I am dedicating this post to the wonderful family that has made me their “hija,” “hija adoptiva,” “tesoro,” “amor,” “vida”… I live with the Ibañez family, Imelda and Charles. They have two grown daughters: one lives in Argentina, and one lives in the building next-door in the same community. The neighbor-daughter, Pamela, has three beautiful children aged ten, seven, and two. Through plentiful offerings of food, late-night conversations, and (most recently) a dance party with the two-year-old, I have been received into this home with the utmost care, acceptance, and generosity.
Imelda is a sweet grandmother figure (“Abuelita” to her grandkids) who loves to take care of her family and make yummy treats like alfajores and bon-bons — SCORE. She also loves to talk and make sure that I’m totally comfortable. Charles is a man with immense life experience — from truck driving to taking political stances to carving beautiful toothpicks and boxes from bone and wood — who now enjoys a quiet life in Las Condes, Santiago working at a car dealership, surrounded by the machines he loves. He also doesn’t need an invitation for conversation: He will just open a new story at the most unexpected times, inviting me into the history of his life and of Chile as he recounts the craziness that has been his past 70 years.
The grandkids are always running around, watching tv, and being fed in our condo. They are so very loved by their “Abuelita” and “Tata,” and they know it. “El Tata arregla todo que rompemos (Tata fixes everything we break),” said one of the kids. “Sabe todo de las herramientas (He knows everything about tools).”
I really love each one of them. I’m living amongst them, in the middle of their family, so I get the uncut version of their lives. I see them at the end of a long, hot day. I see them at the Sunday-lunch table. I see them when the grandkids aren’t sitting correctly or listening to their mother or eating all their dinner. It’s like being a fly on the wall, but I get to participate in their conversations, ask questions about their lives, eat the delicious food, and walk freely around the house. I also get to receive their affection for me. So it’s better than being a fly on the wall.
I knew nothing about this family six weeks ago, yet here I am today — shoulder-deep (knee-deep isn’t quite accurate) in their business and totally invested in their well-being. How very thankful I am for these people and the opportunity for me to give another little piece of my heart away… I have a couple more months left with them, but I’m already not looking forward to the day I say “chao” for real.
It’s a funny relationship, though, because I still don’t always understand exactly what they are trying to tell me. Thank goodness that is exactly the situation they signed up for when they decided to be a host family… Sometimes I need to remind myself of that one.
In terms of the dance party I mentioned before, that was a hilarious answer to a wish that I had vocalized earlier in the day. I told my friend from school that all I really wanted to do was go home and have a little dance-alone-in-my-bedroom session, but my bedroom is a little small for that… But then! My little friend requested music, and we danced in the tiny room anyways, and her little giggles and beautiful little blue eyes filled my heart to overflowing. Again. It’s the little things in life.
I think that we humans have a much greater capacity to love and be loved than we care to admit to ourselves sometimes. So can we just agree to let that happen a little more often?
Peace and Blessings and Family x
(Las Condes, Santiago de Chile)