Working for the first time

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


The beach Moyagalpa, Rivas, Nicaragua
The beach
Moyagalpa, Rivas, Nicaragua

     They say that a man is as tall as the heights that his imagination dares to soar. With the tales and the yarns that he so enjoyed to spin, my dearest grandfather, surely must have reached the heavens, where he would likely be sitting comfortably on a cotton cloud, right beside the Virgin of the Throne. If she lets him have his way, he would assuredly convince her that the twenty day festivities during December are held in remembrance of his baptism and in his honor.

     “Tread slowly and tread carefully my friends! When ultimately the rumors finally reached the Blessed and Chaste ears of the Bishop, he came up with a brilliant idea. He ordered the priest repeat it every following year. I’m talking about rising early in the morning and his working up a sweat, cleaning all that silver. Apparently the Old Fox, my mistake, the Bishop, greatly enjoyed this, for he and that little priest just didn’t get along, you know…
“Anyway he was ordered to do this in commemoration of that grand occasion. Yes, I should pretend to be a bit more modest; but it’s understood that my baptism was a major historic event. This time I’m speaking of commemorating, that first one and only time, that anybody, yes anybody in the world had actually seen… padre José working in his whole, useless life.


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Little Dora

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


Bicycle Guatape, Antioquia. Colombia
Bicycle
Guatape, Antioquia. Colombia

Dora was to be the first to adventure down those paths that led to discovering new, forbidden experiences. Since she was a child, she was daring and the architect of the escapes among the three inseparable friends. Dora acted out her role as the intellectual author of their mischief, Juanita performed as the leader of the group; she’d ensure their actual implementation. And the last of the three, Lina Marcela, happy and carefree was the one to enjoy them!

Because of her mother’s death and since she was very young, for various years, Dora had been sent to San Gil, a small city, and to Barichara, a small, quaint village, both in the Santander Department, in the north of the country. During the weekends and the holidays also, she would alternate between both of these two places. Her grandparents lived in Barichara and her maternal grandmother in San Gil City. Upon her mother’s death, her father fell into a deep melancholy, without end in sight. Desperately he sought refuge from his loss, burying himself in his work, and forgetting about himself, his daughter and the rest of the world.


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Preparing Grandfather’s batism

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


Still life Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua
Still life
Ometepe Island, Rivas, Nicaragua

All in all, and be it as it may, as far as Grandfather is concerned, history depends on the historian that’s making up the story at the moment. When for whatever reason, the subject changed to his early childhood, his traits as a historian would assuredly rise to the occasion, his eyes twinkling as he warmed up to one of his favorite topics. His smile would give way to his mischievous grin, the prelude that signals the birth of one of his forthcoming pranks. Like the proverbial cat and the mouse, he’d seize the opportunity to unveil the circumstances of his baptism, narrating his own extremely personal version of the events…

“The question that begs to be addressed is where he got that amount of ashes to clean the silver. You don’t go to the store and buy them by the pound. So I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those ashes that he used to clean the silver, they came from the Cuban cigars that he loved to smoke; he collected the ashes, as he was cheerfully drinking the nights away. And he had the best rum in town to do it. I have to admit, he had the good stuff. I should know, for it came from my uncle’s sugar mills; my uncle only gave him the best. It was quality, like the Guatemalans love to say. But, the truth of the matter is, he never used it to clean silver, no sir, thank you very much. It would have been a waste! He drank the good stuff to calm his nerves; naturally, they were on the edge, because of the attention he knew he’d receive, when the time came to baptize me. As for the alcohol he used to clean the silver, he bought it by the gallon from the druggist, a block from the church.

