Spain #12: Dress Up and Story Time

Samara Cummings ’20 reflects on a special moment shared with her host mother. 

When I first met Maribel, my host mother, she picked me up at the bus stop and walked me home. I was so eager to get to know her that by the time we finished the fifteen-minute walk and arrived at her house, I knew her favorite foods, her pet peeves, the names of her family, and her favorite things to do in Cádiz. Essentially, I had made the effort to know the most mundane and surface-level details of my host mother.

However, as time went on I began to ask questions about her childhood and her family. I learned about how art has significantly influenced her family because numerous members of her family pursued careers as photographers and painters. Not only did this explain her beautifully adorned house, but it prompted me to ask if she had pictures of her family or their art. She grabbed a plain, black book from the shelf. In the album, it became evident to me that the benefit of having a bunch of photographers in your family is that no moment of your life goes undocumented. As she danced Las Sevillanas, a common dance in Andalusia, Maribel could be spotted in many pictures sporting a brightly colored dress and a matching flower in her hair.

Through the afternoon, these photos elicited various names and funny stories. When I finished looking through the photo album, she gently closed the black book and slid it back into its place on the bookshelf. Coincidentally, I took a Sevillana dance class in the following days and showed off my new moves to Maribel. She laughed as I stumbled through simple steps, but made a good effort to practice the dance.

Today, Maribel told me to change into a pretty floral dress when I came home for lunch. When I met her in the living room, she had a fragile shoe box on her lap. I asked what was inside, she opened it. To my surprise, it was where she saved her old accessories for Las Sevillanas. As I bent my head down to Maribel, she carefully pinned the huge red flower on top of my head, and added various red and white decorative combs to my hair. She handed me a large pair of earrings that tugged at my ear lobes. When she stepped back to look at me, she nostalgically smiled as the grand accessories and bold colors reminded her of the nights when she dressed up with her friends to dance Las Sevillanas and the days when she prepared her daughter, Olga, for her dance recitals.

After a second of losing herself in these memories, Maribel snapped back to the present, noticed my chapped lips, and gave me lip gloss. Her warm hands wrapped around my shoulders, she looked me in the eyes, and she said, “Buenísima. Guapísima.” As Maribel embraced me and shared a special part of her culture with me, I found the excitement and pride in learning about the stories of others.

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