Share The Moon

Spanning three generations, 'Share The Moon' is the family saga of one girl, one moon and three lives; one Spanish, one English and one Finnish. Blended together into a captivating life journey and infused with tenderness and humor, each post can be read as an individual stand-alone piece. To read the complete adventure start from the very first post, 'Share The Moon', and simply work your way upwards. Welcome to my journey every second Sunday!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Dark Side Of The Moon

Zara is thrilled that her Aunt has wheels and we are off and away. I am finally the proud owner of my very first rental vehicle (see post Woman With Wheels) and it feels wonderfully liberating. Our days of waiting for the bus to arrive are officially over. The weather is searing and we are both clad in the standard Island clothing; micro-shorts. I have taken on Mama’s advice and am now wearing my mini shorts matching those of my niece thirty years younger, who has chosen to ignore the pleas of her Grandmother and is still wearing hers (see post Columbus And The Missing Gravestone and Gravestone Mystery Resolved).  Zara tells me that Nanny may be an expert fashionista when it comes to shorts and middle-aged women like myself, but that she still has a lot to learn about the younger generation; Only the other day, she was asked to be more careful when out walking and try to avoid this seemingly continuous stumbling and falling over; Nanny was getting fed up with having to wash jeans covered with rips just about everywhere. Zara does not have the heart to tell her that they are purchased with the rips strategically already in place. Nanny will never understand.

We drive past Playa San Juan, towards Playa Alcala, and then up the serpentine cliff roads to Los Gigantes with its massive cliff face dropping down to the Atlantic Ocean. Without realising, we have both relaxed and The Journey of Death has lost its grip on us and we are as carefree as the other drivers that we pass on our journey. Now we are like locals. At the Los Gigantes viewing-point we pull over, park the car and immortalize our new-found moment of freedom Thelma and Louise style with a photograph. Who are Thelma and Louise, Zara asks. I had momentarily forgotten that some thirty years separate us and tell her that it was the ultimate philosophical chick movie of the nineties about two thirty-something girlfriends who discover themselves on a long car journey across America with devastating consequences. And just like us, they capture the pivotal moments of their adventure in pictures. Go watch the movie I tell her, better still let's watch it together one evening. 

We return to our vehicle and continue with the drive downwards towards the base of the Los Gigantes cliffs, passing by countless ubiquitous curves, and  taking us along the coastline to the next village called Puerto Santiago. The drive is captivatingly beautiful, and I feel at once insignificant and yet at peace to be surrounded by such immense monuments to nature, for The Giants cliffs rising out from the deep blue sea deservingly merit their name. I tell Zara that we will now drive back to our village of San Juan, and on the return journey stop by the nearby village of Alcalá where both her Mother and I spent the first few years of our life before we moved to England. I also want to show her the houses where each of us were born. Once in the village, I park on the nearby street and we begin our walk down Memory Lane.



The first house that we arrive at is the older of the two, and a white-washed coloured. This was Grandma Filomena’s home and where on a late Autumn day in 1963, after a long day of work in the nearby tomato fields, Mama went into labour. Acting as midwife to her own twenty-year-old daughter, Grandma Filomena helped bring her fifth grandchild into the world at 2am on September 26th. To be precise, I was delivered in the room to the right of the front door where I am now standing with Zara and which also happened to be Grandma’s own bedroom. Back in the 1960's there was no drive to the maternity hospital as is done today. This hospital was located in the capital city of Santa Cruz and to get here would have entailed an arduous journey of many hours along windy mountain roads, by which time the baby would have been born. Generations of Sanz babies were delivered at home and brought into the world by women who had learned the art of midwifing from the generation that went before them. In these rural villages, doctors were as inaccessible as the maternity hospitals in which they worked, and an expectant mother could consider herself indeed fortunate to have one medical consultation before her birth. Mama did not fall into this category, for as she gave birth to me during the early hours on that late September day she did so with no medical intervention along any part of her journey to motherhood, and the firm conviction that everything would turn out well as it had done years earlier for her own Mother and her Grandmother before her.

