During my time in Barcelona in early 1999 my mom went on a quest for the mysterious cousin M. This was someone she had been close to when she was younger. Cousin M had moved to Barcelona for a scholarship opportunity. Then…she seemed to disappear. Mom knew a few snippets. She had some kids. She split from her husband. She was a bit estranged from the rest of her family. My mom asked everyone she knew in Honduras, but no one seemed to have an address, phone number, anything to get in touch with her. So, even though I had family in the city, while I lived there, I never got a chance to meet her.
When we planned this trip to Barcelona, my mom re-started her quest. This time, in the age of email and social media it was easier. She finally found a family member who knew a family member who had an email address. My mom sent her an email, and got an immediate response. Communication had been established.
Once we got to Barcelona, we used the phone to make plans and ended up meeting for lunch in Barceloneta in the middle of the trip. We spent over two hours eating paella, talking, and reconnecting after 40 years. It turns out once cousin M’s husband left, she had to blaze her own trail. She put herself through law school and eventually became an attorney who specialized in civil rights. She raised two boys, close in age to my sister and I, and was now the proud grandmother of an adorable toddler. Cousin M was warm, inviting and friendly, and as I soon learned, ecstatic to have family around after so much time on her own.
Since we immediately hit it off, she invited us to her house to enjoy a “small” dinner of tapas that she prepared. After 40+ years in Barcelona, she had become practically a native and learned to cook all the local dishes. We had a smorgasbord of typical dishes including pan Catalan, olives, torta, etc. The small table was covered, and we ate until we were stuffed.
Because she’s also a generous Honduran who can’t see us go without gifts, she insisted on sending us off with wine, ham, olives, Spanish saffron, and other delicacies that we somehow managed to squeeze in our already bulging bags. But that wasn’t the end to the kindness. We had an issue with our baggage in that we had to be out of our AirBnB at 11am, but didn’t need to leave for our flight until 3pm. We weren’t sure what to do with the luggage. Since she lived near-by she offered to let us store our bags at her apartment. And because that wasn’t enough, she made us a “light” lunch of fish and rice to make sure we were fed before we got to the plane. Then, had one of her clients come in taxi to take us to the airport.
Life seems to always take mysterious turns. I never expected to settle on the other side of the country from my family. My mom left Honduras for a short break and met my father, married him, and settled in the US. Cousin M went to Barcelona for an opportunity and turned into a true Spaniard. We all ended up in very different places in our lives. But we were all able to meet in this beautiful city, and reconnect as family. To bond. And create that lasting bond that had been broken for so many years.
In my Barcelona blog posts I’ve talked a lot about my time living here and how it was so formative to who I became. A part of me was sad I didn’t know her when I lived there. I was scared and alone for the first time, and I would I would have loved to have a retreat to go and get some home cooking and affection. But I don’t know if I would have become the person I have if I had had that crutch. I believe there are reasons in life that we didn’t meet until now. And while I’m sad it took 40 years to reconnect, I’m glad in the new bonds that were formed. I want to revel in the new found familiar connections that were made, and I know I have family I can count on the next time I’m in this great city.