“Well, there’s that bit of gossip, good juicy tidbits of gossip that began to circulate among the townsfolk. It went round like wild fire, from mouth to mouth. Of course, people started to gather, a busybody here and another one there. You might have thought they were only a sad bunch of curious onlookers, with nothing better to do; but also, you have to understand, just how unbelievable it was to even try and imagine that good for nothing padre José, out of bed early in the morning… Sure enough, pretty soon a huge crowd had gathered surrounding the priest. Their mind had been blown to smithereens, amazed to see the guy actually working for a change. Simply, nobody had ever seen him do it before, not for the life of him, not even by mistake! As the Colombian that owned the bakery in Sutiapa used to say: not even for the berraco, whatever he meant by that!


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History, according to Grandfather Jairo

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


Las Peñitas Beach Leon, Nicaragua
Las Peñitas Beach
Leon, Nicaragua

All in all, and be it as it may, as far as Grandfather is concerned, history depends on the historian that’s making up the story at the moment. When for whatever reason, the subject changed to his early childhood, his traits as a historian would assuredly rise to the occasion, his eyes twinkling as he warmed up to one of his favorite topics. His smile would give way to his mischievous grin, the prelude that signals the birth of one of his forthcoming pranks. Like the proverbial cat and the mouse, he’d seize the opportunity to unveil the circumstances of his baptism, narrating his own extremely personal version of the events…

“That priest was understandably nervous about baptizing me, the first-born son of don Leobardo Díaz Alvarez! As it turned out, the so-called priest, padre José was a card, quite a character. On that very day, he got up early in the morning, something that guy never did, so that nobody would see him. What’s more, talking about early in the morning, I’m sure he didn’t even have the slightest idea, what that meant. Anyway, he got up to wash the font really carefully, because he thought ultimately, “it’s me he’s going to bathe in it.” That poor thing was beyond filthy; it was both as neglected, as it was abandoned. The silver base was grimy and caked with dirt, which accumulated through a long time and because of his carelessness. Of course, the silver had lost its luster and shine. Let me tell you a fact of life: fear rides not, upon a donkey’s back. In his case, even though this glorious event was still a week away, there you have him: rising at the crack of dawn, feeling clumsy from the sleepless nights of anxiety. He’s on his knees, puffing, huffing, and polishing that poor font, to bring it back from oblivion and shine once more!


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A question of points of view

All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall

All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

Pink Floyd, The Wall


El tren Calles de Berlin, Alemania
The yellow train
Berlin, Germany.

“My great-grandparents were true collectors of antiques from times buried in the past. Based in Berlin, from there. they intensely traveled the continent. And as they roamed the world, their priceless collection expanded and grew. They would return to Germany with valuable this and that’s. It was they who instilled the love of antiques in my blood.”

“But as is my custom, I stray from the point. As it happened, after so many interminable years of living with my grandparents, I felt both trapped and without any foreseeable escape. I was but a twelve-year-old, yet I already felt that my life had never begun and, what’s worse, would never do so or be over even before it had its chance bud.”


La plazuela Calles de Berlin, Alemania
The plaza
Berlin, Germany

“Now, at this point, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask a rather personal question. What is your opinion on the matter of miracles, my dear lady?”

Alicia raised an eyebrow, upon listening to his question, reflecting the interest that his query arose in her.

“Miracles, my dear sir?”

“Quite so, my dear. What are your thoughts on the subject?”

“You refer to supernatural events that defy all rational explanation?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. That is the type of occurrences I refer to.” His answer was most solemn.

El tango callejero Calles de Berlin, Alemania
Street tango
Berlin, Germany

“Well, to be blunt…, Sir John. No! I don’t believe in them. Do you, by any chance?”

“Well…, to be frank, Alicia. No, I don’t believe in them either. I assuredly share your opinion on this matter. But…, the exception does rather confirm the rule, wouldn’t you say?”

“Aja! Now that’s a nice way to look at this. You don’t believe in them, but you do admit to the possibility of their happening. Under certain, particular circumstances, I presume?”

Sir John kept on going with his train of thought.