From Grandma Filomena’s home, I lead Zara across over to other side of the road and point out the place where Grandma’s animal shed with chicken and goats was located. Nowadays the site has on it a pretty Canarian home. Back in the 1960’s it was a piece of the countryside and I would walk there in the mornings with Grandma Filomena, clutching my little basket ready to collect the precious treasure trove of freshly-laid eggs with their creamy, golden coloured yolks, still warm from their benefactor. This was also where I would witness baby goats coming into the world still immersed in a sticky bubble, and then watch with fascination as the Mama goat proceeded to slowly lick away every last morsel of the placenta as if it were some delicious meal. After the bubble had been consumed, the baby goat would try to stand up on its wobbly legs before inevitably falling down and seeking the comfort and proximity of the Mama goat, just as I would do some mornings with my own Mama as I climbed into bed besides her. The birth of baby goats heralded a time of great excitement for us children, as we knew that for a short but intense period following the birth of the kids, we would be rewarded with the most delicious thick and creamy goats milk which would be greedily consumed knowing full well that it would not last for long. 

These goats were our only source of milk, and as long as they continued to supply us with our needs, they were safe from the casserole pot. Once they had outlived this useful purpose their days were numbered. Every morning Grandma Filomena would sit on her worn stool, gather her skirts around her, and then proceed to milk the goats. I loved to watch her, and if she was in no hurry, I would be allowed another futile attempt at milking, which would result in frustration on my behalf and peals of laughter from Grandma Filomena. It must be hard for Zara to imagine all that I am describing, all that she sees in front of her is a pavement with neat rows of brightly-coloured Canarian houses tidily stacked next to one another. Back then it was a piece of the countryside and a place of utmost magic for an impressionable three-year-old.

Our journey continues, and we now follow the bend of the road. Left up to the hill and across to the other side of the road. Now we are standing in front of the house where Zara’s own Mama was born five years after my own arrival (see post Share The Moon
and formed the starting point of my memoirs saga. Nowadays it has been painted green and purple, but back in the late nineteen-sixties, it was clad in the customary white of the Canarian villages around us. It was in this house on the ground floor and the room to the right of the door, that Sis came into the world as I scoured the sky for storks. This was the house where the women gathered around the childbed in terror as the placenta would not stubbornly leave Mama's womb alongside the new-born baby that had just been expelled. Everyone in the room knew fully well, that if the placenta was not expelled soon and intact, Mama would die. But little did they know that there was a far worse scenario lurking invisibly in the background placing Mama in equal mortal danger. 

For now, blissful ignorance reigns around this child-bed as the placenta is finally expelled and the women in the room rejoice at the arrival of a second child for the apparently healthy and robust twenty-five-year-old mother, and yet another grandchild for the proud grandmother. It will take another thirty-nine-years and an exploratory ultrasound to reveal the true perils that each of Mama’s pregnancies and births placed her in, and a calamity so disturbing that its mere recollection years later still brings with it fresh waves of incandescent rage. Once again I comprehend that knowledge can bring with it terrible pain and decide that, for the moment, this revelation can wait (see post Watching The English Part III). For today, I still want Zara and her Aunt to be blissfully innocent Women with Wheels and together we walk back to the car and begin our drive back to the comfort and warmth of Mama's home in nearby San Juan. For the moment, I only wish to recall the happy moments within those two homes that witnessed the birth of the next generation of Sanz women. The time for examining the dark side of humanity will be on another day called Tomorrow.

To be continued...

Next post 22nd September : Autopista With Vista

Note: All written content is the intellectual property of this Author. Image material is drawn from a combination of Pixabay with additions from private family archives.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Woman With Wheels

It took a while to get there, but eventually the lady behind the desk at the car rental office in San Juan, Tenerife and I come to an agreement and I am now the proud, albeit temporary owner of a newly-acquired vehicle. Manual. The fruitless on-line search for that elusive automatic transmission which never materialised is over (see post Automatic Transmission), and so is the story of my life which I shared with her as she tapped away on her computer (see post Cars With Memories). And what a story! Five decades of living impressively compacted into one short hour. I think she is secretly relieved to finally see the back of me. She only wants to rent cars, not to forcefully ingest an audio version of a client’s autobiographyeven when it is as interesting as mineI am now officially a Woman with Wheels.

