Maria Jesus and her sister Maria Asunsion are my second or third cousins in Zaragoza, Spain. Five years ago, when I last visited, they took me to my grandmother’s hometown of Berdun, something I wish she were alive for, so I could tell her all about it, or even invite her with me. You can read all about these travels starting here.
If I have a regret in this life, it’s that I never took advantage of learning Spanish in my youth, when I had the chance, with school and with my Grandma Eva. I was too timid, both in school and with her. We both were, I think. This is a quality we share in common. If I seem bold and daring nwo, it is only through sheer will. It is not my nature.
I started to learn Spanish five years ago, starting with Pimsleur CDs, for a laugh. I wanted to see if I could really do it, but I also had a mental block. If I couldn’t learn it as a kid, how could I learn it now?
My then boyfriend at the time, Miguel, laughed and rolled his eyes when I first started repeating the lessons from the CDs. Three months later, I had enough to say some sentences, but I couldn’t understand beyond what was offered on the CD, which, if I recall, was how to get to the fictitious Hotel Bolivar.
When we came back from Spain, I searched on Craigslist and found my teacher Natalia, a Madrilena, in San Francisco.
Five years later, I’m in a locutorio in Girona, nervously calling Maria Jesus. This is going to be even tougher than buying tampons, as previously described here. For one, it’s one the phone. Phone conversations are always more difficult. For another, she is not expecting my call. She might have completely forgotten about me. This is scary.
“Is this Maria Jesus?”
“Hello, this is Katie, your cousin from California.”
It’s an awkward start, but Chuck and I are heading back to Zaragoza this Wednesday. She says we can stay with her.
If I have a second regret, it’s that I let my fears get the best of me and I waited this long. We’ll only be in Zaragoza one night, and I wonder if this will be enough time.
“You speak with a Spanish accent,” Maria Jesus says. She is being kind, but my attempt at the castellano accent is no accident. This is what I’ve wanted, from the beginning. I thank her.
“It’s because of your grandmother,” she says.
Todo es por ella.
I’ve passed the next test.