With just ten days left in Santiago, I want to remember the small things. Like how I wake up in our apartment to help whichever kiddo is up first, glad for our small space so I can cradle or direct to the bathroom before anyone else is woken up. While I warm up milk or get toast going, I turn on the hot water pot so that I can attempt to have tea as I sit down to the view of the Andes that stuns in the winter time. We’ll never have a view like this again, and even though the snow rarely reaches our neighborhood, I love seeing it dress up the great big mountains that cuff this sprawling city.
Whether it’s avocado toast or oatmeal, half of Adela’s breakfast will end up on the floor and half-way through Rayna will wander off to play, beckoned back only when she is reminded of the perks of being a good listener (read: tv time). The aim is to make it to school in time for the bienvenido, which sometimes happens and sometimes does not. Inevitably at least one kid cries, I threaten to take away privileges, snacks are packed and we race at glacial pace through the morning routine. These days, the process of getting out the door includes hats and snowsuits and sometimes a rain cover for the stroller, and even though the climate is fairly mild by many standards, something about Chile makes you soft and so weather feels extreme even when it is not. We cram into the elevator and greet the concierge, Eva or Walter, as we head out the door, dragging the stroller up a few stairs with their assistance. Rayna is not friendly in the morning but her little sister charms with a laugh or baby conversation and our concierges eat it up. Then it’s the uphill hustle to preschool through Providencia, just 5 blocks away but so full of people and traffic and life. The buildings in our neighborhood are a mix of gorgeous refurbished colonials, ugly 70s block apartments and new construction. We pass throngs of students heading to class at the university on the next street and smell the fresh bread for sale as we weave around slow walkers; Chileans are generally very unrushed but it is the morning commute and so we are in the flow.
We stand at the corner of Ricardo Lyon and I wave hello to Pato in his wheelchair as we wish for the light to change and he waits for the pause in traffic that allows him to wheel through traffic exchanging pesos and warm greetings with the drivers. Every single day, he pretends Rayna is skipping school because she refuses to say hello, and I awkwardly bridge the gap between the two of them, reminding myself that daily jokes are part of Chilean culture. I smile and nod hello to the morning regulars heading on their way and pass out crackers as the baby starts to yelp, bored of the stroller or annoyed by the sun in her eyes. We pass people sweeping up leaves and white roses that seem to bloom all year as the sun streams over the mountains and buildings. As we make the last turn towards the jardin, we get into the frenzy of the families coming and going and I am usually sweating by the time I ring the bell of the big metal gate. Someone buzzes us into the cheery open patio and we’re welcomed with morning greetings no matter how late we are. After hugging my big girl goodbye, I’ll usually hear the latest from a couple of other jardin moms and we’ll complain about the cold or the air quality and say Ciao before my cracker stash runs too low.
On the way home, we stop to buy fruits and veggies at the stand by the street, and while they know Adela by name, I will always just be ‘amiga’. I’ll refuse their plastic bags but welcome their forgiveness if I forgot my wallet and have to pay tomorrow. Tucking our haul into the stroller, we either head next to buy bread and coffee or cruise back to Galvarino Gallardo (this part is downhill) and make our way up to our sunny little 8th floor home. I’ve come to treasure the people and the sunlight in this city even as I’ve begrudged the loud din of traffic and the terrible air quality. This neighborhood has held almost all of our life in Chile and I’ll remember these mornings with love.