Nostalgia ReduxSaturday, April 10, 2010
A La Abuela Emilia (To Grandmother Emilia)
Desde Buenos Aires le escribo estas líneas
Quisiera que sepa que pienso en usted
Con esa paciencia infinita cuidando
Las flores, los pájaros que suele tener
From Buenos Aires I write these lines
I would like you to know that I think of you
Of that infinite patience of yours with which
You take care of the flowers and your birds
Aquí la esperanza no me ha abandonado
Pero ando extrañando charlar con usted
Recuerdo que el día que nos despedimos
La oí repetirme que todo irá bien
Here, I have not been abandoned by hope
But I miss chatting with you
I remember the day we parted
I heard you tell me, over and over, that all will be well
Señora, me digo, cómo es que se vive
Con esta nostalgia tan grande, no sé
A veces parece que no me resigno
Pero otras me ayuda acordarme de usted
Ma'm, I wonder how it is possible to live with this nostalgia, so big I don’t know
Sometimes I think I resign myself
And other times it helps me remember you
Si ahora pudiera iría volando
A verla y quedarme a su lado otra vez
Y oir que me cuenta de nuevo los cuentos
Junto a la ventana como en la niñez
If I could, I would now fly
To see you and to stay by your side again
And to listen again your telling of the stories
By the window as in my childhood
Mi madre me ha dicho que mucho ha cambiado
Que todas las cosas se olvida y también
Que apenas camina, por eso le escribo
A ver si se alegra y mejora otra vez
My mother has told me that much has changed
That you forget everything and also
That you barely walk, this is why I write
To see if you cheer up and get better again
Recuérdeme abuela, no olvide que espero
Que riegue sus plantas y vuelva a coser
Aquí mi nostalgia se cura tan sólo
Si yo la imagino tal cual la dejé
Remember me grandmother, don’t forget that I wait
For you to water your plants and that you sew again
Here my nostalgia is cured only
If I remember you exactly as I left you
No importa si atiende mis muchas razones
Lo único cierto es que quiero saber
Si riega las plantas, si cuida las flores
Si espera mis pasos al atardecer
It is not important that you think of my reasons
The only sure thing is that I want to know
If you water the plants, if you take care of the flowers
If you wait for my steps at sundown
Y bueno la dejo, recuérdeme un poco
Aquí en buenos aires empieza a llover
Los niños llegaron recién de la escuela
La extraño, ya sabe, escríbame usted
Well I leave you, remember me a bit
Here in Buenos Aires it begins to rain
The children just arrived from school
I miss you, you know, write to me ma'm
From: El Purajhei de Teresa Parodi, 1984 (My translation into English)
1.(often foll. By for) sentimental yearning for a period of the past; regretful of wistful memory of an earlier time.
2. thing or things which evoke a former era.
3. severe homesickness
[modern Latin, from Greek nostos ‘return home’]
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary 1998
(Del gr. νόστος, regreso, y -algia).
1. f. Pena de verse ausente de la patria o de los deudos o amigos.
2. f. Tristeza melancólica originada por el recuerdo de una dicha perdida.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
Of both definitions for nostalgia my preference is the one in my online “mataburros”( donkey killer) of the RAI or the Real Academia Española. What follows is my direct translation:
1. Sorrow or grief of being absent from one’s motherland or relatives or friends.
2. Melancholic sorrow upon remembering a lost happiness.
The RAI’s definition mentions people (friends and relatives) and place. It is far more evocative of the bitter sweetness that nostalgia has always been for me.
While I don’t do it too often anymore, whenever I would play Astor Piazzolla records in the late evening my wife Rosemary knew (and would say nothing) that the listening precipitated intense nostalgia for Argentina, my youth and a few Argentine girlfriends. Since Rosemary, our granddaughter Rebecca and I visited Buenos Aires in 2005 we can now share a nostalgia (far different from my former one) to the good times we shared in a city of my youth.
This delving into the subject came about on Friday afternoon when Rebecca and I went to Opera Sushi for our dinner before an evening at the Granville Island Arts Club Theatre where we had a pair of tickets (second row, centre!) for Billy Bishop Goes to War.
When we arrived at Opera Sushi we knew something was wrong. We pushed the door and it was all shambles. The owners are gone and the place is going to be transformed to a sushi place that will not have the charm of Opera Sushi. Every time we went the owner/chef would say, “How are you, Rebecca?”
The look on Rebecca’s face was of sheer despair and sorrow for a lost pleasure. Part of that pleasure was its comforting regularity. Opera Sushi was always predictably, Opera Sushi. In an almost bitter anger Rebecca told me, “Let’s go to Goldilocks and have some enzaimadas.” This we did even though soft sweet bread did not do anything to satisfy my appetite for a savory meal. At Granville Island Tea Company we managed to sip our teas before a rather nasty security guard told us it was seven and the market was closed. The Granville Island Tea Company has expanded and its new and bigger setup does not promote the cozy chats we often had with people we did not know. I could see that in Rebecca’s face. And I will never understand how a place of such success, as is the Granville Island Market would close at seven in the evening on a Friday night. We had an hour to wait before our play began. I was not going to take Rebecca to the Arts Club Bar which I knew was open.
