Daily Archives: Thursday, November 1, 2012

A bullfighters daughter

I was born in South America. My fate set in motion by my parents. My mother, intrigued by Latin America. My father by Bullfighting. Though they both are from the American Southwest, they both have a wandering foot (to invoke a metaphor that I am unsure if it even exists). My father went to a fancy schmancy international business graduate school and as such he was given a job that would put him, my mother and all of his offspring on a magic carpet ride that traveled well. However, that business was not, in my opinion, his true passion. His true passion is bullfighting. It is what I remember him doing. It is what I have seen drive his soul.

I grew up in Spain and Latin America because of this passion of his. I would not trade it for the world. I have learned to embrace this passion of his. I have suffered for it, but I would not trade it. I am a bullfighters daughter.

One of my earliest memories of him is in that photo above. What do you see? A crying little girl in a man’s arms while he seems to be going through some bullfight moves with a calf? If that is what you saw you are absolutely right. What you may have completely wrong is a possible assumption that I hated being there and wanted him to put me down and get me out of that ring.
That is wrong. I was crying because my clogs had fallen off and I was convinced that the dreadful beast was going to eat them. I kept crying “Mis zuecos, mis zuecos.. el toro los va a comer. Yo quiero mis zuecos” (Mi clogs, my clogs, the bull is going to eat them. I want my clogs). The thing is that I felt very, very safe. The event where this happened was a no-kill situation (in case you were wondering). I can recall, that my only concern was about my shoes.

in 2009 my husband, son, and I traveled to see my father and as one might expect he was planning a tienta (that is what you see in the picture above). It is an afternoon of using capes on some calves. I recall spending the afternoon passing him his capes and such as he maneuvered around the ring. And then, at one point… he looked over his shoulder at me… and I knew what he was going to ask, it was what I was hoping would happen. He turned to me and asked if I would let my son in. I was delighted. I had watched him move around the ring and saw that there was still this grace that I had always witnessed in him while he was in a ring… and as I was about to say yes.. I stopped. I was married and this was not a choice I could make without involving my husband… even though my whole body was saying “yes, this has to happen”.  I told my dad that while I was a complete go, I had to ask my husband how he felt about this.

I recall running to look for my husband and when I found him I looked him in the eye and asked “Can my dad take Squink in to the ring with him?”


My husband looked at me, and asked what I thought. I told him that I thought it was perfectly safe. That it was something I really wanted to have happen.


“I trust you to make the right decision”, he said to me. I know he knew I was going to go through with it.

Without a second thought, I ran and picked up my little son, and carried him towards the ring. My husband walking next to us. I was whispering in my son’s ear that I was going to hand him over to cowboy grandpa and that he was going to get to do something that I got to do when I was little. He seemed intrigued.  Excited even.

We arrived at the fence barrier. I held him close, and kissed his check and handed him over to my father. 

I could tell right away that my little boy felt safe in those same arms that had held me. I could hear him him tell my father to “get him, get him”, leaning forward to get a better look at what was happening between my father and the calf, completely at ease in a situation that felt so familiar to me. I stood at the side of the ring, joyful at watching my father hold my son in the exact same way he held me at that age.

Dining with Doralice

The last time I shared any food with Doralice was when we both happened to be back in Ecuador about fourteen years or so ago. I sat in her childhood home drinking some wine and eating cheese and some other such finger foods with her, her father and step mother I think her sister was due to arrive shortly. I had stopped by to be taken out to dinner by them and to enjoy some of her fathers wine. I remember it quite well, I recall looking out the big window to her back yard and saw the play house she and her sister shared. Oh, that magnificent playhouse. The first time I think I ever got to witness the splendor of that wonderful playhouse was at a birthday party, either for Doralice or her sister. It was a dream house. A pretty pale girly color that in my mind was a pink/lavender with white gingerbread trim. It sat near a tree and seemed like a house built specifically for wonderful little girls.

The magic of that house was that it had actual running water. I recall standing in the house as a little 6 or 7 year old and marveling at the house and then… when I turned the knob for the water… and real water came out… I thought I was going to cry from pure delight. How magnificent that was… to be in a house that fit my body that seemed to have the most essential thing for me to be able to live there. I was entranced. I recall turning to Doralice and saying “you have water, real water” and she told me her father had had it put in.
I was stunned again. I thought that this never would be something that my father would consider but that I was so impressed that her father did. That is the thing though, even as a small child I knew pretty certainly that her father adored her and her sister. There were not a lot of fathers who put that out there for people to see and it was striking.
I turned my face away from that house that day I shared a meal with Doralice. I smiled at her, this grown up and beautiful Doralice, she and I chatting as friendly strangers who had these vague recollections of each other as little girls as we made jokes about trying to outrun body guards and driving in the crazy city… I asked her if it still had running water and we walked out to see it…. chatting and revealing these tid-bits of the women we had become.
I was delighted by her, I found her funny and raw and real. The feeling of being uncomfortable at being with her after all these years (and not knowing what to say to someone I had shared but a few playdates with before our parents went on to make choices that would separate this burgeoning  childhood friendship for almost twenty years…). well, they dissipated like the mists that cling to the city were were in and lift in a moment of glorious sunshine… 
So, I left that country and she returned to New York.. and I heard news of her and her sister, through my mother, as she finished culinary school and her sister graduate school. Then Facebook came along and I saw her name attached to my mother and so, began the continuation of a burgeoning friendship with someone I have seen twice in the last 30 years… and who is responsible directly for my writing this story.

Our ties to each other are crazy, if we sat down and talked about them it would be like an Argentine telenovela but about us, and our families and the women we have become. I think we make a great story.

And I still love that play house.