At some point in our harried wandering I got in my head that I wanted to see the Alcazar (fortress). Things were coming back to me in fragments of feelings but not actual visual memories. I can remember my teacher being very excited about the Alcazar. Maybe it was this one, maybe it was a different one. El Alcazar is a fortress. Again, a Moorish word. This particular fortress has a roofline that I remember seeing in my photos of the earlier trip but can’t remember why we visited. Pat’s comment below is true. I was very lucky to undertake a trip to Spain alone at such a young age. It strikes me that I can only remember silly things but I realize it must have profoundly influenced my world view. A major effect came from my parents simply letting me go so it gave me the idea I could go and that travel was a good thing.
A quick digression. When I was in 8th grade my Spanish teacher, Ms. Jelm, or Señorita Jelm, mentioned she was taking the high school advanced class to Spain the following year. For some reason she gave special permission to my friend Liz and I to go if our parents allowed. We would be the youngest students ever allowed on what was traditionally a senior class trip. I think it was because she was leaving the area and would no longer lead trips to Spain for our school system. We must have been good students. Or maybe we were simply well behaved and easily managed. It was foreseen as a last chance to go since there were no other teachers willing to lead such a nightmare of a trip. That turned out to be true. There were no other trips after we went. Ms. Jelm was one hip and hot divorcee. Imagine 1980 and your blonde single mother Spanish teacher with the million dollar smile saying you are special enough, she will let you go to Spain with her as a freshman. Everyone else on the trip would be seniors. I took the idea home. I expected to be flatly rejected. The cost was $500. A formidable sum for our family.
My parents said, “Ok. You have a year. You must save up for it and pay your own way. If you do that we will let you go.” I think they thought I’d never make it in 1980 teenager wages. In fact I did not make it. Despite an obsession with working and money (that still haunts me) I came up $100 short. I babysat and babysat and ran errands for my aunt and hoarded every dollar grandma and great aunts gave me but I couldn’t make it to $500 in time. Imagine the quarters and nickels I had to roll. This was when I had a paper route, too. I gave that up because a flasher was harassing me. I never told anyone. Finally when payment was due and I was short mom loaned me the $100. It was a loan. I paid her every painful penny back.
So I went. So did Liz. So did Ms. Jelm and 16 or so seniors and Ms. Jelm’s two pre-teen daughters. To say we were unsupervised would be an understatement. Things happened. I’m not sure what. My natural timidity and fear of trouble kept me out of trouble. But there was no drinking age and there were men all around. I avoided alcohol and men. Ewww. Sometimes being too young is good. Rumors reached us of a missing girl, then found, then silence. I have no idea if anything happened. At the time I had no idea what the possibilities were. Could this be why there were no subsequent trips and Ms. Jelm left our school system? I’ve always wondered. While the seniors were partying (in good or bad fun) and Ms. Jelm managed her daughters, Liz and I could be found alone, essentially wandering the streets of whatever city we were in staying, mostly, out of trouble. We did see my first R rated movie (The Blue Lagoon) and Liz had one drink. I was a wet blanket even then. They call me a fresa in Spanish. A strawberry.
Toledo was memorable because we saw the painting I mentioned previously and we were there after dark on our own looking for food alone. Liz and I wandered. I had very little spending money so shopping was not an option. Even food choices were carefully thought out. Eventually we were drawn into a hole in the wall by an elderly man. I struggled to order. I wasn’t a picky eater but I was having trouble. Maybe it was because we rarely ate out. I just didn’t know what I would like and wanted paella but couldn’t have it without 3 eating companions. Liz was far more tolerant and experienced. She demanded I to stop whining and order. I picked fish. I was served an entire fish. Head and eyes and tail and fins. I was mortified. Today I would be delighted. Then it was all too much. I picked at it and Liz mocked me for being such a wimp. She was right. Time to buck up. I turned my life around, eventually. This memory is always there to remind me I was once scared and inexperienced, too. My memories are so spotty. I remember cold, damp, dark, swords and Lladro. And then this fish.
Cut to Burt and I getting lost in Toldeo last week and I wonder how Liz and I ever found our way back to the bus at age 14. I have an itch in the back of my head that Ms. Jelm was worried and waiting for us. I’d need hypnosis to really unearth those memories.
Gotta go. Wonder Woman awaits.