Papá Mía

Snug beneath a blanket on the sofa, feet cozy in their zapatillas, I watched the traditional Jewish father Tevye make his final exile, escorted off-screen by the Eastern European theme music and the rolling credits that followed. The somber finale filled my heart with post-movie remorse, and it didn’t even matter that the characters had spouted all their lines in Spanish, either. Whatever the language—English, French, or Mandarin Chinese—I’m sure the heartfelt sentiments of The Fiddler on the Roof span the bounds of each and every one.

Felipe had been excited to show Becca and me his all-time favorite film for quite some time, so when he poked his head in our room one weeknight to see if then would be a good time to watch it, our affirmative response caused his face light up in a boyish grin. The three of us all plopped down together in the living room for the 1971 musical—an emotionally-charged plot about family, faith, and the power of love in a time when tradition is everything. When the famous number “If I were a Rich Man” came on, I asked our host dad if he was familiar with the parody song “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani. His puzzled stare told me he wasn’t.

Can you believe it?

Even though our host dad isn’t totally in-synch with American pop culture, he still somehow miraculously knew what a selfie was when I attempted to get a pic of the three of us in church one Sunday. Propping my iPhone at the perfect angle, I watched his face register recognition:

“Oh! Es un…selfie?”

Church Selfie
Church Selfie
Felipe and Host Daughters
Felipe and Host Daughters

From deep discussions, to gregarious banter, to the way Becca and I are treated like the spoiled princesses we are, I can’t help but marvel at how close we’ve become with the padre in just a matter of weeks. Sometimes I think Felipe finds excuses to hang out with us too. One night he came into our room, dinner still several hours away, to surprise us with an orange he’d cut up for us in the kitchen—arranged beautifully on the plate to resemble blooming, citrusy flowers.

Maybe the reason he enjoys our company so much is because he misses having daughters of his own around the house…

…Or maybe he’s just amused by our silly chatter.

Not too long ago, the three of us were sitting down for our midday meal, conversation flowing, topics bouncing here and there when we somehow reached the subject of prayer. Felipe explained that talking with God is something both completely powerful and beautiful. As Becca and I nodded in agreement, our host dad surprised us by asking if we were interested in making a contract with him.

With confused expressions plastered on our faces, we listened as Felipe explained the special pact that he wanted to make with us: one that entailed us to pray for one another till the end of our days.

We gladly agreed.

That’s when Felipe took my hand, looked me in the eye, and recited the words of the pact for me to repeat as an oath.

Yo rezo por ti, tú rezas por mí…

He echoed the sentiment with Becca before standing up and giving us both a loving hug and kiss on the cheek. Happy tears beginning to swell beneath our lids, the two of us left the kitchen with full and content hearts.

We understood that we were now Felipe’s adoptive daughters. From that day forward, he promised he would pray for us, and we promised to do the same in return.

Todos los días de mi vida…

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