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Not a movie

Her unemployment benefits were about to run out, and her husband's money wouldn't last forever…

Wait, what's the title? — her younger daughter wondered — because what you're talking about is a movie, right?

It was not a movie, though they had all seen similar films. City family goes to live in the sticks. Young executive hunted by mafia hides on farm. Single mother becomes rural squatter. They were a family, of course. She, until she lost her job, had been a marketing executive in a pharmaceutical multinational. And she was not a single mother but a widow, with three children still dependent on her, though one (and this was the key) was about to graduate in agricultural engineering.

But... But that wasn't my idea, mom. I chose that degree because I liked it, and granddad's farm -- well someday we'll have to do something with it. But to go and live, just like that, in a decrepit old house in a village way out in Toledo...

She took a deep breath and explained how things stood, as delicately as the case allowed. This was not a plan A, because there was no plan B. Her unemployment benefits were about to run out, and her husband's money wouldn't last forever. The alternative was to go on living like this until the money ran out, put the flat up for sale, take in boarders until it sold, worry through sleepless nights, live on spaghetti and rice, and sink deeper into a hole.

My grandparents lived off that land. And their grandparents before them. And they lived well, and here we are. It's good land, olives, grapes - you know that. All that I ask is that we try. I know it doesn't make money, but half of it isn't even rented and the rest is run down. If we go and live there, repair the house and plant the right crops...

It wasn't a movie, so she made some concessions. She would have preferred to rent out the flat in Madrid, but her younger children were still studying, so she made a deal with them. If they agreed to spend their summers in the country and work on the house, they could go on studying in the city and living there while she attended to the farm -- alone, or...

I'm with you, mom, the agricultural engineer said firmly. Count me in.

That conversation had taken place a year-and-a-half ago. Since then they had all worked, hard, turning the dilapidated property she inherited back into a working farm, which must soon begin to turn a profit, because they had just achieved the miracle of getting a loan on next year's harvest. Her elder son, tanned by the wind and sun, with muscles that he didn't seem to have when they came to live here, said it was his mother's doing; but she knew that if she had been there alone, all her marketing know-how would have been quite useless. He had been at her side in the long nights of the first winter, when they huddled by the fireplace with a paper and pencil, working out numbers, and never said a word about installing heating, until the figures added up. It had been hard. The house was old and drafty, it was very cold in the village; she knew nothing of agriculture, he knew nothing of finances, and neither of the two knew exactly what they were doing there, why they had turned this movie into something real. But at the worst times, the son asked his mother to bring out the album and, huddled in blankets, they looked at old photos, Great-Grandmother María, Granny Ramona, Uncle Vicente... Those images, the names and stories that went with them, gave them just enough strength to wonder in silence: If they could manage... why can't we?

They managed. While she showed out the men who had just installed the radiators, she went over her schedule in her mind, remembering that she had to meet an exporter who had suggested marketing her marmalades in Scandinavia, and she smiled like a village idiot.

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