One to Grow On

June 7, 2010

Nora’s 6th Brithday, and then some

Filed under: children, food, Food Allergies, Spain — midway2go @ 7:27 am

Nora is 6!  For weeks Nora has started each day with the Birthday Countdown:  Guess what?  23 days until my birthday!  22 days until my birthday!  21 days until my birthday!  Brandon’s visit came and went, and the Birthday Countdown marched on.  For our birthdays this year we have all been choosing a big event to mark the day, in lieu of a partyand family  and presents (although there have been more of those than I would have thought…).  Rory chose to go to a ninja house in Japan.  I visited Salisbury Cathedral (of which I had ridiculously happy memories of visiting years ago with my beloved Dr. Kelley) and visiting Fiona and Rich and their girls in Cornwall (who took us to see the sun set over the ocean AND popped open a bottle of champagne- I think I chose wisely!  Blog to come!)  Nora chose to stay at a hotel in Sevilla (she was very clear about NOT camping on her birthday) and go to a flamenco show. 

So, we loitered in southern Spain for the week after Brandon left, camping in the Alpujarras on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevadas and in Tarifa.  We toyed with the idea of going into Morocco for a  day or two, but we were all having food allergy issues from all our restaurant visits with Brandon, and I just didn’t have the heart to go over for just a day.  Instead we went to America – to Rota Naval Base, that is.  We spent dollars in the commissary, bought guide books in the bookshop, and watched lots of movies.  We even had oe fabulous afternoon on a beach on base.  The water was warm; the waves were gentle.  We dripped sand into massive formations and watched the sea reclaim them.  Then, leaving, we were nearly arrested by three Spanish national police. Oops.  Despite the open gate and the boardwalk leading to the water the beach was, we were told, closed.  Hmmm, right.  I explained that I had been given directions to the beach by the hotel front desk (it was a 5 minute walk), and they were prepared to let me go as being “malinformada,” but then te bomb dropped:  I didn’t have my I.D. with me.  Now, this was something to get excited about.   The American M.P.’s were called.  Rory and Nora and I had to sit and wait,  sandy and damp and slightly burned (me, of course).  The M.P.’s showed up, except that they didn’t speak SPainsh, so there was a lot of hand waving and sign language and muttering on both sides.  I don’t think the M.P.’s thought we were much of a threat to  Spanish national security.  I toyed with the idea of translating, but then sat there instead and mulled over the true meaning of the fifth amendment.  Finally it was decided that the two Americans plus one of the Spanairds would accompany us back to the hotel where my I.D. waited.  The final complication: Rory and Nora and I were on foot.  I had a picture in my mind of the M.P.’s driving very slowly behind us all the way to make sure the three of us didn’t make a break for it.   I’m sure there’s a Bruce Springsteen song about that, a mom and two kids, running for their freedom…

Okay, back to Nora’s birthday.  We left Rota with our names cleared and with a desire to get stationed there someday.  Driving north we passed Jerez de la Frontera then had an hour of driving across baking hot countryside.  Now, a word about the Green Eel, our car we picked up in England (thanks, again, Lucy- you rock).  It is a wonderful car, a Subaru Outback with a huge trunk for camping and enough room in the back for Rory and Nora to spread out.  It was two sunroofs, a great stere0 with an iPod dock so we can all listen to audiobooks together.  It’s zippy and looks more expensive than it really was(and will be for sale in September in Britain, if anyone is interested!).  What it is lacking is air conditioning.  Now, I knew that when I bought it, but standing in Fleet, England, hopping up and down to keep my feet warm, it seemed like no big deal.  Well, driving into the sun on a freakishly hot day in Andalucia it was a huge deal.  By the time we got to Sevilla my clothes were soaked through with sweat and the thermometer at the parking garage read 44 degrees- celcius.  That’s well over 100F.  I vowed to do early morning drives after that.

