By Jonathan Pizarro
Granny was sent to Bella Vista. Her old house stood empty and picked out almost to the bones. She took the ghosts with her, the worn and faded images running in a loop around the two floors of the Glacis apartment and now playing out in front of her. Every part of the past was the present for Granny, depending on how she woke up.
I walked into the front hall with my mother on a hot July day. If you turned, you could see the blue sky behind the tower blocks at Glacis, and just a sliver of the Rock. There wasn’t even a breeze, which was strange for the perpetual wind tunnel that runs the stretch of Archbishop Amigo House. Maybe I had spent too long in London, but the relentless mid-afternoon poniente was too much.
And inside was no better. I used to love walking in and turning right, straight into the kitchen. The cupboard always full of biscuits. A tin of bread with half a loaf of pan cateto from an excursion to Manilva my grandparents had made the previous Sunday. The dishwasher perpetually on. The cool white tiles. The calendar behind the door from the Chinese restaurant in La Atunara. The front door always unlocked, so closing it would be met with a ‘Quién es?’ and an ‘Ah, mi niño!’ with a smile when I walked into the kitchen. All gone now.
I didn’t want to walk into any other rooms. Everything was hollow, stale and quiet. My mother and her siblings had been raised here, and in return brought here children of their own. Five adults walked out of this house and came back with almost thirty. On days like Christmas, we would hardly fit, and that was part of the joy. This house was never silent. Babies cried, children played and fought, adults laughed and argued.
And we ate. Bollos con jamon from Garcia’s downstairs. Cakes with tea from El Okay in La Línea. Sopa de picadillo and rosto and albondigas. Birthday cakes. Anniversary cakes. Feasts of pavo and gambas and brazo gitano at Christmas. I sit at the white lacquered table with my grandfather’s discarded Bible. When people die, value is placed on money and jewellery. I can’t think of anything more important to my grandfather than his Bible, other than his family.
So I sit at the table with this Bible while my mother opens the cupboard under the stairs to find the storage boxes she had left there. I think of this table where we all crowded around. Where my Grampa told me about our history, what had happened during the war and how his own mother had died. Where Granny demanded I eat more, porque estás muy delgao. This kitchen table, like many others in Gibraltar, was the centre of our family. Its beating heart.
I wish I had taken that table. I wish I had asked for more stories, more recipes, and more hugs. We see these generations leave us, and our only hope is we can keep them alive in our memories. My grandparents’ ghosts are my ghosts now.