There is a lot here that makes me think of my dad, and I’ve noticed that being in a different country—such a stark contrast to living in the house he shared with my mom—I experience these thoughts differently.
Sitting on the beach where there are surfers coming and going, I think about how I’d like to tell my dad, who grew up on the water in Corpus Christi, about them. And for a second, because I’m so far away from everything, I think I can. I think that when I get home I’ll be able to tell him about what I saw and all that we did here.
I think of him when I take Bilingual Baby to the tide pools. Some of them are so big she can stretch out and kick her legs, move her arms, blow bubbles, and practice swimming. My dad would have tips for her, would cheer her on, and would throw her up in the air and say, “To the moon!” (Even though “To the moon” will always be an Alice thing, à la Honeymooners.)
I want to tell my dad that now I get why he used usted so much when he spoke Spanish. Here everyone uses usted; I even hear mothers talking to their own kids in the more formal usted, and Jojo’s friends in the neighborhood all refer to each other using usted. I learned the bulk of my Spanish in Spain where nearly everyone is addressed as tú, and it used to get on my nerves when my dad used usted with me or, when we were in Spain, with my friends. It sounded unthinkably strange to me. Not any more. I wish I could tell him that I’ll no longer get on his case about it.
And another thing that embarrassed me about my dad: he liked to practice his Spanish even with people who were speaking to him in English. He would do this at La Michoacana, at Luby’s, on trips to Oaxaca or Guanajuato—you name it, and you could always find me hiding behind the nearest pillar pretending I didn’t belong to him. If he could see me now, tipping the experience here towards Spanish as much as possible, using my Spanish even when spoken to in English. It would be quite satisfying to him, I think.
And I’d like to tell my dad, whose small business is the proud owner of Austin’s 1998 Bike to Work Day award (the first award ever given out?), about how we zoom around on two wheels here. We could have rented a car or a four-wheeler, but it feels great to use the power of our own legs, and to know we’re not contributing to the billows of dust and pollution along the main, dirt road. Our bikes get us to the laundromat, to the grocery store, to our surfing lessons, and even got Bilingual Baby to daycare on Tuesday when she missed the bus.
I would also tell him about showing up to a beach cleanup/reforestation event organized by the Nicoya Waterkeepers. He would like that. And I would tell him that I went zip lining in the rain forest, and he would cringe and we would both know how significant it was that I had flown through the treetops, because we are both afraid of heights.
Bilingual Baby turned three years old, and it goes without saying that her cake was chocolate—she inherited the chocolate-loving gene from the Gray side, a thing passed down from my grandfather to my father, to me, and on to her. My dad would love that she shares this with him.
From here it almost feels like I can tell him about it all when we get back.