“This has been my family home for generations,” said Señora del Campo, rising slowly from the chair. She took a cane from beside her and leaned on it; it was made of black wood with a silver top shaped like a bird with a long beak. She took some slow steps toward the open glass doors. I saw that there were iron bars that could close over them, shaped just like the gate. “But I am the last del Campo to live in it.”
I wanted to know why, Diary, but I didn’t say anything. We walked into the house; it was bigger than any house I had ever been in. The floor was some kind of pale gold stone, covered here and there by bright rugs. There were couches and chairs enough to seat three families, most of them with high curving backs or deep squishy cushions. The ceilings were very high, with dark wooden beams and several chandeliers. Upstairs, there were three archways and a graceful iron railing that circled the whole room; it made me feel as if I was in an indoor courtyard!
“Those are the bedrooms,“said Señora del Campo, “but I cannot go up the stairs anymore, so I sleep in a small room down here.”
We passed through another archway into the dining room, which had a long dark table and tall leather chairs.
“Our whole bakery could eat at this table,” I said, “and even some of the children.”
“What children are those?” asked Señora del Campo. So I told her about the street children and our fiesta while she slowly led me through the rest of the downstairs.
“Ay mio, what a big kitchen!” I cried as we entered. “This is bigger than our bakery!” And it was true. The floor was reddish and yellow squares, the walls were soft tan, and the cupboards were turquoise. Pots and pans hung from everywhere, and there were shelves stacked with every kind of dish and bowl and jug you could imagine. The stove was enormous and stood in a big tiled alcove, like a cave, lit from above. There was also a fireplace big enough for two people to stand up in. Fans hung from the ceiling, pushing cool air into our faces. A long rough wooden table stood waiting for people to sit down and eat, or to make bread and cookies on its polished top.
“It’s a beautiful kitchen, but it mostly goes to waste, now. I have very little appetite, so Tomas and Bella are the only ones who use it anymore. A pity, really. When I was a young girl, this room was crowded with grandparents and parents and lots of children, all cooking and eating! Two of us even went to Paris for cooking school; I traveled all over Latin America, too, learning about food.” She gave a sigh and shrugged her tiny shoulders. “Now, I hardly care what I eat, and I no longer cook.”
“What happened to everyone?” I asked.
“Life and death, Consuelo—the same thing that happens to us all. War, sickness, accidents…or just old age. I was the youngest child. Everyone else is gone, except my daughter Bernadette—she is a sous chef in a hotel, in Canada.”
“So far…” I breathed.
I felt bad for Señora del Campo, even though she had such a lovely home. We passed through some more rooms, little and big; I even ran upstairs and looked at beautiful bedrooms and a bathroom larger than our living room in the apartment! I had never seen such a place, Diary.
Then we went back to the courtyard, where Señora del Campo sat in her chair and rang a bell.
“Would you like some hot chocolate?” she asked. “Then we will feed some of your bread to my birds.”