The Woman with just one Maid - Talavera de la Reina, 1980

It's 1980 and I'm living on the Calle del Prado, Talavera de la Reina.

I seem to be constantly chastising my young son for leaving his room in a mess.

"Pick up your toys and put them away."
" Make your bed."
" Put your books back on the shelf."

It's usually a rush to get him dressed and out the door in time for school. The school bus stops in front of the Simago supermarket across the road. Many times I just wear really casual clothes, figuring that I'll dress nicer later when I venture out to the gym or shops. I usually manage to brush my teeth and splash water on my face before venturing out, but that's about all.

There's this other mother I meet every morning at the bus stop who is the exact opposite, even first thing in the morning.  She always looks as if she's going out to some fancy restaurant, or to a cocktail party. She tends to wear stiletto heels, a beautifully tailored suit with shoulder padding, and a frilly blouse. Her hair is always arranged as if she's come from getting it professionally styled, and her skin looks flawless with its soft, expensive make-up carefully applied just so. She loves to talk.

"I can't wait until my husband gets transferred back to Madrid. It's so difficult living here in Talavera. In Madrid we had THREE maids, and here we only have one." She moves her shoulders back and forth as if to emphasise how cruel life is here in Talavera.

How to respond? I find it easier to say nothing. The madrilenos. the people from Madrid,  really do tend to look down their noses at the talaveranos.

"Of course, I can't blame my maids for not wanting to come to Talavera." She snorts and adds, "My husband has a very important position in his company. He's very highly thought of."  She nods her head vehemently, then sighs loudly.

The bus comes and the children climb aboard. We wave fare thee well, and I proceed to think about all the things I need to do.  The 'cursi' lady doesn't move.

I don't really know the meaning of 'cursi', but I've heard it used to describe women who are always dressed up in fancy, expensive clothes.  I like the sound of it, and I'm afraid I might call the cursi woman 'cursi' thinking that that's her name.

"Hola, Cursi!"  Imagine if I called that out to her!

"Would you like to bring your son to our apartment after school? The boys could play together."

Her question sounds more like an order. Before I can come up with some excuse, she announces, "Great! I'll have something for the merienda."  She places her arm in mine, escorts me across the road to my apartment and speaks confidentially to me. "I'm so glad that we have met. You're not anything whatsoever like the locals."

Later that day my son and I are ensconced in the cursi lady's fancy apartment. The boys are having fun with all the toys spread out on the floor, and playing Twister. The cursi lady is telling me about her life in Madrid where everything is more civilized. Her voice drones on and on, but it is nice to hear Castilian Spanish.

It's time to leave, so I tell my son to pick up the toys and put them back where he got them.

"What?!" The cursi woman screams like a gypsy at the weekly market. "Absolutely not!  My son never picks up after himself, and your son shouldn't either!"

I'm dumbfounded. Her eyes stare at me in shock, appalled that I expect my son to pick up the toys.

"That's what maids are for. They clear away things. Didn't you know that?" She talks to me as if she's addressing an inferior.

She calls on her maid who then enters the room, head down, and immediately clears away all the toys.

"Mummy, can we get a maid?" My son gazes up at me with eager expectations.

"You don't have a maid?" The cursi lady sounds puzzled. "I can't imagine how you possibly manage.  I certainly couldn't."

"I want my son to be independent, to respect his belongings, and to have responsibility." I feel I should say more, but I stop at the expression of disdain on her face.

She looks disappointed in me.  She's probably thinking that I'm no more sophisticated than a typical talaverana.  She'd be correct. I'm not the slightest sophisticated when it comes to having a maid, never mind three. Even if I had a maid, I'd still expect my son to pick up after himself.