Saturday, May 17, 2008


Raoul doesn't seem to have changed much since I was a little girl, even after several years back in Spain. The same wiry, silver hair crimped above the same fluid face upholstered in pliant olive skin. The same booming voice tumbling from Spanish to heavily-accented, elegant English to Spanish again as he translates for his new wife, Carmen, who looks surprisingly unlike his late wife, Lena, her sister. But Carmen, also a widow, is delightful in her own right and all the more charming for not being the spitting image of Lena. She's slightly more dainty and pale than bosomy, motherly Lena, although she has the same shy smile and fine nose.

To me Raoul's voice is rich with backyard barbecues on the 4th of July, summer air crackling with anticipation for the fireworks (if it didn't decide to snow). Spring visits to the country to gather brown, speckled eggs and adore the awkward new lambs, tails freshly docked. When I hear Raoul I hear Kelly's father, Glen, shout, "Spaniard!" in that peculiar way he addressed his friend, challenging, admiring. I remember Raoul lifting me over fences, helping a toddling Kindra walk the top of a stone wall or hop from stone to stone in a creek. He is here from Spain to visit his grandchildren, and that is wonderful.

This is Carmen's first visit to the U.S. She seems a bit overwhelmed by us at the restaurant table until nine-year-old Britan Marie starts practicing her elementary Spanish, numbers and colors and tableware. My Spanish is the slightly evolved, peppered-with-slang Mexico Spanish, and rusty at that, but it begins to come back as Carmen speaks to June, who looks baffled.

There's always sign language. I show her the picture of Brent that's stored in my phone, the one in which he's smiling broadly at the camera and holding a pool cue, and she grins and runs her fingertips down her cheeks cooing, "Ooooo." She has lovely, expressive hands with long fingers and oval nails, and she politely waves away the waitress with them, claps them when Britan counts to veintidós, clasps them while waiting for me to stumble around missing words as if holding her tongue.

An hour flies by and she becomes increasingly animated, until by the end of the visit she is kissing cheeks and patting Britan's golden curls affectionately. She hugs me and says, "Mucho gusto!" I am transported for an instant, and without thinking, reply, "Yo tambien!" She's elated by this, exclaiming and kissing. And I am so pleased with her and pleased with my memory and pleased with Raoul for bringing her.


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