Having seen Billy Bishop Goes to War in 1982 with Rosemary and then again the new version two weeks ago, I thought that taking Rebecca to the play would transfer some of my past nostalgia to her. In years to come she will remember the play and her grandfather when the play will come back again, as surely it will.
Saturday morning was a sunny one and it brought some happy events besides the warm sunshine (we had to wear coats, nonetheless). Casa (short for Casanova), our new 19 pound male cat stayed in the garden and this time he romped around (cautiously most of the time) to explore the garden. He now understands that there is an outside. But he knows where the front and back doors of the house are and he eventually gravitates to one of them and meows. He wants to get in for the comfort of the Eaton’s blue blanket at the end of our bed.
Lauren was busy planting trees. She would plunk branches that fell from the windstorms of past weeks on the ground. The one you see here she described, “Papi this is a tree that has a bird nest.”
As we were getting ready to eat our homemade pizza (on Calabria Bakery pizza bread) I switched on the TV to the Turner Classic’s Channel and noticed that a Clint Eastwood western was about to begin. It happened to be Eastwood’s first Spaghetti Western, A Fistful of Dollars. I had never seen it. Rebecca got bored after 10 minutes but Lauren lingered and then remained for the length of this extraordinarily violent show. It didn’t seem to bother her. “Where is his horse? Is it in the barn?” I felt a tad guilty about enjoying the film with Lauren and it occurred to me that while she was not me and I wasn’t my grandmother and that we weren’t watching Colt .45 with Randolph Scott, here indeed was the promise of a relationship that I will enjoy and that at the same time will provide Lauren with future nostalgia. What’s next? The Corsican Brothers with Douglas Fairbanks Jr? Or, perhaps The Black Pirate with Burt Lancaster?
As I drove the girls and their mother home (after a most pleasant day without any arguments of any kind) I put on a CD of an Argentine folk singer called Teresa Parodi. The CD was given to me by my nephew Jorge O’Reilly back in 1995. He had sung some of the songs with his guitar. I had been charmed.
It was in 1966 when I got together with my first cousin, Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena in Buenos Aires. Unlike his “English” cousin (me) Wenci was dark and handsome like his correntina (from the Northern province of Corrientes) mother Sarita. Wenci at the time combed back his hair with gomina (greasy kid stuff) and looked like a cross between Rudolph Valentino and the quintessential Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel. I was keen on ‘Nuevo Tango” with Astor Piazzolla but Wenci argued up and down that it could not be tango as it was not possible to dance to it. Ultimately he was wrong but I could not find a counter argument so our differences became sore points. What made it worse was that Wenci, while born in Buenos Aires was really a country boy from the province of Corrientes where his relatives (on his mother’s side) had large estancias (ranches). Wenci favoured the polka music, a blend of the music of the German settlers of the 19th century and the music and lyrics of the indigenous peoples called the Guaraní. This music was called the chamamé and the main instrument was the hated (to me!) accordion and certainly not the far more interesting bandoneón of Argentine tango.
While I never did like the chamamé (until Jorge O’Reilly played some songs on his guitar in 1995 and I had a change of heart) I did and have had nostalgia for Wenci’s province of Corrientes. In a seminal year of my life I went to the estancia Sta. Teresita with him, his mother and my mother in the early 50s. We went up the Paraná River in a stern paddle wheeler.
I lived the heat, the sounds, the music of the workers who lived on the estancia and we both swam in the piraña infested Rió Corrientes only after one of the workers splashed around with a horse as it seems (or at least we were led to believe) that the feisty little creatures did not like the scent of a horse.
As I played the CD of the Correntina folk singer, Teresa Parodi (“She certainly has a powerful voice,” Rebecca mentioned in the car.), Rebecca asked, “Please play song 8 (A La Abuela Emilia). I had played this CD on a previous trip to visit Ale in Lillooet. I did not know that particular song had made such an impression on Rebecca.
Consider that when I play this song, tears immediately pour out of my eyes. The voice and the melody, affect me. But what affects me most is the untranslatable use by Parodi of the formal address of usted when she sings to the grandmother Emilia. Usted here is a mark of respect. It is this respect for one’s elders that fills me with nostalgia for my grandmother and for a past filled with people, relatives, places, smells and sounds that make my presence in Vancouver sometimes feel so alien.
As I drove home I was suddenly hit by the idea that nostalgia can sometimes be transferred and that I will have to communicate with Wenci in Buenos Aires and enquire when we could possibly visit him perhaps in January when it is hot in Argentina. Wency manages his aunt’s estancia in Corrientes. Will I be soon swimming in the River Corrientes with Rebecca, Lauren and Rosemary?
In March 2004 Teresa Parodi was invited to sing in the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires in the Salón Blanco. Here she is singing A La Abuela Emilia