our bus driver for the trip brought his dog along for the ride, carrying him in the cargo storage area underneath the bus, and as we were all out walking around the mountain, the driver was right there with us (and so was his dog).
I didn’t say more than a few words to the driver, but I do remember that I thought he was attractive.
Before I continue on with the story I should say that since I have brown hair and look like every other Spaniard with the exception of my ghostly skin color, I get absolutely no attention here from guys. Not really all that different from in the U.S. where I don’t look like the stereotypical hot girl so I also get no attention.
Back to the story…
A few weeks later, the bus driver–whom we now know is Carlos–came to the school asking for the blonde lectura. Well that’s Yenni. Turns out he invited Yenni and her friend from Texas to go skiing with him as soon as the mountains get some snow! So Yenni gets asked out on a date 3 weeks after she meets a guy whom she barely spoke to and I, the Texan, get invited along for the ride…mostly just to make Yenni feel like it’s not a romantic inquiry.
Well the guy continues to call and text Yenni, claiming that he wants to actually get to know us over dinner before spending a weekend skiing with us—at least that part sounds unsketchy.
Yenni spent several days deliberating about whether to meet with Carlos at all. But when Isa told her that a dinner is always between friends, Yenni finally decided to call Carlos back. But, she insisted to me, she hoped this dinner was at a restaurant because it would be awkward to go to the house of someone we don’t know.
So Friday night we finally met up with Carlos outside the offices of the bus company he works for. As he’s approaching I saw that he had a friend with him and I thought, “Oh shit, this better not be a double date.”* Carlos knocks on the office door and urgently declares that his friend Nicolas needs to use the bathroom inside. As we wait for Nicolas to do his business we are invited inside the office where we meet two men whom Carlos introduces as his bosses. We sit down with Carlos as he fools around and pretends to help us make travel plans with the bus company. There was a little misunderstanding as Yenni insisted that the bus driver who drove us on our field trip to Segovia was the son of the owner of the company and Carlos insisted that this was not the case.
When Nicolas returns from the bathroom Carlos goes into this long story about how there has been a change of plans–something about who cooked dinner when and for whom–but that he’s fixed it all now and he has a plan. Thoroughly confused by Carlos’ evasion of actually telling us what’s going on, I asked Carlos where we were eating dinner and he turned to Nicolas who said, “Casa Lopez,” and then Carlos turns back to us and says, “Yes, yes, Casa Lopez.” So then I asked, “Is Lopez your last name?” And Carlos concedes, “Yes, yes it is.” So we’re going to be eating at his house, exactly what Yenni did not want to be doing the first time we met him.
We went to a nearby bar to have a wine or a beer, which is what Spanish people do before they finally eat dinner at 10 or 11. And at the bar we get the full story out of Carlos about why we are eating at his house. I couldn’t really follow the whole thing, but to make a long story short, Yenni and I are are attending Carlos’ mother’s birthday dinner. That was Carlos’ solution to having two commitments in one night: just merge the two events into one! And Carlos had also gotten gifts for us to give his mother. I was giving his mother a pair of gloves para que no tenga frío en el invierno and Yenni was giving her a book written by a Canadian author.
Yenni and I could not stop laughing from the absurdity of the situation! Not only were we crashing his mother’s birthday party but we were also pretending that we had gotten her gifts! I imagined myself walking into a house full of people and handing an old lady the gift that I had no part in buying.
Carlos drove us to his house and we were going way past any part of Miranda that I had ever been in. I kept thinking to myself, “You are a good judge of character. You did not just get into a car with a psycho who’s going to kidnap you or worse.”
Now I know how Miranda has over 40,000 inhabitants! There’s so much of Miranda I had never seen before. It goes on for quite a while. Carlos’ house was in a row of American-looking townhomes. When we walked into the house I saw a beautiful blonde woman. This is Carlos’ mom?! She looked so young. I found out later she’s only 52…almost 6 years younger than my mom…but Carlos is 31.
We sit down and talk with Pilar for a while and then Carlos comes over and asks his mom if she’d like us to give her the gifts we brought. As she opened them she was so nervous for some reason–she said she felt like a little kid opening presents. It was so hard not to laugh and feel incredibly guilty as she opened the gifts and the three of us saw for the first time what it was the gift was! She really liked the presents and thanked us. Carlos must know her well.
Then Carlos gave us a tour around the house–it’s 4 stories, including a basement that they use as a dining room. This was the first Spanish house I had been in. Everything else has been apartments. It was nice to be in a home again. A place where people have lived for 20+ years, with lots of room, comfy couches, and fireplaces. They shared their backyard with the rest of the townhomes–it came equipped with a swimming pool and tennis courts. Before we went back inside the house, Carlos whispers to us that his mom usually hates anytime he ever brings girls home but he thinks that this time, with the gifts that we gave her, and because we’re foreigners, that everything is ok and that she likes us. Hmmm.
In the whole house, my favorite room was the basement. I wish I could have taken a picture, but my description will have to suffice. The ceiling has wooden beams going across and the fire was lit in the fireplace in the corner. Decorative plates with roosters or celestial objects hung on the white plastered walls. The table cloth was bright pink, red, and yellow, and on it were fancy wine pitchers.
After Carlos showed us his Kawasaki motorcycle in the garage, Yenni and I sat down at the dining room table and enjoyed wine and cured cheese with one of Carlos’ “bosses” whom we had met earlier. He’s actually a close family friend who goes by the name Rambo.** The other boss whom we had met is actually Carlos’ father and the owner of the bus company, which explains why Carlos contested Yenni’s claim that our Segovia bus driver was the son of the owner.
As more family came, we sat down to dinner. I felt a little uncomfortable about having chosen the seat alongside what became Pilar’s seat, therefore forcing her to sit next to a guest she had just met instead of sitting next to her husband, but Carlos’ father assured me that in Spain they don’t have seating honors like we do in the U.S. The food started flowing and so did the conversation and it felt nice to eat with a family again for the first time in months.
Everyone present had traveled extensively–Europe, Argentina, Mexico, U.S., Canada, and Iñaki had just gotten back from 2 weeks in Vietnam. Overall, Spaniards do very little traveling outside of their own provinces, let alone outside of Spain. They tend to spend their money more on every day leisurely expenses like new technology and drinks at the bar instead of saving their money for traveling. So it was nice to meet people who value travel as much as I do. They told me that I was lucky to meet them as they were one of the few Spanish families that like America. “Great,” I thought. A few glasses of wine in, I looked around the table at the pork sirloin, shrimp who still had their eyeballs, apple pastry, Spanish-looking people in Spanish-looking clothes in a Spanish-looking room and realized that this is exactly what I thought Spain was before I arrived. And I found myself very happy to be there.
This family was full of crazy stories about Jorge’s wedding, Ramon the Cuban Jew’s conversations with Che Guevara, Oktoberfest, and the Russians inviting themselves over to a Miami hotel to have a taste of some Lopez family paella. Carlos took out his guitar and played in the traditional Spanish style as everyone continued talking. By the end of the night I was unable to follow all the conversations that were going on but enjoyed myself immensely nonetheless.
I want to meet more families like this. I want more far-fetched anecdotes over wine and cheese and guitar. And I want to have a family like this! I want my son to invite some random 20 year olds to my 52nd birthday party. The more the merrier!
The only difference is that at my party we won’t be eating pork and shrimp.
*I found out later that Carlos’ friend Nicolas is very much in love with his new girlfriend whom he affectionately calls “Niña.”
**Agustín acquired the moniker during a winter game of frontón (similar to raquetball or squash) when he felt no need to wear a jacket like all the other men and instead played the game in a wife-beater.