I am no stranger to driving having survived countless demanding Finnish winters, but Tenerife’s meandering mountain roads present a completely different challenge and I am accordingly feeling rather wobbly. But there is a first time for everything, and today is the first time for this feat. Slowly, I pull out of San Juan and turn right onto the main road taking me to the nearby town of Adeje. There is no other choice, turning left and driving in the other direction towards Los Gigantes is even scarier, and I am gripped by terror as curves cascade down on me like relentless waves, one after another as the zig-zag road hugs the erratic coastline. My knees are trembling from the enormous ordeal and I am soaked with sweat. For the seasoned local driver, the curves I have just negotiated are a mere trifle. Not for me. As far as I am concerned, I am dicing with death as I inch along the most terrifying cliff-face with a sheer drop down to oblivion and death if I get just one tiny movement wrong. How do the locals do it? I think to myself. Look at them as they pass me from the other direction, they seem to not have a care in the world. Some are even smiling and laughing with their passengers! Impressive. How can they not be soaked with perspiration like me? If I had to negotiate these serpentine roads every day, I would need to take a spare set of underwear to change into, as the ones I left the house with would most certainly be drenched with sweat by the time I had reached my destination. 

All I think about is staying alive and I want to go straight back to the village and hand the car keys back to the woman behind the counter and ask for my money back. But in order to do that, I will have to drive back. On the other side of the winding road. With the same twisting curves that brought me this far. Why did she not warn me how dangerous it was? Perhaps, because I was too busy sharing my life story with her. These thoughts are soon cut short, because I now look in the mirror and see to my horror a long tail of vehicles stretching out behind me as far as the eye can see. It’s been all of fifteen minutes since I set out on this Journey of Death, but I sensibly decide that it’s already time for a break and accordingly pull over at a nearby bus stop to let the long line of impatient drivers pass by. And what a feast passes by my window. 

Now, this is not any old line of drivers that pass by me, it is a line of Spanish drivers. And every single person that drives by my vehicle takes a moment to slow down, wind down their window and share with me their valued opinion on my driving skills or lack thereof by hurling an insult, shaking their fist, or both. Never one to forget my manners, I politely smile at every comment which I receive, nodding my head in acknowledgementaccompanied by a smile, a wave or even a thumbs-up. Surely, they do not behave this way with poor helpless tourists, I think to myself. How distasteful. Then, the penny drops; the gravity of my infraction was made all the worse because I looked local. They thought I was one of them. I am impressed. If they indeed thought that I looked like one of them, then they expected me to drive like one of them. And gradually, it begins to dawn on me that I can probably do this.

After this long line passes and I am somehow recuperated, I venture out again on the road, just a bit farther and after another fifteen minutes I have my next stop in the next lay-by once again to let the long line of cars pass by. Only this time, the line is not so long and now only every other driver slows down to hurl an insult. I am doing well.  After a few more sessions on the road, my speed is becoming aligned with that of everyone else around me and I am getting the hang of negotiating even the most demanding of the hairpin bends. The waves of perspiration have receded and after a couple of hours, I have blended in with everyone driving around me. Now I not only look local, but I drive local. Comfort zone surpassed and mission accomplished. I even calculate that I can leave the house without spare underwear, for my waves of nervous perspiration have all but vanished. Driving back to the village and Mama’s apartment, I am exhilarated and ready to face whatever the ubiquitous winding roads on this island care to throw at me. But before I do that, I must break the fantastic news to Zara and Mama.

Zara is already at home, having just returned from her early morning shift at the undisputed King of the Island’s five-star hotels, the iconic Laguna Azul, or in English, The Blue Lagoon. Rooms start at a mere EUR 600 a night and my nineteen-year-old old English niece is working there as a receptionist and loving her job, her time on the Island with her Spanish grandma and the opportunity to learn Spanish. And at the Blue Lagoon, they all love her back. I walk into the apartment, straight into the living room and dangle a set of car keys deliciously in front of her. She understands what it means, shrieks with joy and we hug one another and jump up and down with happiness like adolescentsAt least one of us can still lay claim to that title, and I inform my teenage niece that the local TITSA bus (it really is called that) is now history, for from this moment onwards we are officially Women with Wheels. ‘Have you told Nanny?’ Zara cautiously enquires after the first flush of excitement has receded. Absolutely not! I respond. She would be horrified with the whole idea, and even more terrified than me of the dangers involved. Had she had any inkling of my intentions, I would have probably been locked away in my bedroom all morning until this whole driving madness idea had passed.