“I understand that you may find what I’m about to confide extremely difficult to believe. What’s more, I strongly suspect that you will think of this as a joke on my part. But no, you see, my dear Alicia; when I was in dire need of it, a miracle occurred!”, he exclaimed in a triumphal voice, “a marvelous miracle that came to change my dismal existence.” Without realizing what she was doing, the young woman in a most incredulous voice:

“A miracle, Sir John? Yes, you’re right!  I don’t believe you, based on the simple fact that I don’t believe in miracles.”

Leyendas en El Muro Berlin, Alemania Writings on The Wall
Berlin, Germany


 

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Cleansing the silver

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


View of the church Vilcabamba, Loja. Ecuador
View of the church
Vilcabamba, Loja. Ecuador

Grandfather was baptized in a small town called El Viejo, which literally means The Old Town. The old church had a well-known baptismal font, and it was quite famous as a matter of fact, as it dated back to the year 1560. The beautiful font’s antique base had been completely coated with hand-crafted silver, elaborately crafted. It was precisely in it, that Grandfather was baptized. The baptismal ceremony was held during the week that followed a popular annual festivity, known traditionally as ‘The Cleansing of the Silver’.

 This festivity was widely celebrated each year on the sixth of December. Part of the most important religious celebrations in Central America, its significance had transcended far beyond Nicaragua’s borders to most of the Central American countries. For a space of twenty days, this small town becomes the religious center of the country; when thousands of people visited El Viejo to participate in its ceremonies. Visitors gathered from every nook and corner of the country, and there was no lack of pilgrims that even made the difficult journey, from faraway lands in other countries, to finally converge together, as part of the massive annual religious peregrinations to Nicaragua.


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A passion for life

When he looked back, in retrospective, he felt his life had not been in vain.


Puente sobre del río Stratford-upon-Avon. U
Bridge over the river
Stratford-upon-Avon. UK

The young woman was quiet for a spell, pondering the question, while he smiled with a mischievous grin on his face.

“I wouldn’t dare say, Sir John. Perhaps, he tired of cleaning them and sold them all off?”, she answered in a doubtful voice.

Sadly smiling, he answered:

“Three hundred and forty-three, not one less, nor one more! He never sold, exchanged or bought any one of the bloody coins. Ironically, grandfather was ever so fond of wealth. I dare say that the least valuable of them all, was worth a handsome income. Now you tell me, what kind of a collector would ever behave in that fashion?”

Caminando las calles Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Walking the streets
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“When I began to go to school in Stratford, I had a collection of glass-marbles. I loved those little glass wonders. Every single one of them! I was willing to trade off the most common ones, the repeats, for that rare marble, for that beautiful marble that I had to have, at whatever cost!”

“A real collector has this drive to watch his collection grow, to turn it into the best compilation he is capable of achieving. For, in the end, he is immensely proud of his treasure and longs to see it thrive.  He will be most willing to display it to the rest of the world so that in turn, it may be admired by all. The perpetual longing that afflicts his soul resides in his blood.”

Vista del río Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
View of the river
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“Possession, my dear Alicia, without that enthusiasm and unrelenting passion is merely empty custody and guardianship of a group of inert and lifeless objects, and that, my dear, is as worthless as his collection! What a shameful and tremendous waste….” “

“The good news is… when my father inherited the coins, each one had been so thoroughly cleaned and was as shiny as the most beautiful ray of dazzling light”

La entrada Stratford-upon-Avon
The North House
Stratford-upon-Avon

 

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They start to kiss you!

Chapter 3… The Chinandegan magpies


The fishermen Granada, Nicaragua
The fishermen
Granada, Nicaragua

“Thank you very much, I´m sure I am all that and so much more,” he added with a mischievous smile, “you’ll place them right in your pocket, and you can keep them there too; but, allow me to enlighten you: in this valley of tears, there are no free lunches, no sir, nothing, my dear, nothing comes for free.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Grandfather?”

“Honey chile, they´ll be so pleased with you that they will want to pull your cheeks with pleasure, mark my prophetic words of wisdom! But the worst of it all…the most infamous thing that can cruelly be done to an innocent child, like I was once upon a time is… you know what I´m talking about?” he innocently asked wearing his favorite poker face.

