Broken Beyond Repair

how they glistened
cutting into my foot
pretty jewels as bright
as tomorrow’s sun

all the colors of the rainbow
bottles shattered in joy
their beauty too blinding
to feel the pain in my sole

stained glass of yesteryear
sunlight shining through
is lost in Iberian cathedrals
as i carry the pain in my soul

Reins

i can write a ten-minute poem
fingertips touched
with years of hesitation

i am not accustomed
to holding these reins
lost in college years
i never took advantage of

i drive the carriage now
as we gallop across new lands
their realism lit up with logic
while at home we count coins

they know me well
how cautiously i shake these reins
like kings of the same root
our horses will fly us home

Los Reyes Magos

It was a year ago, at the Día de los Reyes fiesta, that I swallowed three glasses of wine, pulled out the plastic baby Jesus from the Roscón de Reyes cake, and made my announcement to ears who would never be ready to hear such a thing.

So tumbled down the following months of my life, steps leading to a new view of the world, first from their eyes, a new set implanted in my own silly head, and now from a small apartment in Spain, where I have pulled out, year two, the King of all Kings.

He stands godlike amidst the Catholic words, his luck ready to carry my family on my back into a new year of discovery.

Yes, I said it like that. How I carry them, how you know I do, yet despise me for it in the same downtrodden tone that is washed away by the admiring and adoring words of those who know me best.

This is MY king. There is no chance, even in the small circle for which this cake is cut in this year now passed, that anyone else was meant to carry it like a charm of fruition at the bottom of purse number four. It was in my reluctant-to-indulge piece, la crema spilling out the sides and pushing his beauty into my lips, wish and resolution now granted, for another year that I know will change my life.

You couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to stand in front of duck-pond-soaked daughter for Life Moment Number 23 in Week Two of National Lampoon’s European Vacation, cousin in tow to witness it all, and not be able to say all that you need to say to the man who means more to you than anything fathomable in this or any life.

There was no Plaza de España. There was no beauty of a park unlike any other park. No romance amongst horse-drawn carriages. No tiles that could capture the intensity of my life upside down backwards and incomplete if for one moment he is angry with me.

The reason you can’t understand it is because you don’t have it. You don’t have him day to day, the most amazing human being placed upon this Earth. You couldn’t possibly understand the weight of his anger, so uncommon that the sky could fill with dark rainclouds in the same moment that you stare at the fishermen leisurely filling their nets in the sparkling sunlit river with color-coded stone houses mocking European beauty into your blood.

It was a year ago, at the Día de los Reyes fiesta, when that Fear of Losing Him broke me down to the core for the first time in fourteen years.

He is all mine now, standing like a perfect statue on top of Spanish words. He returned, peppermint bark, Spaniards, Heidetoes, and Spain, into my arms, into the warmth that I could only receive after our heated argument in that freezing cold Sevilla apartment. He is mine, this King of all Kings, and I will carry his luck on my back as we make our way into a new year, a new life like you’ve never imagined.

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Our Latest Vittetoe Adventure

There are ants in the narrow twin bed that I had to share with Bruce last night. It’s just across the way from the other twin that, upon pulling the blankets over my head, I realized would be impossible to sleep in any level of comfort as it reeked of urine from top blanket to bottom mattress. Add that to the shower that Bruce had to manipulate and shove a pen up to get it to work, the Internet that intermittently functions, and the undrinkable water, and we have ourselves another vacation disaster.

We have seen everything on this trip. There are no words that can grasp the character of three-thousand-year-old cobblestone streets of Porto that narrowly wind through hand-built stone houses along a river bank so steep you can’t imagine how a twenty-first century contractor could build something there, let alone pre-Roman indigenous tribes. There will never be an accurate photo or description of the mix of modern and new from the castle top view in Lisbon, where San Francisco’s Golden Gate seems to hover over the widest river one cannot imagine, the sharp turns of cable-car streets buzzing below in yet another city that never sleeps. I cannot gather up in this blog the pain on the face of the singers and dancers in the Sevillan flamenco show, their heavy tap-dancing steps and gyrations, his bloody Spanish guitar fingers imprinted on Mythili’s heart, whose only words were, “That was AMAZING!” And the rock, the most famous rock of all time? Looking out over Africa, Spain, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, the late December sun so hot on our backs we had to shed sweaters as we climbed for the most mesmerizing view of ships that connect the world, carton by carton? I cannot describe it sufficiently here.