Zara tells me that I am absolutely right not to have told Mama, or Nanny as she calls her, anything about the rental car plan and she elaborates on this; last month she went diving with some friends and a few days later proudly showed Nanny the underwater Facebook photographs. There she was, capture for eternity complete with wet suit, oxygen bottle and a myriad of turtles, fish and the rest of the what-have-you's that inhabit the watery world. Now, most Nannies would captivatingly look at the pictures, and qualify this enthusiasm with appropriately encouraging comments such as, ‘How exciting. Lovely dear. What an adventure! Be sure to tell your Mother when you next talk’. Not this Nanny. As she studied the photographs in closer detail she makes no attempt to conceal the look of horror on her face. Indeed, the piece of apple that Mama has just neatly sliced with a knife and is about to pop into her mouth suddenly drops from her hand and falls gently onto the floor, instantaneously consigned to oblivion in the turmoil of the moment.

She grabs Zara by both arms and proceeds to shake her vigorously as if to awaken her from the most harrowing of nightmares. ‘Have you gone out of your mind? Are you mad? Promise me you will never do such a dangerous thing again! Do you want to die? What will I then tell your Mother? Never, ever do this again!’ She passionately tells her granddaughter. Zara may as well as have told her Grandma that on her day off she had climbed the 3.7-kilometre peak of the nearby Teide volcano, that she had avoided falling over a precipice and to certain death by sheer inches, that a few companions were lost on the way down. But that she was lucky and made it back to work at the Blue Lagoon the following day with just one chipped nail. And that nobody noticed a thing until they read the obituary to the lost friends in the following day’s local newspaper. Yes, we both agree that it is better Mama does not know that I have rented a car until I am certain that I can drive it. She would only worry.  We will surprise her when she comes back from church with excellent driving skills, I wisely tell Zara. In the meantime, let’s go out and have a spin. And as we shut the door behind us, we take along only our bags and phones, for our mutual bus tickets have been relegated to the kitchen counter as superfluous. After all, we are now Women with Wheels.

 To be continued...

Next post 8th September: Dark Side Of The Moon

Note: All written content is the intellectual property of this Author. Image material is drawn from a combination of Pixabay with additions from private family archives.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Automatic Transmission

My thoughts are rudely truncated by the lady behind the counter renting me a carand she duly brings me back to the present in San Juan, Tenerife, and out of my moment of reminiscing (see post A Tibetan Story).  Looking up from her screen, she tells me that there are no automatics today or tomorrow. It's the last few days of my vacation, and if I want a car today and now it will have to be manual. She has one parked just outside and it is mine if I want itI tell her that it must be automatic and I explain why; after my divorce the house, the car, the life that went it, was all washed away and I now only have a car at home in Helsinki when I rent or when a friend kindly loans me theirs. But the vast majority of these have had automatic transmission, putting a string of delectable vehicles all out of my yearning reach. You see, I have only ever driven cars with manual transmission.

I want to tell her that I return to driving school where I take a series of lessons to correct this shortcoming. My instructor called Henrik spends the first lesson teaching me the basics from scratch as I accidentally mistake the accelerator for the brake and hopelessly search for a non-existent clutch. He tells me to feel no shame, that many women my age newly-widowed or divorced return to driving school to brush up driving skills never implemented during years of marriage where this task was largely left to the husband. Once faced with no driver they have no option but to relearn the driving skills long ago forgotten. By comparison, I am an easy case; I can drive perfectly well and have over twenty years of experience behind me, just not with an automatic. By the third and last lesson I have nailed automatic transmissions. It's a hot summer's day and I am in heaven as I effortlessly reintegrate myself into the busy traffic, enjoying my beautiful city and everything that passes by me as the radio gently hums in the background. I have missed my cars and it feels wonderfully liberating to drive again.

