Today as I was leaving the gift shop inside the Valle de los Caidos (home to the remains of Francisco Franco, military dictator and president of Spain during the Spanish Civil War) my eyes fell upon a plastic pink rosary. Instantly I was taken back to my childhood, my mémé gifting me a similar style rosary but in dark, mahogany red. The plastic baubles seemed to glitter as I said my solemn Hail Mary's alongside my Gram before mass at 7am on Sunday mornings. There was a secret part of me that longed to wear it around my neck, purely for the sake of its beauty, although I knew this was taboo. To this day, when I see someone wearing a rosary around their neck, I instantaneously roll my eyes: they must not know its worth; its weight.
The Valle de los Caidos is one of the most disputed historical sites in Espana. It is a Catholic Basilica with regularly held services, a “national act of atonement” designed as a symbol of remembrance to those who perished during La Guerra, and also home to the body of one of the most hated men in all of Spanish history. Regardless of its reputation, it is beautiful and grandiose; an ode to the fact that most things in life that are controversial are simultaneously fascinating. Like the remains of Francisco, and the plastic gift shop rosary, these things mutually hold weight. Though different in composition and significance, they weigh on my mind today equally.
And then there are the kinds of things in life that lift you: like my favorite class of 4th graders in my school located an hour outside of the city. On Wednesday, before the national holiday set in and the kids bolted out the doors to freedom, I consciously recorded all of their names in my mind. Sarah, the shy but prodigious one, Adrian the clown, Martina – sweet and obedient, Jorge: lady killer, maker of paper engagement rings and stealer of hearts. Although I have loved my new position in my school entirely, and each class has brought its share of joys, there is something about this group of 20 4th graders that makes every day so much better. Seeing each of their individual personalities, watching them grasp a topic and genuinely learn; it validates what I’m doing here. With my life.
Finally feeling like you’re finding your purpose at 25 – that holds a lot of weight too. But the good kind of weight. The weight I’m ready to carry throughout this year. Through long days and hard days and really good days – like today.
Today was a great day. Filled with new Spanish friends, and controversial, beautiful places.
I hope I keep moving forward. I hope I carry the weight with grace and purpose.