Every time I tell someone that I am spending seven weeks in Spain this summer they express their jealousy, envy, and disbelief. It’s all “Ooooh, aaaah, how lucky”. I guess they imagine me lounging around in perfect weather, hanging around with my people, drinking sangría and cooking paellas by the sun. I imagine that too. Every single year. And that piece of my imagination is the reason why I go back year after year, to the detriment of my bank account.
Do you see this picture? Isn’t it awesome? I think it is, as I have thought for the last 35 years. When I was born I was brought from the hospital to the house where I am staying right now. My parents still live here, and for many years to come it will be the house in which I have lived the longest, 22 years.
It is a beautiful, huge, comfortable house in the middle of the mountains in the north of Spain. Summer after summer I do my best for my kids to enjoy exactly the opposite of what they enjoy in Chicago: the great outdoors, the harvesting season, running wild, and being outside every single minute we can, so we can face another long Chicago winter armed with plenty of Spanish vitamin D.
I love this place. It is in a 150 people village where “everybody knows your name”.
And yet, every single year, I vow not to come back. Because as much as I love my family, and as much as I love my house (because this is still what I am talking about when I talk about home), they drive me nuts.
As I get older my tolerance for their criticism is diminishing, and that leads to constant arguments. Add to that three difficult kids, two older adults, and one opinionated me and you have a molotov cocktail of sorts.
Most foreign people I know have families who help them a lot when they go back home, give them a hand with the kids so they can get a break, and are delighted to see them. I have even heard of welcome home parties. Or so they say on Facebook.
My family’s idea of helping is telling me what to do, and how to do it. And, you see, by now I have turned into an American mom, and that means constant clashes. Because my kids don’t dress well enough, because I don’t iron every single piece of their clothing, because I can conceive spending twenty minutes a day doing something other than chores, because I use my phone too much, because I read to them for too long at night. Because my kids don’t behave well (they don’t, I agree, but everyone undermining my authority and disregarding their issues since day one certainly doesn’t help).
I have removed hatchets from the garden where my kids play. The telephone rings at 11:30 pm every single night. My mom complains all the time (but I guess all moms, including me, do that). And still, I am the unreasonable one.
Part of the problem is that I am the youngest of three siblings, and the other two are 17 and 18 years older than me. Which means that everyone still treats me like they did when I was fifteen. My father would argue that I deserve it because I behave like I am fifteen. And some days, I wish I did. Maybe I will try it to see what happens then.
I have been here for 35 days. This is the first night that I have had time to write. And this morning I even read a book for fifteen minutes. This may start to look like a vacation. And, if it does, I may start looking into tickets for next summer.
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