I’m not going to deny that over the years I’ve adapted to certain American ways, such as 24-hour grocery shopping, calling ahead before paying a visit to someone, even wearing sandals with socks on (a few) occasions. Sometimes I worry that I’m changing too much. Luckily, there will always be something to put my mind at ease. Take prom, for example. The closest thing we had in Bilbao to celebrate the end of high school was a dinner with classmates followed by a night of dancing and a lot of drinking. I am pretty sure that none of us girls wore a dress (much less a princess dress you can’t use ever again), or heels. And don’t get me started on that flower thingy guys put on the wrist of their girl.
I know these days people act surprised when they see me in jeans after almost three years of only dresses and skirts. Believe me, it has less to do with preference and more with reasons of weight. Since I was a little kid I rebelled against girly dresses that made you look like a wedding cake. Looking back to my childhood, I realize I owe my parents an apology for being such a pain in the ass and I publicly thank them for their infinite patience and unconditional love.
I’ll never forget the days leading up to my First Communion. First and foremost, there was a First Communion. Then, not only was I was forced to show up but they wanted me to do it in a white dress too. I fought and cried and bitched for hours in hopes that my mom would give in and let me wear pants to the church. It was so bad that the shop owner took me next door for ice-cream to calm me down before my parents killed me. In the end we compromised and left the store with a simple dress in some shade of salmon (which by the way, still lives at my parent’s house in Ortuella. For the love of god…). For my sister’s Communion, however, I put my foot down and wore navy blue pants with white Adidas sneakers. Mike (my ex) used to call those years my lesbian phase. Ha… I guess he was right sometimes after all.
My wedding dress was a simple white summer outfit that my mother’s best friend gave me as a present, and which I used many times after I got married. Mike found it the other day and gave it back. What an emotional moment it was when I got home and realized I could only wear it again if I gained about 30 lbs!
Then, there is the bracer-user wannabe story. I’m pretty sure braces were non-existent in Spain when I was in high school (shit, I don’t even think we had dentists until a few years back), and here my American friends complained about feeling like outcasts for having good teeth. Every kid in their classes wore braces but them, they pouted. So profound was their desperation that they would make braces out of gum wrappers and retainers with paper clips. My face must have shown a look of skepticism because they felt compelled to demonstrate. I promised I’d do my best to conceal their identities in exchange for permission to use the photos as evidence, so please don’t ask me if they are Ysabel and Esther.
I thought about the story a lot over the next few days. My friends and I have many things in common, such as Basque heritage, being bilingual in English and Spanish, or our love for pala, but there are things like the retainer envy that I’ll never get. I love my Basque-American girls. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but not only are they there for me as a support system in Boise, but they also help me understand the issues my daughter will face during her teenage years and beyond. Maitane doesn’t know yet, but she owes them big time.
- The Spanish version of “An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho” is available for download as PDF
- The “Eusko”, a new local currency for the Basque Country