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Madrid Memories

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Madrid is my soul city.

I haven’t been there in about nine months now, and I’m starting to feel that familiar ache that comes over me when I go too long without visiting. Half of my extended family live in the city, and I have been faithfully flying over at a rate of at least twice a year for the past thirty years. Three years ago, my last remaining grandparent – my Yayo – passed away, and I worried that this would change things. I worried I might not feel as welcome in Madrid now that I no longer had somewhere to stay. I worried that the connection I felt with my family and the city might loosen or come undone now that we no longer had La Comida del Domingo (Sunday lunch) to bring us together each week.

I needn’t have worried.

I still have a place to stay. In fact, now I have places, plural. My aunts welcome me with open arms and comfortable rooms. They feed me and fuss over me and keep me up to date on their lives as if nothing has changed. I visit cousins who are more like older siblings, and walk the streets searching for churros just like I’ve done since I was a child.

I miss the apartment I grew up in, though.

The loss of that apartment and the loss of my Yayo are completely enmeshed in my mind. When I think of him, I think of him sitting in his chair by the window, watching the world pass by. I think of him flipping through the leather-bound photo albums I’d taken down by precariously balancing on the armchair next to the bookshelves. I think of him napping in his armchair and then pretending he had actually been watching mass on the TV, even though we both knew it was untrue. I think of him teaching me to make Arroz Con Leche in the kitchen, with military precision and instructions that bordered on orders. I think of sitting on the leather Chesterfield in the study, watching him write poetry about his childhood or my Yaya. I think of him combing back his hair in front of the bathroom mirror before leaving the house. I think of him sitting at the head of the long dining table at Christmas, proudly watching over his family as we laughed and chattered over wine and homemade food.

Somebody else owns the apartment now. A young family bought it and, as far as I can tell, renovated it from end to end. They closed off the balconies and changed the windows. Even when viewed only from the outside, it looks different to the place I once crawled, then toddled, and later walked through during different stages of my life. I am a really sentimental person, and I feel a bone-deep sense of sadness at the reminder that things change, and people die, and we can’t always hold onto the things and people and places that make us happiest.

Then again, they say ‘Good things fall apart so that better things can come together,’ and while I throw that phrase a highly skeptical side-eye, it’s true that without the sale of the apartment, we would have struggled to save up a deposit for our own place. It’s true that at the moment, as I sit at my own dining table, I can reach behind me and touch onyx figurines that used to sit on Yayo’s sideboard, and now sit on my own. I have reminders of him and of that apartment dotted around me; the onyx elephants, the silver Mexican plates, the vintage glass sweet jars and the art deco cutlery set.

Some days, I wish I could sit down and write Yayo a letter like I used to, complete with drawings and addressed to YAYO! (block capitals as standard), telling him about my life and my worries and my thoughts. After he passed away we found all the letters I had sent over the years stacked neatly in the drawer of his desk under lock and key. He had kept my cards, my letters, my childhood drawings of the apartment (complete with a very questionable grasp of perspective), and anything else I had sent tucked neatly between his pages of poetry and his bank account statements.

I’m not sure why I’m in such a melancholy mood today. Perhaps it’s due to the sun having disappeared, or just because I feel exhausted, or because I have a low-level headache happening at the moment that I’m about to bomb out of existence with some industrial strength ibuprofen. Lia is currently snoring away on the floor at my feet, somehow managing not to wake herself despite sounding like a anthropomorphised jet engine with sleep apnea.

Or maybe I just have Madrid withdrawals.

There’s only one remedy I know for Madrid withdrawals…..

 

27 thoughts on “Madrid Memories

  1. You should totally write a letter to Yayo. Even if I don’t send letters to the person I’ve written them for, I find the process to be very therapeutic.

      1. Which could be for the best. I know when I wrote my letters, I got a bit emotional, but I was very please with the end result. Just sayin’…

  2. Nostalgia is a funny thing isn’t it? I’m quite accepting of change but sometimes I long for days and places past. I love that you have memories locked away in all of those treasures in your house that tell their own stories. Definitely time for a trip back to Madrid to make some more memories!

    1. For sure! Sometimes the nostalgia hits me hard… I’m one of those people that keeps memory boxes of clippings and letters and photos and ticket stubs and everything. I’m terrible!

  3. Beautifully written, I’ve never heard of a grandfather being called Yayo, that’s really cool! I never thought about writing to my Grampy who passed away and much like your Yayo he joined the military but in Poland and traveled much of the world. I think if you wrote to him it’d be therapeutic. I often find myself going through life then thinking of him out of the blue when I’m doing something that reminds me of him. He used to call me “Matchoos” (Matthew) because he had a thick Polish accent. You know, mid-comment I think this post was therapeutic for you because it’s therapeutic for me haha!

  4. I’m writing this in the town I grew up in, in the house I grew up in, working from home and knowing that I need to start making dinner because in three hours my brother and parents (all the family I have in the US) are going to be home. These are all the ties I have, not knowing any other home and all my relatives twenty-three hours away in another country. I can’t imagine the parting and the soul-hunger from wandering. I’m sure it’s a part of growing up and here you are as an example of leaving that home but having it part of you still.

  5. Beautiful!! Just think how incredibly blessed you are to have these memories of your Yayo to cherish forever and to have Madrid as a second home, that’s what I try to remind myself when I feel particularly sentimental about the past.

  6. I wasn’t expecting to come into this post, titled Madrid Memories, I thought it may have been about throwbacks to places visited in Madrid and now having finished I feel my overly sentimental heart ache at the loss of my own Grandfather. Write him your letters, sometimes I talk out loud to mine, our relationship was not brewed in many years as you and your Yayo’s but it’s one I still hold deathly close to my heart.

    It’s mad how unravelled I am after this hahah, okay I’m gonna run away from my melancholy now because I’ve got too many things to do today but I’m so glad I read this. Thanks for sharing Quinn, what a beautifully written and evocative post xx

    Ama Addo / Albatroz & Co.
    http://www.albatrozandco.com

  7. I have left Madrid and come back to live here 3 times now over the last 20 years. Every time feels like coming home. The city adapts, the streets are full of tourists now which I find both totally understandable and crazy at the same time. When I first came here to live in 1997, no one ever had it on their bucket list – but it was a revelation to me and everyone else I knew who came and fell in love. Many of us have left to live in other countries – and we all came back and fell straight back into the marvellous vida cotidiana. I feel so lucky to have found Madrid and found my place in it. So keep coming back!

    1. It’s just such a beautiful city; those blue skies, those golden buildings, the people, the churros, the tapas, the wine….

      *googles cheapest flights*

  8. Wow Quinn, just checked your blog and found this post. Really sorry to hear about your Yayo. I am from Madrid. I have been living in Dublin for almost a decade now and I understand the feeling. I get it every time I pass in front of the house I grew up in Madrid as I lost my mother years ago and the house got sold as well. I miss Madrid often as well even though I love Ireland and it is nice to find posts like these that describe not only the city but the little great things of the madrilian culture 🙂 A very emotional and genuine post. I am delighted to have found your blog:)
    Elena
    http://www.weirdfulstar.com

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