(Christmas 2016)

It comes out of the blue.

“Meredith, has your mom talked to you at all about this Spain trip?” My dad and I are outside on our patio. My heart stops, shudders, and then resumes beating at a faster pace. I know Mom is going to Spain. Am I going? Is this some secret surprise? Oh gosh, am I going? 

Since I was thirteen, I have been enraptured with southern Spain, particularly with the architecture. For a time my Pinterest wanderlust board was dotted with pictures of intertwining pillars, delicate woodwork, and exotic gardens spilling out over mountainous horizons. When I heard that my mom might be going to Granada to visit her sister, I immediately encouraged the trip.

I gulp past my sudden flush of excitement, saying, “Wait, what?”

My Dad looks and me then, sighing, “Oh, maybe I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”

That’s all I need to hear. I’m going to Spain. 

Almost week later, after a beautiful Christmas morning of gift-giving, shredded wrapping paper, and a luxurious (albeit hurried) meal, my mom and I are on our way. Jomo Kenyatta Airport is small and dingy, but comforting. Hammad International Airport is the opposite, every surface clean, every corner of the colossal building pristine and flawless, every stranger powerful in his or her mysteriousness. Yet it too has an acquired hospitality to it, memories from successions of summer flights lingering over brilliant perfume vials in laboratory-lit Duty Frees, the dark crimson uniforms and lips of flight attendants, and plastic boxes of exotic fruit, often the first taste of grapes or kiwi or pomegranates in months.

After hours in the air, we arrive in Madrid. We manage to find the subway, and, tired and easily-irritated from the drudgery of cramped hours, somehow maneuver our way to the bus station. We crawl from the underbelly of the city into the open air, the wintery grey sky crisp above, and pull our suitcases across lanes of mediocre traffic.

After waiting a few hours, we go to our bus, shove our bags into it, and we’re off into the dusk. Between windows of sleep, I wake long enough to see the final seconds of sunlight over the valley of mist we are driving through. Long, tall, thin trees are silhouetted, and occasionally a stucco farmhouse. I’m in Spain. I’m actually here. Wow. 

Finally, after what feels like a lifetime of travel, we awake into the busy night of Granada.

I step out of the bus, aware that my hair is a mess, that my jeans are starting to feel too tight, that my back is sore. The air is cold, the other travelers are crawling out of the bus too, children in hand, heavy suitcases dragging across the asphalt. I feel deathly pale, faded like an old flag.

And then I see Daniel, my cousin, and the world lights up again.

“I didn’t know you would be here!” my voice sounds alien to me after so many hours in the sky and on the road.

I run and hug him, and he hugs me back.

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