By Suzy Beal
This is the 16th episode of a travel memoir that is unfolding, one chapter each month, here on True Stories Well Told. Stay tuned for more of the adventure as teenage Suzy’s family moves to Europe, builds a sailboat, and takes up life on the high seas circa 1961. Click here to read the earlier episodes.
Notes from Mom’s letters to her sister Margaret – July 14, 1962
Young Tommy has a shop featuring Majorican paintings, ceramics, crystal and wood carvings. Has done well enough, but keeps branching out. Just published a little paper ostensibly to give out information for tourists, but it seems to be filled mainly with advertising. He’s also doing a bit of wheeling and dealing in real estate.
Hank has just arrived in England aboard the yacht “Trenchemere” skippered by one of England’s top sailing men. We met him when we were in Puerto Andraitx. In May he asked if Henry would like to sail up with him, learning to sail on the way. Of course, Hank jumped at the chance, and spent several weeks working with him, getting the boat ready. Yoiks, this kid has a chance of meeting all kinds of people. The skipper, Bobby Somerset, is the brother to a Lord, and several of his friends in England, Lord this and Lord that have invited Hank to stay with them. There are also some people from Scotland whom we met here who have asked him to visit. We had several letters from him in Gibraltar, where they were for several days, and he has apparently had a grand time sailing.
Suzy, too is managing to keep busy. Goes to work at 8AM at a little pension, serving breakfast till eleven. Then she goes and works in a beauty shop till seven in the evening. With the wage scale here, she’s not exactly getting rich, but it means clothes and spending money, anyway.
Carl sold one of his paintings to an American who is here waiting for his boat to be finished. He thinks Carl should be having art instruction and has offered to have Carl live with them in Madrid and go to school. We’re not quite ready to give him up and feel that he’s not yet ready for formal instruction.
The little guys spend all day down on the beach and in the water, when they aren’t riding around on their bicycles. It’s certainly an ideal place from their point of view. And not the least of the attractions is the fact that the ice cream men come by twice a day, so we always get hit at one time or another. But, luckily, the cones are measured according to how much the child is clutching in his grubby little paw. 1 peseta, 2 pesetas, etc. A five peseta (about 8 cents) cone is a luxury indulged in by only the most affluent. With 23 children in our house and the one next door, you may be sure the ice cream man is always stopped by one watchful child or another.
One good result of this venture has been that the girls are taking an interest in cooking, which they didn’t ever seem to have time for at home. They have been preparing dinner in the evenings for us and doing a bit of baking. Jan just brought in a big platter full of donuts.
Standing in front of the mirror in my bedroom, while getting ready for work, I brush my hair. Who is this person looking back at me? I don’t feel like an American, do I look like a Spanish girl? I want to look Spanish, so I put my hair up in a moño (twist). I want to speak the language without an accent, and I want to fit in. How can I do it? My jobs require my speaking Spanish, a little French and English as I work with the tourists. I want them to think I’m a Spanish girl.
I’m in love. Juan shows me how he feels. Even though we can’t tell each other many things, I know when he reaches for my hand or puts his arm around me he feels the same way. My Spanish is getting better, and he tries to learn words in English. We laugh. Dancing is our favorite pastime. We can be close without raising eyebrows.
The blood rushed to my cheeks as he advanced with his hand out for a dance.
He enclosed me in an embrace. I suddenly forgot how to dance and stepped on his toes. What could I say? No words came. He pulled me closer, I thought, to help me get back my footing, but I knew differently. No words only movements. The music was fast, but we weren’t keeping up, we didn’t care. With our hands together and his strong grip on my back, I wanted the music to last forever. No words, only a smile and a leaning of his head to touch mine. An aroma of soap and his smooth skin on my cheek. No words, only being. Amor.
I worked at a pension, which was a small hotel that served breakfast for no added charge. It had twelve rooms for guests and they hired me to prepare the breakfasts. The continental fare included fresh croissants, hard rolls, coffee or tea, jams, and fresh fruit. I didn’t have to make the croissants or rolls. We purchased those from the local bakery. The part I liked best was making perfect butter balls by scraping a small curved knife across the butter. I served these with the croissants and rolls.
After cleaning up the breakfast room, I went to the peluqueria (hair salon) to work in the afternoons. Catalina’s oldest daughter, Antonia, owned the hair salon, and she gave me a job learning to wash hair and doing manicures. It was an education in European styling for me. There were French, German, English, Danish, and Spanish women, all vacationing in Puerto during the summers. They made appointments to have their hair done, and I saw how each nationality preferred to wear their hair. I learned how to “tease” hair and make it into moños or puffed-up styles with short hair. I watched the young ladies put on their makeup before leaving the shop. I was learning how to wear makeup for the first time.
Summer stretched into fall and the tourists left. Puerto returned to the quiet little coastal town we now called home.
The weather changed and began to get colder. Once the tourists left, we had the local club and bars to ourselves and we made the most of it. There was dancing every weekend at Brisas Bar, evenings of playing cards and watching “Bonanza” on the television at El Circulo. We didn’t have a TV or even know anyone who did, but the club had one we could watch in the evenings. There were fifteen to twenty of us ranging in age from twelve to twenty who met there in the evenings. We always went out in groups and never just as a couple because the Spanish girls needed chaperones. I guess I was lucky, because Mom always considered my brothers as chaperones for me.
© 2019 Suzy Beal
Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at writingitreal.com. Watch for new chapters of her travel memoir to be posted! Please leave comments for Suzy on this post.