Buber’s Basque Story: Part 8

A few days later, Maite found herself sitting in her thermodynamics class. She hated the idea of taking summer classes. Since moving to Gernika with her parents, she had already missed out on so many things with her friends, and commuting to Bilbao to take classes certainly didn’t help her social life, but she wanted to finish her degree as fast as possible. She already felt guilty about continuing with school instead of finding a “real” job to help support her parents; she didn’t want to drag it out longer than necessary.

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Her parents had run the local Herriko Taberna for as long as she could remember and had almost literally worked themselves to death. Her ama would wake up at some ungodly hour to clean the bar and restaurant and begin cooking the day’s meals. Maite could remember the smells of the warm bread and the hot coffee as she got up, usually several hours after her ama. Once in a while, the less pleasant smells of cooking octopus made it to her pillow in the apartment adjacent the restaurant, which usually caused her to bury her head under the blankets.

Her aita also typically slept in, but only because he had been up so late the night before, serving drinks until the last of the bar’s patrons left in the wee hours of the night. She always had fallen asleep to the sounds of pilota blaring from the bar’s television, the patrons — including her aita — yelling as their favored player missed a point or cheering as the match ended with their man winning. Once a week, it was her aita’s job to head to Gernika to buy supplies for the restaurant and, during the summers when there was no school, Maite would join him. She had always been in awe of how everyone knew her aita and how he seemed to know everyone. As they walked the streets going from one shop to another, it seemed like hundreds of people would yell out a “kaixo!” or “eup!” She always thought that her aita must have been the most important man in the world. Or at least the Basque Country.

However, the restaurant business slowly took its toll on their health, and her parents had to retire. Seeing as how the medical services where they lived weren’t great, they decided to move to Gernika. They had saved enough over the many years of running the Herriko Taberna that they could afford an apartment not far from the plaza. Her parents would often wander down to the plaza where they could bump into all of her aita’s old acquaintances. 

Maite was seventeen when they moved, nearing the end of high school, and it was a hard transition for her. She had to leave her cuadrilla, the friends she had known since childhood, behind, and there wasn’t time to make new friends as she figured out her plans for the uni. Once she started her university studies, there was even less time for her old friends. She tried to make it back as often as she could, to see the old cuadrilla and do a night or two of gau pasa, but it was becoming more and more difficult. As she neared her university graduation, while excited by the prospects for her career, she lamented the longer distance that had grown between her and her friends. She feared the same might happen with her parents, especially if she decided to accept the offer to go to graduate school in the United States.

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