El Puente

8 a.m. Constitution Day 2019, the view from our terrace. Everybody’s still sleeping. 

Madrid is a city of over 3 million (if you include its suburbs, over 6 million) and for me, one of its loveliest characteristics is the way it luxuriates in holidays. Today is Constitution Day; Monday, the Day of the Immaculate Conception (it refers to the Virgin Mary’s conception, not Jesus’s, for those of you, like me, who didn’t know).  A long weekend like this creates what’s known here  as un puente – a bridge.  In the past, whenever holidays happened to fall midweek, it was customary to also take off any days that fell between it and the weekend, creating un puente.  After the Spanish financial crisis, many holidays were moved to Mondays or Fridays, but the habit of calling the long weekend a puente remains.

This morning, the quiet in our Madrid neighborhood is as thick and enveloping as the best feather duvet. You can literally wrap yourself up in itThe narrow elevator in our building, which usually stutters to life at 7:00, either an early-shift worker leaving or a diligent jogger, sits silent.  I’ve only heard one persiana, as the metal shutters  one rolls down over their windows are called, being hauled up, instead of the usual early-morning rattling chorus.  This is the sort of quiet that only comes to Atlanta on Christmas , or a gloriously unexpected snow day.

Today also marks the beginning of our sixth month here.  Six months!  Not much, in the long and short of it, but humans, it seems, are amazingly adaptable.  Whether they plan to or not, they settle in.

Yesterday, I sat for a grueling 2 hour Spanish exam — spoken, written, listening — to see if the language school where I take classes would let me press on to the next level, B1, with a new crop of hung-over youngsters and  tourists who dabble  for a week or two and then disappear and the friend from A2 that I cling to like a port in a storm.

The Imperative will be the death of me, indirect object pronouns are a most terrible pitfall, but I have to admit I enjoyed pretending the examiner was a shopkeeper and I, a customer who needed clothes for a party.

I’ve never been so proud of a score of 77 in my life.

I  went from there to the pharmacy, where I butchered Spanish like a bull in a china shop (como un toro en una farmacia?) But I got what I needed, and the pharmacist even smiled.

El Puente.  The Bridge.  Maybe that’s the stage after You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know and Words Fail — The Bridge.  Things are in flux, we are betwixt and between, neither here nor there, but the view from up here is lovely, and, this morning, tranquility rings though life like a bell.


  1. Love reading and experiencing your family’s life in Spain. Thanks for sharing! Señora Hawk would be proud!

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