What a world of easy driving, I think to myself as I wait for the lights to change on the maritime Pohjoisranta Avenue with the imposing Ice Breakers on my right and the red brick Military Museum on my left. Once you lose the gears and fiddly clutch, a new world opens up at long traffic lights; You can put on your make-up, straighten your hair, even write a review on Trip Advisor about driving instructors. In theory, you could put on the kettle and make yourself a cup of tea, even make a sandwich if you have a small kitchen facility installed in the central unit between the driver and passenger seats. Uncle Fernando has all the gears on his disabled vehicle transferred to the side of the steering wheel (see post Columbus And The Missing Gravestone), so I see no reason why they cannot do likewise for vehicles with automatic transmission. The possibilities are endless and I am now done with manual cars.

The Henrik now happily seated next to me is a completely different person from when we started out just three lessons ago. My diligent instructor has been replaced with just another passenger immersed in his phone, just as passengers usually areHe is now coordinating with his wife what to pack for the forthcoming weekend at the cottage, browsing his on-line banking, and generally telling me about the sauna he will have at the cottage and the friends he will invite. He has even switched on the radio and that is the ultimate sign that he has forgotten that I am the student and he the instructor. I need not be told that I am certified competent, for I know this from his relaxed demeanour. But he does and advises me to rent only automatics in future. That way I do not revert back to ingrained manual behaviour. So sorry, Madam-whoever-you-are, this is why I must rent a car with automatic transmission.

But, where was I? Oh yes, let me continue telling you about the Cars With Memories in our family. I still have to tell you about the first car in our family. Before The Tank appeared in our life, there was a metallic-blue car called ANH-549, or the Saab 900 as it is better known. ANH-549 arrived alongside my marriage in much the same way as an already existing child, and I have only hazy recollections of it, for the fear of Finnish winters were too much for an inexperienced driver fresh out of English driving school. I never drove this vehicle and it never really felt mine. This was a time when Hugo still insisted on wearing his slippers so that he could marry the PrinceSofia had not yet joined our family and we were just three (see post Cars With Memories). If we were to meet for coffee, we could perhaps become friends and talk about cars, family, husbands present and past, children, dreams, the art of living a life you did not sign up for, and so much more. But I guess that you are not interested in this, you just want to rent me a car.

have no idea how long we have been here searching for my rental car with non-negotiable automatic transmission, but I think that at least an hour must have gone by, and I sense that you are beginning to get tired of me and my stories. Finally you wearily look up from your keyboard, and politely but firmly inform me that THERE ARE ONLY MANUALS available for renting today. The automatic option will take two daysI sensibly capitulate, sign the rental agreement and pay the fee on my credit card. After collecting the keys for the vehicle, I walk out into the bright sunshine to search for my new travel companionFour door, white. Manual. Henrik is not here so I logically reason that he will never find out. Now I am a Woman with Wheels.

To be continued...

Next post : 25th August: Woman With Wheels

 Note: All written content is the intellectual property of this Author. Image material is drawn from a combination of Pixabay with occasional additions from private family archives.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A Tibetan Story

I am in the village of San Juan in Tenerife attempting to rent a vehicle for the remaining few days of my vacation (see post Cars With Memories
), and inevitably my mind wanders to one of the many recollections encapsulated within those Cars With Memories.

We are approaching the end of the 1990’s, and on this winter's day in Helsinki Hugo, aged six and Sophia, aged two are seated in the back of their Mama's Tank, otherwise known as the Toyoya Land Cruiser (see post Tanks And Treasures). I am running an errand, to where I no longer remember for this detail is no longer of significance and a winter storm has arrived in Finland's capital city covering the streets with immense snow drifts. We are in a European city, yet looking around me it feels like Alaska, so deep is the snow, so cold is the wind, and so singularly beautiful is the surrounding landscape of trees and bushes all heavily laden with snow. My precious cargo seated behind me is happily occupied each with their own matters, and as I drive through this captivating arctic landscape I switch on the radio to accompany me on my journey. Sofia is blissfully sucking her thumb, whilst Hugo is transfixed with his collection of ice hockey cards, and the delicious tranquillity that reigns invites me to listen into the discussion which comes out of the radio channel I am tuned into. 

