It’s time I opened up to you all about the communication gaps to which I’ve repeatedly fallen victim here. To clarify: I realize that I’m susceptible to lots of conversational confusion, but in this case, I don’t entirely blame my working Spanish ability. Nor do I blame the Argelichs. Rather, I think the Spanish and the Americans simply have differing concepts of “big” and “small.” Allow me to give an example. One of my first nights here, Uge told me we were going to “a concert and a little party after.” The concert ended up being a very small event among friends in a cozy Irish pub, and we left after about half an hour. The party, on the other hand, was a very formal birthday party. The girls were dressed in heels and fancy dresses, there was a glorious multi-story cake, and white wine was served in crystal glasses with freshly cut strawberries. We also were there until four in the morning. When I heard “a concert and a little party after,” I had expected the first to be the main attraction and the second to be kind of an add-on . . . not the reverse.
Another example. Once, Agus told me that we were going to go visit “a church on top of a hill.” That church ended up being a cathedral. That hill ended up being Montserrat.
See, we don’t have a breathtaking Gothic cathedral around every corner. But here, it’s the norm. I think the Spanish are kind of accustomed to being surrounded by ancient and beautiful architecture—and also taking whatever Captain America is taking. But this contrast of expectation and reality was never so stark as it was last week, when we went to “the pool.”
I was asked if I would like to go to the pool. Having already been to the beach, I thought, “Okay, sure, the pool could be cool,” but I wasn’t exactly counting down the days. Two days before our seemingly trivial outing, Nacho, Benja and Agus left with the purpose of cleaning said pool. I thought, “How odd. I’ve never heard of a pool making its members responsible for upkeep.” I soon learned that the pool actually belongs to the family, and I thought, “Hmm. Smart investment! Everyone can pitch in and have a safe, clean environment for the kids to hang out!” Certainly closer, but still not quite on the mark.
When we got there, I was blown away. There was a pool, alright . . . on the large country estate with a huge, centuries-old manor and acres of farmland, situated across from the private tennis court and behind the little family chapel. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I actually walked around the entire place with my mouth open. You walk in and there’s this beautiful grand foyer, with a billiards room to the right and an office to the left. The dining room has an enormous fireplace with rich green ceramic tiles lining the mantel, and the kitchen is what Martha Stewart asked for every year when she visited the mall-Santa as a child. There are three stories, and the balcony in the master bedroom looks out over the tennis court. It’s nuts.
But while it sounds like Mr. Body’s mansion, it’s not ostentatious or posh. It’s antiquated, and rich with history. It’s an old fixer-upper that the family has owned since Agustín’s grandfather purchased it, and every year, they lock it up for the winter. When summer rolls around, the family gets to work cleaning, dusting, and preparing to use it again. The process lasts the whole summer, and when they finally finish (if they finish!), it’s time to lock it up again for the year to come. I helped with the cleaning a little bit, assisting Lourdes and María with the little outdoor playhouse (the only thing I ever wanted as a child). I also introduced to what must have been a dozen cousins the game Word on the Street, which was joyfully brought to my life by my friends Mark and Lauren. It’s a great word and spelling game that involves quick thinking, ingenuity, and hardly any luck. I got it for the English classes that I’ve been holding for some of the younger cousins, and oh my goodness did we have a blast! It was like a mob of shouting children. One would hardly guess that we were actually learning English!
Bigues is really special to the family. Being with them was cool for me, because I got to see them in their element. They’re a huge group—there must have been twenty some-odd cousins there, and we were missing practically half! But they’re a really tight-knit one, and I think they are just so lucky to have this spectacular place to share the summer. I’m excited to keep going back to Bigues. And even though I’ve been there three times now, I still have yet to go in the pool!
Note: I would like to apologize to the reader for not including a picture of the pool. I realize that due to the misleading emphasis in the title, you were expecting a pool. But now that you’ve read about Bigues, you don’t really care much, am I right? This is precisely what it feels like to be me.
But hey, I’ll throw in a picture of the family chapel to make it up to you!