I’ve spent the last week in a pueblo, in Spain, with my Spanish parents. When I say that to people, the usual response is, “I didn’t know you were Spanish. I thought you were Australian/Italian/Greek.” I am, but I am also very lucky to be an honourary Spaniard thanks to be Spanish parents!
To explain this I am going to have to go back to the very beginning. Back to the day my parents gave me the best present ever – a village.
To be honest, I don’t know if my parents did this intentionally, but either way, they made sure that my world was filled with people who would make me a better person – both blood relations and invited family. They really embodied the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
When I was only two years old, unbeknownst to my parents and I, one of the biggest life changing moments happened to us. We got new neighbours. Who knew that these two strangers were going to become two of the most important and precious people in the world to my family and I.
In less than a year we learnt that blood isn’t the only thing that makes you family.
Growing up I spent so much time with my next door neighbours. However, they weren’t just neighbours, they very quickly become my second set of parents – my Spanish parents. They weren’t just there for the fun times but they were also there for the special and the especially tough times. They never held back. I was told when they were fiercely proud of me but I was also pulled into line when need be.
My own parents were amazing and looking back now, I can also say they were selfless. Never were they jealous or threatened by the bond I (and my brothers) shared with my Spanish parents. Instead they encouraged it. They saw how much of a positive effect they were having on my life. They saw that my Spanish parents could give us experiences and teach us things my parents couldn’t.
My Spanish parents opened a whole new world to us – they showed us and made us feel a part of a different culture, made us fluent in another language and shared their interests with us.
Fast forward a few decades and my folks were devastated when my Spanish parents announced that they were leaving Australia to return to their homeland, Spain. My folks were not just losing their best friends, they were losing family members.
That goodbye was one of the toughest ever. Selfishly, I was happy I didn’t have to witness/experience that as I was already living in Ireland. Seeing my Spanish parents sell their home and then having to say goodbye, and watching my parents do that, would’ve broken my heart.
It’s funny the way the universe works though. It’s almost like it knew that in the future the “villagers” would be scattered all over the world but we would still be able to help each other.
When my two children were born, my parents weren’t able to make it to Ireland. However, within a few weeks of both births, my Spanish parents, only a few hours away, jumped on a plane to come over and meet, and help out with, the newest little “villagers”. I was thrilled to have some family over, and as much as it pained mum and dad not to be here with me, they were happy to have part of the village coming together to help out their “little girl”.
B and I want our kids to have that wonderful gift of an amazing village too. So it has begun again … we are just back from a week in Spain with my Spanish parents, and now our kids’ Abuelo and Abuela (Spanish grandparents).
During our stay Abuela gave my five year old a bunch of coins (coppers and gold) and the five year old was thrilled. She yelled, “Look mum, I’m rich!” I replied, “Yes you are, but not because of the money. You are rich because you are so loved by so many people all over the world. You have people who love you in Ireland, Australia, Spain, Greece and America – and that makes you one of the richest people ever!”
So let’s keep building these villages – they cost nothing but the return is worth its weight in gold.