It's an in-depth interview introducing the Plan International sponsorship program which promotes the education of children in all countries and in all corner of the globe, via a simple and small monthly donation made by adults who become godparents to a child of their choice and in the county of their choice. I am intrigued by the entire concept; Mama always instilled in us girls the importance of an education, a career and a driver's licence. In this way, a woman is able to ensure her complete self-reliance and financial independence from men. Just like my Sister, Sis, I have achieved all three and the program I am listening to makes me realise that there are children 

Now I am mesmerized and listen avidly, and as soon as I arrive home I unload my cargo of children and continue following this fascinating topic on the kitchen radioAt this moment I realise that I too want to participate in this marvellous program and so help a young child somewhere on this planet to achieve what this little girl from an Island off the coast of Western Africa has attained and more (see post Share The Moon). After the program is finished and I have duly noted the contact details, I send an e mail to the organisation informing them that I would be honoured to join their sponsorship program and that I have a few simple requests; I wish to sponsor a young child who is a girl, and in addition to this she must come from a part of the world where her gender puts her at risk of possible discrimination. Aside from that, they are free to assign me whoever they wish and from whichever corner of our diverse Planet they see fit. And I duly let fate take its course and allow the River of Life to freely flow along its own path. 

Around this time, in a far away place from Finland, a nine-year old girl and her five-year old brother are in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet with their father. The children have already bid goodbye to their mother in their remote village home of Eastern Tibet, and the father is now preparing his daughter and son for the unforgettable journey of their lives. For along with her brother, this nine-year-old will join other Tibetans and leave their precious homelandtrekking across the snowy Himalayas, into Nepal and finally onto India. As with many other rural families, the parents have decided to send their children to India in the hope that they will receive an education not attainable were they to remain in Tibet. If indeed blessed, they may well be fortunate enough to also meet with his Holiness, The Dalai Lama. It's deep winter and the Himalayan mountains are covered with snow so making it the best time to escape; with these difficult conditions underfoot, the chances of being discovered and detained by the Chinese Authorities are minimalised. 

Known as The Roof of the World and rising to over four-and-a-half kilometres above sea level, Tibet is home to the World's largest and most elevated plateau. Surrounding this plateau are the imposing mountain ranges that harbour the world's two highest summits, Mount Everest and K2. Whilst the world's top mountaineers regularly attempt to summit their forbidding peaks, the remote area surrounding these peaks is home to ethnic communities living lives largely untouched by the passing of time. One such area is the Buddhist region of Tibet, home to just over three million inhabitants. Now a part of The People's Republic of China since its annexation in 1951, every Tibetan dreams of the day when their country will be liberated and just as it was before this date. For now, it is but a Tibetan dream, but the possibility of giving their children the possibility of freedom and an education is an attainable reality. But this reality comes at a price, and for this reason this father is in Lhasa with his children on this day, at this moment and at this hour. 

Tears stream down the father's face as his bids his daughter and son goodbye. They have never seen their proud and noble father weep in this uninhibited way. Unlike them, he fully understands that they might never meet again, for he will not be joining them on this journey. The brother and sister join a group of twenty-five persons amongst them adults and children, and together they begin the long trek crossing the snowy mountain range to freedom. Sleeping in the day time and moving at night, they embark on a tortuous journey that lasts over forty days; confronting cold, hunger, soaring mountain peaks, sweeping rivers, and also death. Yet they never give up on their goal of reaching the safety of Nepal, and in moments of great distress the nine-year-old girl comforts her frightened younger brother. For she must, she is now his only family.  

The relief of reaching Nepal does not last long, for they are swiftly detained by the authorities and faced with the stark reality of being returned to Tibet, but fortune looks upon them. A Tibetan hears of their plight and they are soon rescued by a humanitarian organisation. Finally they have reached freedom. The children of the group are assigned to Tibetan children's villages in Northern India just on the other side of the border from Nepal, and so their parents dreams are realised. Amongst these children is the same nine-year-old girl from the small village in Eastern Tibet.

Six young girl pass through my life as sponsored goddaughters since that cold winter's day when I first become aware of this program. First from India, and then later Thailand. Some fall away due to life's natural attritions and are then replaced by newer ones. I still sponsor two today. One of these six girls leaves an indelible mark on the course of our family history; she grows into adulthood, duly leaves the program and our lives diverge, only to be brought together years later by an unexpected friend request on Facebook. Once again our life rivers slowly converge, and on a warm and sunny September afternoon nineteen-years after the initial sponsorship program began, the Finnair Delhi to Helsinki plane delivers our family a twenty-eight-year old young woman and unbeknown to us at that moment, a sister for Hugo and Sofia, and for myself a daughter. She was the nine-year-old girl of this Tibetan Story and our family of three once again becomes four.

