This isn’t what I thought I’d be publishing today.
I’d planned to publish the piece I wrote on Christmas Eve about the neighbor woman who died by suicide two weeks ago. Or my Christmas reflection on guilt, about the woman with the copper penny skin who I only gave 0.80€ to when I wanted to give her 5€, but wasn’t brave enough.
Instead I’m pondering a horribly difficult Christmas that was somehow filled with blessings. And contrary to my usual, this is gonna be a shockingly positive report. You can thank Silvia for that. She is teaching me how to be an optimist without being a cupcake. But first I gotta give you the backstory, so bear with me.
I was supposed to be in Edinburgh right now, visiting one of my most beloved friends.
But I missed my flight because I went to a health clinic. I thought I had a UTI. That might sound ridiculous, but a UTI put me in the hospital right before I left for Spain. It was really bad. So now I get very concerned anytime I see symptoms of it.
Well, the doctor didn’t arrive to the clinic on time and the front desk lady told me I’d miss my flight if I waited, so I found a bus and went to the airport. But then I had to wait an hour in a line to print my boarding pass because I thought I could use the mobile one, but I couldn’t. I got to the front of the line right as my gate has closed. I hadn’t even been to security yet, so it’s just as well I suppose. But I started ugly crying in the airport. I went to the ticket counter and paid the 100€ to switch my flight to tomorrow morning. Then I bought some water and sat in a hard metal chair and cried some more.
So, those are the details. It was a horrible 6 hours.
That’s not the point. The point is that I was mostly overwhelmed by the kindness that so many people, my mom, my host mom, my friends, and strangers, dumped on my head despite my protests and ugly crying and feeling like the world’s worst traveler (I really am).
I met three of the loveliest strangers today.
I’d like to make some kind of metaphor, like they were my Christmas ghosts. But they don’t fit it. They were just kind woman I met in Spain. The first was a sweet fellow traveler who sat in the bus station in Zaragoza with me at 3am and told me how much she wanted to visit Canada. She told me her name—I think it was Elisa. I told her I wanted my mom to come see me here in Spain, so I could show her all the things I love, but we can’t afford the ticket. So she and I commiserated over being poor and wanting to see the world. When I stood up to leave, she stood up and gave me dos besos like we were old friends and she wished me a lovely journey. I loved how she kindly corrected my grammar as I spoke to her in Spanish. And how proud she was when she told me “Nice to meet you, yes?” And we discussed the difficulties of pronunciation in a foreign language.
The second woman I met was the jolliest old woman at a bus stop in Barcelona.
I was confused, as I am always confused by Barcelona’s public transport. But she was bound and determined to help me get to the airport safely. She happily enlisted the help of two young women my age who very clearly didn’t want bothered, but this old woman insisted they help me, too. And she was right. I made it to the airport with no trouble.
As soon as I boarded the bus to the airport I struck up a conversation with a woman and her daughter who were weighted down with luggage.
The daughter was in 2nd grade of primeria and I asked her if she spoke English. She used her fingers to tell me just a tiny bit. But her mother’s English was pristine. She teaches linguistics at three different universities here. She’s from Moscow and speaks about 6 languages. She told me about Moscow Christmas traditions and I told her about my speaking program here in Spain, which she found fascinating.
Then the kerfluffle at the airport happened.
But that’s when my mom came through, talkingto me on the phone as I freaked despite it being 3am where she is. And then my Spanish friend Silvia, who offered to help me pay the 100€ to switch flights, “because you are my friend and you have to see Edinburgh, and that’s more important than 100€,” she told me. She kept telling me she was praying for me, and I knew that she was.
And then my amazing friend Kristina, who is waiting for me patiently in Edinburgh and who paid for me to stay in a cheap hotel/expensive hostel (I haven’t figured out yet which it is, but I have comfortable good smelling sheets and pillows and my own room) because the 100€ sucked me dry.
Also, I don’t have a UTI.
I am so grateful for the healthcare system of Spain, of which I am a part of through my work study program. I can’t imagine being in this situation if I were a foreigner in the USA. But here, I went to the health clinic and they tested me and said I’m clean. It is probably just my three year old grumpy kidney stone acting up a bit. He does that from time to time.
Christmas this year was hard.
Harder than two years ago when I spent it in hiding with my mother and brother because my father was stalking us and giving her scary ultimatums. Our friends took us in and hid us away and went shopping Christmas Eve so we would have something to open under their Christmas tree come Christmas morning.
This Christmas was harder.
I had to tell my host mother that I wouldn’t go to Mass with them on Christmas day, and that was hard. I know it hurt her, but that wasn’t my intention. I’m learning to stop attending Mass to please or pacify others, especially when it causes me such bad PTSD right now. That conversation ended up causing a very large PTSD flare up all through Christmas Eve, but my badass counselor, my fellow woman writer friends, and my best friends back in the States got me through mostly unscathed.
I missed my family and out traditions more than I ever would have imagined possible this Christmas.
But today I’m laying in a hostel/hotel bed with good smelling sheets and feeling very loved and very calm and very grateful for all the people who showed me love today and helped me see the face of God this Christmas.
P.S. the hotel/hostel has free breakfast tomorrow, which was the best news I got all day.
P.P.S. I meandered Barcelona wearing pJ pants this evening, and that feels like a major win.
P.P.P.S I did get to fulfill one treasured Christmas tradition this year. Last night before I left Zaragoza, I met Silvia to see the new Mary Poppins movie (which I stubbornly loved). We had planned to meet up so I could give her her Christmas gifts, and last minute she asked if I wanted to go to see the movie together. It wasn’t until I arrived at the theatre that I realized I was actually fulfilling one of my family’s Christmas Traditions: we always go to the cinema on boxing day, December 26. As I left the theatre after the movie, I checked my phone and saw a text from my mom, telling me she and my brother had just arrived at the cinema back home to watch Mary Poppins. I felt so close to her in this coincidence, despite the bothersome expanse of water currently separating us.
Watching the movie made me feel like I was sitting on my grandmother’s couch again, since she and Beeba and I always watched Mary Poppins together. We knew the words to all the songs. And I painted one of the gifts I have Silvia, which also felt like fulfilling a Christmas ritual, as I’ve always handmaid Christmas gifts for the ones I love most.