On Sundays, the city was our oyster. We loved weekends because my Dad would be home, and he oversaw all things fun. We would go to the park on our bicycles. We would run our Saturday errands with him: the newspaper, tobacco, batteries and flowers… (pastries were always on the menu too and they were quite an incentive to accompany him). The car was at the ready to take us to restaurants, amusement parks and, of course, grandma’s house to play with their brown labrador, Chocolate. Weekends were great!
One of the fun adventures we favored was riding the tiny gondolas of the new “teleferico”. We would take it from La Rosaleda all the way to La Casa de Campo and then back. The most glorious and exciting twelve minutes of any weekend! From the small capsule, you could see train tracks, the roofs of the houses below, the river and the mountains in the distance. I usually held my dad’s hand very tightly until we were back on solid ground…just in case. On the way back, tired after disembarking and playing in the park, we would be lulled to sleep by the rocking motion of the gondola. I remember waking up at the end of the trip and being carried to the car by my dad. It was such a safe and sweet feeling.
The very first photo on the website used to be a pic of me on one of those rides. I've added it to this post, since it is no longer there. You can see by my expression that I am somewhat enjoying it but with a very healthy dose of distrust. The trepidation was part of the enjoyment. We made it. We went through something perilous and we had triumphed. I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Indeed, my relationship with heights has been one fraught with a mix of excitement and deep fear ever since. I was raised in a tenth-floor apartment. We had several terraces and windows that allowed us to look at the top of streetlights and trees from above the canopy. We could see the mountains with their snowcapped peaks in the far end of the city. We saw skyscrapers and office buildings looking like miniatures in the distance, and people appeared to be dots that moved in every direction.
At home I would sit on the floor with my face pressed against the metal bars that made up the safety barrier of the main terrace. The banister at the top was made of a large piece of wood that had been exposed to the sun for decades and was rough and full of splinters. I loved looking down and throwing things onto the street from my hiding spot. Planes were a favorite, but I threw dolls in homemade parachutes, eggs inside socks, helicopters made of paper (have you ever made one?), thin plastic bags that would be caught by the wind and were carried away in a syncopated airborne dance. I did not have any screens…mind you, so this was true, homemade entertainment (although perhaps not so much for the person who found themselves with an eggy sock on their shoulder).
These are the memories I work with when I am in the studio. They come back in flashes. Sometimes it’s a scent that brings them back or an image in a photograph. I can hear the voices and the noises of the city. I feel the winter sun on my face. It is comforting to allow yourself to be transported to a better time. Now that we are learning how to create new memories under very difficult circumstances, I cling to the better part of my life as if it was a raft and I was in the middle of an angry ocean. It’s not self-serving, useless nostalgia, but rather a coping mechanism that helps mitigate the anxiety and turns my gaze towards a part of my story that is set and done. There’s no apprehension, no uncertainty and, right now, I need that like I need oxygen.