Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Lent is drawing to a close and Easter is dawning tomorrow, springtime is here and the plans for celebrations and parades are coming to fruition.

Tonight, this dark night before the Easter Miracle, is the night for vigil. Let us remember all of those who are holding vigil at the bedside of a loved one, and all of those who have waited quietly through suffering this past year.

Friday, March 21, 2008


These days we can watch Semana Santa via official webcast on the internet, but for many years, we depended on webcams of neighbors in the city which would often freeze up, and the traffic cameras of the city police, which are, of course, focused to show traffic patterns, and not close up views of pasos.

One year Papa decided to call his sister Amparo on her cell phone to see what everyone was doing. He expected her to be sitting in the seats on the Avenue, watching the cofradias of the Madrugada pass by. He dialed her number.

"Hello?" a man whispers.

"Who is this?" Papa says, quite surprised that it is not his sister speaking.

"Soy tu padre," answers el abuelo, still whispering.

Papa had called right in the middle of the procession of El Silencio, the cofradia to which he and his father and Uncle Antonio all belong. (Rafa and Louis are also members, even though they are too young to take part in the processions.) El Silencio is one of the serious confraternities, that does its penitential procession starting at 1:00 am on the morning of Good Friday. It is the oldest of the confraternities in Seville, founded in 1340. El abuelo was acting as one of the external deputies, which meant that he was one of a handful of men who are allowed to speak during the procession -- the majority being required to maintain silence until their procession returned to their church on Alfonso X street.

The external deputies are in charge of taking care of the procession in case anything unforeseen happens, which is why they are not required to maintain silence. For this reason, el abuelo had borrowed Amparo's cellphone. In the few seconds while they were speaking, the capataz knocked on the paso, the costaleros groaned as they lifted the float, and the flutes began to play again. Papa felt like he was standing right next to the paso, which of course, el abuelo was. It was a strange moment of realism which caused a special sort of homesickness, hearing the sounds of the procession, and knowing what was happening, where they were, what street they were on, what the candlewax and incense and flowers smelled like, and yet not being able to truly take part.

"Me tengo que ir," says el abuelo, because even though he carried a phone, he really wasn't supposed to stop and have a chat.

"Ya," says Papa. And suddenly the connection was gone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sleep of Angels

Little angels sleeping.....

Jueves santo, día que mi padre lo celebraba tanto, yo no me levanto.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday in San Francisco, we go to church early to take part in the procession of palms, and we listen to the story of the entrance into Jerusalem.

Then we go have pancakes for breakfast, even though we might just have had pancakes for dinner on Friday night.

I remember my first Palm Sunday in Seville. I dressed up in my best green suit, and my boyfriend picked me up for lunch that lasted a couple of hours. And then we started out. First he took me to see the Virgen of Amargura leaving her church to begin the journey to the cathedral.

The first group to complete their procession on Palm Sunday is the Borriquita, a procession of children leading an image of Christ entering into Jerusalem. This is one of the shortest processions, just a few blocks, because all of the participants are truly children. Parents accompany them alongside, and all of the mothers have sandwiches and juice boxes in their purses, for the right moment when a snack is necessary.

One of my favorites is the Virgen of the Estrella, in Triana. This is one of the largest groups and one of the longest processions. The Virgin leaves her church around 5 in the evening and returns across the Triana bridge in the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wearing Green

Tomorrow is the St. Patrick's Day parade in San Francisco and I am certainly going to wear green to go watch my older boy dance in the parade. Wearing green was illegal in Ireland in the 19th century - it was considered a sign of rebellion against the British and was punishable by British law. The tradition of wearing green as a symbol of your Irishness comes from those days of repression over a century ago.

In Seville, wearing green is a sign of support for one of the most popular soccer teams, Seville's Betis club.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Aunt Mae

San Francisco was a city of immigrants in the early part of last century, just as it is now. My great-grandmother Annie and her sister and brother were Irish. Annie married an Austrian and they had four children. Her sister Mae married an Irish man, James Byrne. He was killed in a car accident on the day of their child's baptism in 1914. Mae was left a single mother, but she had her sister to rely on. They shared a pair of flats on Bartlett Street in San Francisco's Mission District.