To be continued....

Next post 11th August : Automatic Transmission
Note: All written content is the intellectual property of this Author. Image material is drawn largely from Pixabay with occasional additions from private family archives.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Cars With Memories

It is the present moment, and I am once again back on my beach. On our Island of Tenerife we have known for exactly one week, that within two short months Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. With his inauguration I will have lived through eleven US presidents, for I am just eight weeks old when President John F. Kennedy, Thirty-Five, is assassinated. At this moment and on this beach, Sofia is seated next to me, just as she was before I recollected the events leading up to Papa's death (see post Share The Sorrow); his Wake (see posts Gathering And RememberingThe NotebookThe Professionals); the Funeral that followed (see post Goodbye Mercedes Man); the search for The Missing Gravestone (see post Columbus And The Missing Gravestone); its discovery (see post Gravestone Mystery Resolved); and how the love story of Beatriz and Columbus tied up into all this (see post The River.  All these events have passed through my mind in a matter of hours, minutes and seconds, but in reality one complete year has elapsed and I am now back on my Island and on my beach with my own child (see post Share The Moment), contemplating on the fragility of this existence that we call Life.

It has been good to met with Mama, and in her old age grant her the gift of time spent with one daughter and two grand-daughters; myself, Zara and Sofia, for this even brief period of time. Twenty-one-year-old Sofia will be returning to Finland tomorrow joining her older brother Hugo, and I will still stay on with Mama and neice Zara for a few more days. After a hectic summer of uninterrupted work, I am in need of a respite and vacation of my own. What better place than on my own island of Tenerife, the Hawaii of Europe. The day of Sofia's departure arrives and goes and Mama, Uncle Fernando (chauffeur, historian and poet all rolled into one) and I drive the short journey to the airport as we usually do. Sofia messages to let me know that she has safely arrived in Helsinki and I then set about setting myself a challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone; 

I decide to be brave and rent my own car. The Island's ubiquitous twisting mountain roads with sharp drops down to dry ravines terrify me, and until today I have left the driving on my numerous returns home to the men of my life; first to Hugo and Sofia's Finnish Papa, and then later to Uncle Fernando. But the former is no longer a part of my life, and the latter will soon be eighty, and I realise that sooner or later I will have to take care of the driving myself. I reason to myself that I have successfully survived navigation of the Finnish roads for over twenty years come summer and winter, so this Island's meandering highways cannot surely present me with greater insurmountable challenges.

Before my determination wanes and along with it my courage, I walk over to the car rental shop in the village of San Juan, sit down at the desk manned by a well-dressed lady in her late-thirties to early-forties, and ask for a rental car. For today. A rental car with automatic transmission for this afternoon I add.  She nods at my request and begins to tap on her keyboard searching for my desired vehicle. She seems to be a nice woman and I try to imagine from this first encounter what sort of a person she is when she is not sat behind the desk renting me a car. What is her name? How old is she? Where does she live? Is she single? Married? Any children? How many? Their ages? What are their names? What car does she drive? I want to tell her all about the cars that I have driven and the stories that they could tell. You see, all my cars come loaded with memories. Memories that recall minute details of the vehicles that have passed through our family life and so much more. Memories loaded with joy, but also those weighed down with sorrow. If only I could get her to have a coffee with me, we could discuss all this and so much more. And all at once, a mighty river of words begins to cascade from within.

I want to tell her that I was born in Playa Alcala, the village next door to San Juan where we are now, but that many years ago, when I was just six-years-old, Mama, Papa, Sis and I bid goodbye to Mama's own family, and emigrated to England. That even though I look like you and talk like you, on the inside I am English. I want to tell her that I miss my Papa and that he died one year ago last month at a ripe old age, that four decades may separate today from yesterday, but that I am still the same innocent six-year-old who sat on his knee back then in our caravan, newly arrived in a strange land called England and reciting the new English words of the day in our terrible Spanish accents and listening to the wonders of The English Tea Break (see post Watching The English Part II). 

