The Lady of La Mancha
Along the pristine white and stark brown lines of the Spanish architecture and neatly trimmed ferns which framed the lobby of La Mancha, there resided a queen and a little princess (at least from what the princess was told).
Nestled on a vanity covered in trinket boxes and Catholic cards was the queen’s magical, little house. To any grown adult, it was something insignificant, an everyday item collecting the week’s dust.
To the princess, however, it was a mansion - a mansion with a pristine glass door ornated with pink flower petals and light green leaves. The doorknob was gold and when the door opened, it sparkled with a matching chandelier. Along its curved arms hung necklaces of a simple variety, but delicate and beautiful all the same, draping on top of the cushioned floors. There were rooms - drawers - filled with rings and bracelets, housed appropriately and with care. They each had their own story to tell. To a child, a jewelry box can be a gateway into other worlds.
But this world, this kingdom of La Mancha, was something extraordinary.
It smelled of the queen’s perfume and the salt from the sea. Her view of the horizon was one of the best - a stark line of blue meeting sky and the rolling caps of the turquoise waves. Palm, Ceiba, and mango trees framed her window, blocking the view of the busy street directly below. It was never quiet enough to hear the tide crashing onto the beach, but the honks and revving of engines was its own music.
Her kitchen was decorated in fields of sunflowers, the bright yellow always a welcome to anyone trying to sneak in a bite of arroz. Magnets from trips to Disney and photos of loved ones covered her refrigerator doors. It was cramped in that kitchen, but it always held the necessities, whether it was a step ladder tucked between a wall or a tub of Nesquik in the cabinet for the little ones.
Her bed was a cloud of comfort - seats to the greatest array of films a child could want. The VHS tape for The Little Mermaid was practically burnt out from repeat viewings. The voices of Doris Day and Rock Hudson bantering filled the space in the room in between laughs. The comforter served as a stage for borrowed Strawberry Shortcake toys from the next room.
The living room, barely sat in, was merely a passage to the balcony beyond, beckoning to anyone to lounge underneath the burnt orange cover and enjoy a gust of summer wind and, upon closer looks on a clear day, the clouds of Sahara sands blowing in from the East.
But the magic wasn’t merely in the walls of this little place on the 7th floor above Isla Verde Ave. It was in the queen herself - her voice, her laughter, her stories, her lessons - that made the magic possible. She brought a world into a small, 2 bedroom apartment, made a little jewelry box a mansion, made a little girl believe she could be a princess. She believed in the power of imagination, the joy of childish wonders, and above all else, the unconditional love for her family.
The very best kinds of queens, after all, are the ones who don’t realize they are one.
But in the kingdom of La Mancha, in that little mansion on the counter, in that kitchen of sunflowers and windows to the sea, to the little princes and princesses that she always welcomed in with abrazos, she always will be.
RIP - "Maita" Rivera Marrero