Then in July of 1918 Annie's husband, Fred, came down with the flu. He died five days later. Her daughter Louise was next, and then Annie herself in late December of the same year. My grandmother, Kathryn, was left alone with her younger sister and brother, with only Aunt Mae to care for them.

Aunt Mae worked in a milliner's shop, making hats. When she found herself with four children in her care, she did what any good Irish Catholic would do, she made an appointment to see the Archbishop.

Archbishop Hanna advised her to send the children to a convent boarding school outside of the City, so away they went to St. Gertrude's Academy in Rio Vista, where Mae would visit as often as she could. At first she kept her daughter, Helen, with her in San Francisco, but after a while she decided to send Helen to the school with her cousins.

This is how a single woman immigrated to a new country, survived the flu epidemic and the Great Depression, and raised four children: with hard work and faith.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lourdes Water

Lourdes water is so sweet and so cold. Running clear out of the many taps near the Grotto, it cools and warms and refreshes and fortifies. It is the sweetest water I have ever tasted. Throughout the sanctuary pilgrims are served water to drink. All day long people come to the taps to fill containers large and small. The river Gave de Pau flows swiftly down the middle of the domaine. The water blesses and cures.

Pa & Rafa at Lourdes

Monday, March 3, 2008

Princes Rafa and Louis at King Pedro's Castle

King Pedro had this castle built in Carmona about 700 years ago, and we went to visit it.

There was a beautiful patio with a fountain where we relaxed in the shade. It was Andalusian summer outside!

Later we went to the swimming pool -- there was a large one for a king and a smaller one that was perfect for little princes who love to splash in the water.

The cobblestone approach to the castle was perfect for pretending to be a prince, although a little bumpy for the smallest prince in the stroller. The views of surrounding countryside were calming in the early evening when the breeze finally came up.

There were flowers everywhere to be picked and placed in Mama's hair.

We stayed in a suite with a special room for a prince and a little crib for a littler prince. There were doves roosting in the eaves outside our window and we feel asleep to the sound of their cooing.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


About 45 years ago, someone planted two Meyer lemon trees in our back yard, one right next to the other. Their trunks have since intertwined so that the two trees look and act like one.

Several times a year we have lemons, and since the tree grows always closer to our windows, we smell the scent of the blossoms when the bedroom windows are open.

The beautiful greenness of the lemons before they ripen prompted an elderly family member (and perhaps the original planter of the trees) to observe that "that tree has both lemons and limes!"

Here are some of the things that we make with lemons: lemon marmalade, lemon curd, preserved lemons, lemon walnut bread, lemonade, fish stew with lemons, tomato sauce with lemon zest, jars full of lemon zest, chicken with lemons and olives.

Papa is outside right now picking lemons from the tree.

Do you have any lemon recipes to share?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pancakes for Dinner

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make pancakes for dinner on Fridays in Lent. Actually, I think she made pancakes for me, and some sort of fish dinner for all of the grown-ups who would stop by my grandparents' house on Friday evenings after work for an impromptu happy hour. My grandmother was known for hosting impromptu happy hours. My grandfather was always ready to mix up some cocktails, and my grandmother always had something in the oven, something like Capt. Tom's Fish Bake. Shows would be on the TV while everyone had their cocktails, shows like the Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune, Kojak, Lawrence Welk, the Smothers Brothers, Perry Mason. That era of dropping by unannounced for a cocktail in the evenings is long gone.

I make pancakes for dinner now on Fridays in Lent. It is a fun way to teach the boys about the seasons of the year, and a nice way for me to remember the times I spent with my grandmother as a child.

Capt. Tom's Fish Bake, from Dodie Hansen

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery and tops
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 lb. fish fillets (you may use frozen or fresh) (You have Dodie's permission.)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 can tomato sauce

Combine onion celery, and parsley. Arrange in large shallow greased baking dish. Place fish in overlapping layers over vegetable. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle oil over top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pour over tomato sauce and bake 30 to 35 minutes longer or until fish is flaky and sauce bubbles. 3 good servings.