I want to tell her that the seeds of Papa's fervour for adventure germinated also within me; for many years later, freshly graduated from University with a degree in Mathematics and a passion for linguistics, I in turn bid farewell to Mama, Papa and Sis in England and departed for a new country named Finland. And so began my own adventure on the untrodden journey of Married Life (see post Grandma Elizabeth And The Hayshoes). At first we were two, then within two years we were joined by Hugo, then four years later Sofia completed our family of four. I want to tell her all this and so much more, but I think that she just wants to rent me a car.  


I want to tell her that our last and most recent family car was a snow-white BMW-520i called HIJ-550, or The Executive Milk Float. It was the colour of milk and the sleek engine purred softly like the electric milk floats of my English childhood. I helped to pick it out at the showroom and these were comfortable times of plenty; Hugo and Sofia were transcending from childhood to adolescence, the hectic days of our adult late thirties would soon give way to the calm years of the early forties, and the few scant clouds in the distant horizon were white and fluffysoon melting away to reveal a backdrop of blue skies. Life was good. I want to tell her that, many years later during the darkest days of my divorce, I would drive in my Executive Milk Float anywhere and everywhere around Helsinki to obliterate the pain of the moment and to contemplate the life I had lost and the one ahead of me erased before it had yet been written. 

I also want to tell her that I was married for exactly twenty-five years, two months and two days when, on a thirteenth day like no other, my life imploded. Please do not ask me for the hours and minutes, for I cannot say. On That Day, the measurement of time as we know it ceased to exist, and in its place appeared the simplified categories of yesterday and today, for tomorrow had just died. That soon three years will have elapsed since That Day when time stood still and my calendar reset itself at zero. That the torrent of divorce pain has now given way to a calm sea of tranquillity. That my new unexpected and unwanted life is blessed in more ways than I could have ever imagined. That I have said goodbye to a marriage, but gained a daughter I never knew I had. 

I want to tell her that I have dated many men since my divorce, but that only one has captured my soul and along with it a fragment of me which I cannot retrieve. That the heart is circled by many, but conquered by few. That you are lucky if just one such encounter crosses your path in a lifetime, but that I have been blessed with two and that exactly twenty-nine years separate them. That neither was meant to be, and that the wave of sadness washes over me now as it did then, for it is not every day that you say goodbye to that which conquers the heart and captures the soul. I want to tell her all this and so much more, but I think that she just wants to rent me a car.

But let's not dwell on the sorrow, for this will only incarcerate us both in a valley of tears. Rather let's look upwards, towards those peaks of joy that Mama told me about (see post The River), and remember the happier moments of those Cars With Memories; Before the Executive Milk Float came into our life, there was a colossal sky-blue SUV Toyota Land Cruiser BJS-355, or 'The Tank'. This car was the first car that I drove in Finland and cemented my dual role as a mother and driver, for Sofia joined our family soon after the arrival of The Tank. Its sole mission: to keep the new generation of Hayshoes alive on the slippery winter roads and it stepped up to the challenge with honours (see post Grandma Elizabeth And The Hayshoes).

This is the car that left an indelible mark on Sofia, for aged not quite three she one day informed me that, ' I-is-a-big-girl, drive-a-car, look-like-a-you-drive-a-car, go-voom-voom-not-vam-vam'. Even at this tender age, Sofia clearly understood that her Mama was driving a Tank (see post Tanks And Treasures). I have no recollection of similar conversations with her older brother Hugo years earlier at the same age. He showed no such interest in cars. Rather, as we prepared to leave the house, Hugo would resolutely inform me that he would not be divesting himself of my high heels or 'slippers' as he called them. He needed to wear them at all times so that he would stand a good chance of 'marrying Prince'. Unlike hiyounger Sister who was entranced by cars, the fairy-tale story of girl meets prince, or Cinderella captivated this two-year-old.

Equally important, this was the vehicle that across the radio air waves on a cold Finnish winter's day brought a nine-year-old Tibetan girl into my life. The warm office with its drowsy heat momentarily numbs me, and my mind transports me back to that time and place....

To be continued. 

Next post 28th July: A Tibetan Story

Note: All written content is the intellectual property of this Author. Image material is drawn largely from Pixabay with some occasional additions from private family archives.