We landed in Barcelona 1 year ago and one day after I turned 40. We had a small window to choose dates to fly and it so happened that the best price was on my birthday. This was fitting since I like good deals and new adventures. What I really mean is that I like the concept, the magical idea of new adventures! We felt confident and knew that this decision was right for our family and although sad and missing comforts and friends, the kids were on board and we were off.
The house we were moving to was sight unseen for me. Tom had six days in Spain to find a house, a school, and get all the paperwork we needed for our visa. I only knew it had enough bedrooms, a terrace, some balconies, ugly cabinets and a fig tree. I grew up with a fig tree in my yard when I was young so that felt warm and enchanting :). The other thing I had known was that the house had a name which I loved: CASA LIBERTAD…House of freedom. FREEDOM….what American doesn’t love this beautiful word?!!
We arrived in Barcelona in the late afternoon and it was HOT. We came to discover that it was the hottest summer on record in 30 years. We had to take several taxis from the airport since there were 6 of us and 12 suitcases and miscellaneous bags, guitars and pillows. I ended up in the same taxi with my then 15 year old who was weeks away from turning the magical age of 16. This “mythical”, All-American age for birthdays and high school and all the things that are cultural norms for this handsome, athletic, music- loving American teenager.
We rounded the corner through the narrow, one way streets and suddenly the car stopped on this colorful, graffitiesque, OLD street where all the houses and buildings were glued together.
I could read the mind and the eyes of this boy of mine. The age that you shouldn’t move a teenager and we had unsettled his world. I had a pit in my stomach and he had a cold look in his eyes…never one to complain.
It was shock and “How could my dad lie to me about this place”? You mean our house is CONNECTED to another house? Where is the grass? Why does everything look so old? Tell me this isn’t our new neighborhood?
He was silent but I was the one who couldn’t breathe.
This decision we made had gotten real and was about to get even more real. It took 45 days to get an air conditioner installed in our steam room of a house…days away from summer turning to fall. Amazing how extreme sweating and heat can alter the moods of the happiest of folks! Then, there were many trips to the dumpster to remove “non-essential items”. The 100 year old fig tree which had seemed so magical began RAINING down figs that would splatter and bake and stick to everything in their path. It became like our miniature “farm” in the city with complaining and bemoaning who’s turn it was to “gather the crops”. The kids all slept in our room (the only place with A/C) for weeks. The element of first world “suffering” and lack of anything comfortable or familiar was beyond.
What had we done? Our kids were happy and SETTLED, COMFORTABLE in their large and beautiful, childhood home. They had family, teams, schools, health clubs and a big house at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They had GRASS!! Amazing Grass and a dog and bunny with 3 legs and a trampoline! Oh, and they travelled in cars….away from odd smells, and the “sex-ed lessons” public transport brings!
YET, beyond any shadow of a doubt we knew that this life was in the past and THIS…this city life in a foreign land was our next place of being together.
Here is what else got real….All that was hiding from plain sight in that big house by the big mountains. It wasn’t like we were dysfunctional…I would have said we were very functional in fact. It was just that there were these subtle things that we could not see when everything was so big, comfortable, vast and busy.
When everything got compressed into close quarters there was no choice but to see, look and listen. There was nowhere for anyone to hide. NOWHERE. The only places to go were too hot. What emerged over the next year was nothing less than the raw, hilarious, tearful road to deeper bonds, honest relationships and FREEDOM.
The Davis family reckoning was unfolding…the anger that was masking sadness, the quiet compliance that was hiding fears, the ones who needed to get more quiet and the ones who needed to be heard. It was all bursting out. I could not rescue myself or anyone. I could not ‘buffer’ enough to make it all ok. There was no way forward but through.
I wanted to rescue. Even when I tried to reattach my “cape” in certain situations I couldn’t speak the language so it was FUTILITY. I bought hundreds of freshly baked croissants to try and make it ALL better but then came my personal reckoning…THIS was Casa Libertad…The House of Freedom…freedom for OUR house.
I had forgotten for a moment how “expensive” freedom was. I knew better and I know better.
FREEDOM in any area costs.
So, here is the main thing….
For all of us that are getting uncomfortable in our daily lives, fighting personal or public battles that require constant daily courage, watching our children or others face hard things (whilst choosing to not obsessively rescue), letting go, choosing the unconventional, getting brave and unstuck, choosing vulnerability and faith over fear…..CHEERS, hugs, support and emoji clap hands to you!
We all have our own “houses or places, opportunities for freedom” that come our way. It doesn’t matter if we’ve taken a pass before…the chance will come again. It doesn’t always mean a change of location or something drastic. It WILL look like COURAGE though…and for some it will mean a significant “re-routing”. What is most important is that we do not take a pass again and we say YES because often and usually THROUGH IS, in fact, the only way forward and there is indeed the best light at the end.
Those sweet and loud, rough and shaky, angry, sometimes lazy and entitled kids (and parents) are more free, more fearless than ever before. We are rough around the edges of course, there is nothing boring or buttoned up about our tribe but all of us see, smell, taste, talk and hear differently. This way of living more free, sacrificing for real freedom (the kind where you emerge with wings) is not cheap and not for the faint of heart but it is GOOD and YES…it is worth it.
***These words are dedicated to my 2 sisters who are “freedom fighters” and Carolyn Twietmeyer who is an inspiring example to myself and others and is the ultimate “freedom junkie”:)!
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