Author: Leah Pattem
It was 25 May 2020, just a few weeks after confinement, and we were finally allowed to stroll the streets with no particular purpose. Back then, the abueles were staying at home a bit more than now, spending many hours on standing at the windows or on their balconies interacting with passersby. It was the only socialising they could do, and so small exchanges became extremely important.
I imagine it wasn’t uncommon for the abuela in the photograph to wave at people walking past, or to blow the occasional kiss to children who were curious enough to look up. The little girl, maybe just two years old and in her mother’s arms, not focusing on where she’s stepping but on the sky above and the buildings that frame it, caught sight of the abuela, received her air-kiss and sent one right back.
I feel so lucky not just to have seen this moment, but to have been fast enough to capture it with my camera, and to be able to share it with you and evoke that wonderful sense of nostalgia, especially for an intergenerational interaction that still occurs every day in Madrid.
This image has gone viral for a reason: it’s because it represents both the Madrid that we cherish and the Madrid that we worry is disappearing. But seeing a real-life capture of air-kiss between two strangers across two floors and almost three centuries, not staged nor edited, gives us hope. It gives us hope that, all over the city, no matter who our neighbours are, we still see each other, acknowledge each other, and care about each other.
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