My mother has a pretty gut-wrenching medical history. She’s had multiple bouts of cancer, as well as run-ins with cardiac issues, diverticulitis, and so on. But when it comes to family vacations, she can generally rally with the best of them. For instance, in 2013, when she’d just finished brutal radiation for anal cancer, she peeled back her bedsheets, packed her bags, and met us in Italy for New Years. So you can imagine my surprise when, on the morning of December 26, 2019, I picked up the phone to hear my dad say, “Jess, your mother really isn’t feeling well. We’re not going to be able to make it to Spain tonight. Go ahead and unwind the trip for us.” Ughhhhh, what??? Unwind? What does that even mean?
I immediately went online and canceled my parents’ flights, but I don’t remember if we got flight credit or partial refunds. What I remember is dialing my friend Carlos’s number and asking what he was doing that night. Him and his husband didn’t have plans, so I said, “Wanna come to Spain?” And, believe it or not, they decided to come! That was one of the most spur-of-the-moment decisions anyone has ever made, I’m sure. Before they could think twice, I was on the British Airways website, checking availability for reward travel. The next thing we knew, they were booked on the same flight we were taking that evening and they had about six hours to find a dogsitter, pack their bags, and get to the airport. Wahoo!
That was one of the most incredible trips to Europe we’ve ever taken. With Carlos and Christopher, we rented a car and drove deep into interior Spain, marveling at the well-preserved walls of Ávila and the Roman aqueduct in Segovia. They were total champs with Josephine, and she absolutely adored having her two “uncles” along for the adventure.
Now, what’s funny is, that wasn’t the only abrasion of that trip. The other happened while Jamil and I slept during our first night in Madrid. Carlos and Christopher couldn’t resist an evening in Chueca, widely known as one of Europe’s most active gay neighborhoods. Chueca is filled with bars and clubs; the streets pulse with people at most hours of the day (except at like 5:30AM, which was when they made their way home from some seedy establishment). I’ll never know exactly what went down, but basically someone ran into Carlos, and while Carlos was getting his bearings and apologizing for getting in the way (he’s the most polite guy ever), that same someone stuck his hand in Carlos’s pocket and took his phone AND his wallet. Poor Christopher was in full tilt mode the next morning, as he attempted to cancel credit cards and deactivate Carlos’s phone. The ruckus didn’t bother Jamil and me so much; it just meant Carlos would have a little more difficulty spending cash (which really shouldn’t have bothered Christopher, either), and no cell phone for Carlos to communicate with. Regardless, we still had a great rest of the trip with amazing memories that we were so grateful to have made.
Author: Jessica Givens