The morning of Nora’s birthday she awoke with a squeal.  I had set out a little table of presents, and she was thrilled to find I had bought the right sticker dolly dressing books all the way from England.  Brandon called to sing happy birthday, and she was one happy puppy.  In the afternoon we headed over the the cathedral to check out Christopher Columbus’s tomb and to hoof it to the top of the Giraldi tower, rising more than 300 feet over the roofs of Sevilla.  Nora, to be fair, didn’t want to go in the first place.  Rory and I did, very much, and off we went.  It was awful.  Hordes of people, multitudes of school groups, lines everywhere.  An audioguide for children was available in English, but  whoever made it seemed to think that being for children meant a paucity of information coupled with a patronizing tone.  The entry on Columbus’s tomb went something like, “I won’t bore you with facts about Columbus.  You must know all about him already!  Let’s talk instead about the symbols on the chests of the four pall-bearers.”  My kids glared at me like I’d been keeping Columbus a secret (it’s true, I’m no great fan…).  “Climbing” the tower was more like standing in a slow moving line at McDonald’s- over-weight ten year-olds shouting to each other while retirees sighed loudly at the delay. Yikes. 

 [Yet another non-birthday related observation: In Britain, lots of folks look fat.  Women, men, and kids.  Here in Spain, almost none of the adults are fat.  Maybe a beer belly (sherry belly?  who knows?) here or there, but no really fat people.  The kids, however, are definately chunky.  I’d say more fat kids than thin ones.  Shocking.]

The highlight of the day was supposed to be the flamenco show, but in truth I think Nora enjoyed playing with her presents and dressing up in her flamenco outfit.  I thought the show was amazing, even though I know it’s for tourists.  It started at 8pm and lasted 90 minutes, and Rory and Nora both did a fair bit of yawning.  I thought the music was amazing.   Flamenco grew out of the Gypsy culture brushing up against the other cultures of Andalucia, Moorish, Jewish, Spanish.  With only a guitar the artists created another world with their hands, their heels, and their voices.  The songs sounded like the Islamic call to prayer, and the dancing looked like drawing flowers in the air.  It was quite intense and powerful, and I was thrilled that NOra wanted to go for her birthday.  She didn’t really know what to expect, but the dresses and the flowers in the women’s hair were inspiring.  Rory, of course, like the 2 male dancers best (we’ve nicknamed them “Shiny Suit” and “Tight Britches”). 

After the show we sat down at a table on the sidewalk and ate tapas and drank a chilled glass of Rioja (well, I did, anyway) and reflected on dance and music and birthdays.  Now, everyone in our family has had his or her birthday for this year.  Last year, looking ahead and worrying about what was to come, we thought the birthdays would be some of the hardest days to be apart. This name for this blog grew out of that concern over these special, red letter days, and what it would feel like to live through them.  Now, with all four of them behind us, they seem, well, just like birthdays.  Anticipation, secrets, calls with singing, special plans.   Our family may be spread out over three continents, but that just can’t change some things.  So, happy birthday, Nora.   May your whole year be blessed and joyful.



  1. Thank you for the beautiful writing Chrislyn. I almost feel like I was there to share Nora’s very own day. With a deep sigh, I am so very thankful that my grandchildren have such an adventurous mama. Rory, grandma Barbara could have helped you complain about the heat in the car. I am so proud of each of you for your joy of exploration. Seeing Nora’s birthday pictures is such a joy to me. We carried some photos of you for our Wisconsin relatives to see. Did you feel all the love coming your way? God Be With You. Love, Grandma Barbara

    Comment by Barbara — June 7, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  2. Hey guys!!

    Nora we are so sorry we missed your Birthday, looks like you had an amazing day! Happy Birthday! I am sending an email your way and uploading the photo’s of your visit, keep adventuring!! loads of love and hugs lucy & Thomas xx

    Comment by Lucy & Thomas — June 21, 2010 @ 10:00 am

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