12 April 2012

Easter break

We're back from our two-week trip to Catalonia, and I'm so thankful to be home, and thankful that I don't have to get on an airplane again before we have this baby. Even apart from the baby belly and baby aches, I really love coming home again after a trip, getting to sleep in our own bed and getting back to our cozy life. I'm a homebody with a travel bug, so as much as I love going places, I love coming home again just as much.

Gabriel did very well, by and large, on all of the flights. Our most difficult moment came when we boarded the 6:45 am flight back to Brussels and realized that the check-in person had given us separate seats. With the Mister across the aisle and stuck in the middle seat, no one wanted to change with him, because the aisle seat guys had, as they legitimately pointed out, *paid* for an aisle seat. So we grinned and bore it, until the dude next to me finally relented after Gabriel realized he wasn't M. and started screaming "Dada, dada!!!" and lunging over our laps. (Good job, Gabriel!)

We had a perfectly lovely stay on the Costa Brava, in the tiny apartment that the Mister's parents own. It rained almost every day of our week-long visit, but actually that was just fine with us, since the Mister had to work on his dissertation for a few hours every morning and a few hours every afternoon. We settled into a nice rhythm of breakfasting together, then M. working while Gabriel indulged in cartoons and I indulged in reading (as well as, once he had watched a couple of shows, epic sessions of reading books, coloring, stickers, etc.), then a short walk if it was clear, then lunch and naps (I had a nap every single day, lucky me!).

The afternoons were much the same, working/tv/reading/coloring and another walk before dinner unless it was raining. Gabriel went to bed without protest nearly every night, sleeping through the night in his own little room, which made our evenings that much more relaxing--we mostly spent them watching documentaries or doing more reading. (I know, we like to live on the edge.) No internet meant we truly were able to disconnect from everything. We went out for a meal just once, to a pizza place as soon as it opened at 7pm (all the other restaurants open at 8 or 8:30, well past Gabriel's bedtime), with no one else in the place but us. (One thing about the Iberian lifestyle that I can't get over now that I have a kid is how late children go to bed, in part due to late mealtimes!)

During our trip I read four and a half books, only one of which I really loved: Jennifer Eagan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. I also read two short story collections, and I was reminded why I love short stories but not short story collections: each story should be read on its own and savored, instead of jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with others. Plus, especially for vacation reading, I really miss the momentum of a novel's plot, the kind that drives you forward and makes you lose track of time as you devour masses of pages. One of the collections was a Don Barthelme set, and his books of stories have been on my wish list for ages, which made me anticipate them greatly and then be disappointed greatly (plus, it was prefaced by maybe the most glowing introduction I have ever read, by Dave Eggars, and set me up for even more disappointment when I wasn't a fan). Finally, I read John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River, which was all right plot- and character-wise, but which I found repetitive and relied overmuch on that temporal overlay writerly crutch: "Later, so-and-so would remember how the..."; or "When he thought back on that night as an old man, he saw..."; etc.

We actually did have a few sunny mornings, including Palm Sunday and Good Friday, during which there were delightful events. Palm Sunday, all the children carry elaborately woven palm branches to the church and wear their best new spring clothes (see my description from a couple of years ago here)--since this was a family town, the area in front of the church was jam-packed with kids, strollers, and families taking pictures. On Good Friday, the same plaza held a wonderful market of artisanal cheeses, breads, and pastries, including Eastertide confections, bunyols, which are sweet anise-flavored fritters, fried dough formed into small donuts or triangular shapes and rolled in sugar. We bought samples of all of the above. Plus, there were espectacles or shows for children, and Gabriel got to watch clowns and dance very charmingly with other little tots.

We were back to my in-laws' for Easter, and Easter morning we attended church in the city, but I was badly disappointed by the service, with its lugubrious synthesized organ renditions of what should be joyful Easter hymns, and a complete lack of flowers/trumpets/choir or other signs of Easter festivity. It's the day of the year, I realized as I spent half the service in quiet tears, that I am most homesick for the US and the traditions of our family and churches past. Plus, there was no nursery as advertised, and Gabriel fell right away while clambering over the pews, so M. had to take him out of the sanctuary while he screamed his head off for half the service. (He was literally the only child in the room, which is often the case at the churches we attend in Catalonia.)

Things got a little more Easter-like (in a secular fashion) once we returned home and staged an Easter-egg hunt for Gabriel, his cousins, and friends of theirs visiting from France (where egg-hunts are also a tradition, although they are not in Spain). The five kids loved scouring the courtyard for chocolate and hard-boiled eggs, and each carrying his or her own little homemade paper basket. On Easter Monday we did the Spanish Easter tradition, which is the mona, a cake for each child topped with large chocolate eggs or other shapes, candies, and colored feathers or other decor. Traditionally, each child receives his or her cake from the godmother, but in our family we just make them for the kids. As we discovered, five cakes is an awful lot of cake!

As usual, we came back to a very rainy and quite chilly Belgium, but the flowers are bursting and it still feels like spring. (Ironically, I often feel colder in the spring because the temperatures are still low but I've abandoned the idea of mittens and parkas and wool hats.) Our street is a vast mud pit, which I have great difficulty getting the stroller through, since the wheels get stuck in the mud, and I can't or shouldn't lift it out. I've had to ask for help from strangers, or abandon the stroller, take Gabriel to our door, and go back for the stroller. None too fun. Our shoes are permanently coated with clayey orange mud. But again: it's spring. We walk past adorable parades of ducklings every morning on our way to daycare, and the sun does peek out every once in a while, promising nicer things to come. It's good to be home.

1 comment:

JCasas said...

We were overloaded with Mona too! I told my MIL just to make the little one a cupcake, as he doesn't have a clue what a cake is...but lo and behold, a huge cake covered with feathers from the chinese store (ick) was front and center come Easter Monday! We struggle with the Iberian nighttime schedule as well - the good thing about it is that when we want to go out, our kids are already sleeping when the GPs arrive to babysit.