“They start to kiss you! Oh yes!” At this point he began to get carried away as he raised the volume of his voice. “With lips crammed with sticky, gooey, fire-man red lipstick, they will kiss you on the cheek, if you’re not careful, on the forehead too! Just in case that’s not enough, they will lick a finger and then wipe you, or smear it all over your cheek, like Aunt Sagrario loved to do. You’ll walk off there with your face painted like a Navajo warrior in the middle of a steaming Nicaraguan tropical day. Your friends will cry themselves to an early grave, and you´ll have nowhere to hide!”

 


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A shiny collection of antique coins

In the comfort of his daily routines, he found the subterfuge to avoid thinking…


El salón de té Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The tea parlor
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“During the trip, I had the opportunity to observe the early, morning, before-breakfast rituals… it is no wonder that my grandmother scarcely talked! What can you say to a person like that?”

“John Henry, my dearest Alice, inherited a collection of remarkably rare and valuable coins when his father passed away. Three hundred and forty-three antique coins to be more precise. In the afternoons after tea, he would wash his hands as if he were a surgeon preparing for the operating room. Once his hands were immaculate and faultlessly clean, then grandfather would take the coins out, one by one.”

Las calles del pueblo Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The town’s streets
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

“Immediately after, he would clean each one, scrupulously and meticulously, and then, he would immediately put them away, each of them carefully placed each in a separate, little felt bag until the next afternoon. Now I ask you, how could they possibly need daily cleaning if he didn’t allow them to be handled at any other time or by any other person?”

“Meanwhile, in that rarely broken silence in the room, the soft beating of grandmother’s knitting needles was faintly heard, occasionally interrupted by grandfather’s knee-jerking grunts and vibrant groans. When he died, how many coins do you guess my father inherited?”

El Río Avon Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
The Avon River
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

He continued abruptly, not allowing her to answer, his eyes shining with excitement.  “I´ll provide you with a clue that will help you decipher this enigmatic question. Less than half were one-of-a-kind.  All the other coins were not unique, you see?

Té sobre el río Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Tea at the river
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK

 

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Grandfather’s great Sunday adventures

Who would be the daring enough to boldly modify his routine, ready to risk all and try something new in their life


Las calles de la ciudad ciudad de Londres, UK
The city streets
London City, UK

“Ten minutes after finishing such an extraordinary breakfast, he would go for a stroll, no matter the climate. He walked ten blocks to the North until he reached the train-tracks. Without stopping, he turned West and walked five more blocks, following the tracks.”

“When he arrived, at that point, he rested for two minutes on the dot. Replenished from his efforts, he began walking back. First, he strolled ten blocks south, of course, finally bearing East to arrive back at home in exactly twenty-two minutes, not twenty-one, and of course, never twenty-three.”

Las fachadas ciudad de Londres, UK
Facades
London City, UK

“On the other weekdays (to be precise, on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays), he also had two eggs for breakfast. They were boiled for two minutes, measured by the black grains of another sand-clock. Instead of bread, he would then eat two crackers with butter but no jam.”

“He would go out for a walk as well, but he inverted the direction and began by heading West and then North. He arrived back home in exactly twenty-two minutes, no more and no less.”

Vistas de las calles ciudad de Londres, UK
Street view
London City, UK

“The greatest adventures of his life, he reserved for Sundays. On those remarkable days, he had two sunny-side-up eggs with ham. Surprisingly, he drank coffee instead of tea, which might be considered preposterous, but understandable. As it happens, my great-grandmother, who grew up on the continent, loved her coffee in the mornings, or so they said. So, in a way, my grandfather was replicating a ritual acquired when he was a boy, without a thought on how unconventionally he was behaving.”

La rueda de la fortuna ciudad de Londres, UK
The merry-go-round
London City, UK

 

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