Yet, three kids and my cousin in tow, traveling across the Iberian Peninsula in a rented, no-cargo-room minivan, is impossible to complete without challenges. With rented apartments with specific check-in times, forcing us to rush and cut activities short as we move from place to place, the pressure was on. Add in walking up hill for three days (we’re not in Kansas anymore!) to three sets of small legs. We’ve dealt with whining, fighting, complaining, and moaning. The everyday life of parenting.

But toss into the mixture our first apartment in Porto, where the owner did not provide WiFi as promised, our phones didn’t work on any network, and the apartment flooded while the girls were showering, forcing us to spend over an hour mopping up drain water as we had no means of contacting the owner. Moving on to Lisbon, the owner was having a friend meet us. We arrived ten minutes past said time (early for the Portuguese) and rang the bell; no answer. There we stood on the steep funicular street surrounded by luggage our tired girls had just carried up and down hills for five blocks, looking around at passersby shooting out a language that sounded like a mixture of Russian and Italian, but nothing similar to Spanish as I’d hoped and imagined, with no functioning phones.

This is when moments of panic set in. When you look at the members of your family, when your husband and cousin seem as bewildered as you, when your children’s questions are unanswerable, and you have to gather up your courage and seek out a calm and peaceful resolution. These are the moments that aren’t happily posted in Facebook photo descriptions, that can’t be explained easily over the wires back home, the moments that tear us apart and bring us together at the same time.

Yet, it was only a moment. I walked up the hill, heard two British people talking, and asked to use their phone. Within ten minutes, the whole fiasco was resolved, and we were let into the nicest of all our apartments, one with freshly set out towels, homemade Portuguese pastries, bathrobes, and WiFi with an actual router inside the apartment!

The road trip continued. Having paid almost 40€ in tolls between Porto and Lisbon, and having already dealt with one puking incident on the first leg of the trip when we first avoided tolls for a winding, mountainous road, we drugged up the kids with Dramamine and headed for Seville on the back roads. They’re called back roads for a reason, of course. Bumpy, filled with pot holes, and dotted with slow-as-molasses trucks that are often impossible to pass. Bruce asked me to stop for one moment as we came across the toll road, and I almost wish I had given in to whatever its price might be. But it would only save an hour according to Google, and I had already bolted across the grounds of the Monastery of St. Jerome to retrieve the car, wound through the back streets at the edge of Lisbon, filled the car with gas and paid with my last bit of cash when they wouldn’t accept my cousin’s credit card, just to allow for that hour.

That hour was spent standing on the side of the tree-lined road with twenty other cars for a speed trap like I’ve never seen, pulling 300€ more euros out of our rapidly dwindling account (another credit card fiasco), and wishing we’d just given in to whatever the toll master might request. Thank God everyone, including the police officers, speaks English in Portugal (boy am I lucky)!

Then there was Sevilla, the romantic city along the river with the ginormous cathedral, the Plaza de España with its tile intricacies and endless tropical forest of a park, where Riona fell into a duck pond filled with poo, stood like a drenched rat crying at Bruce’s frustration, where we got into an argument over money in front of my cousin, where he walked her back with plans to meet us later only to have every ATM deny him cash, where an ATM literally ate my debit card, and where we had an apartment with one tiny space heater to fill the forty-degree void of freezing tiled floors.

Now our trip comes to a close. Yesterday, as I stood on the Rock of Gibraltar with my family, I ran my fingers through Isabella’s hair, only to discover that the lice we’d worked so hard to rid ourselves of had now spread to her times ten, nits are clinging to all of our roots with the tenacity of devilish temptation, and just like all the disasters of this trip, right down to the ants that are crawling over my legs as I write this, seems to show no sign of ending.

“Isabella,” I asked, tense concern resting on every syllable, “why didn’t you tell me your head was itching?”

“I didn’t want you to cancel our vacation. I wanted to see everything and stay in all these cool places. I didn’t want to miss it.”

One thing we can say, on our latest Vittetoe Adventure, is that we haven’t missed anything–the good, the bad, or the ugly!

Monster Killer

like a monster in the night
it keeps us from taking flight
sickness looms and then destroys
all our plans and travel joys

why must it creep into our life
filling us with unwanted strife?
if i could wipe it clean i would
monster killer, if just i could.

but, so sadly, i must subside
allow the illness to decide
when it comes and when it departs
raising and dropping anxious hearts