By Mario Vargas Llosa
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Additional resources for A Fish in the Water: A Memoir
She had read in the newspapers that my grandfather was prefect of Piura and presumed that Dorita was with him. What had her life been like? Had she remarried? And how was Ernesto’s young son? She had written the letter following instructions from my father, who, driving in his car to his office, had heard on the radio news of the appointment of Don Pedro J. Llosa Bustamante as prefect of Piura. The second was a trip of a few weeks that my mama had made to Lima, in August, for a minor operation.
Granny and Mama sowed wheat seeds in special containers for the Nativity scene, a laborious structure brought to life with little plaster figures of shepherds and animals that the family had brought from Arequipa (or that had perhaps been brought from Tacna by Granny). Decorating the tree was a fantastic ceremony. But nothing was as exciting as writing to the Baby Jesus—who had not yet been replaced by Santa Claus—little letters about the presents that I wanted him to bring on the twenty-fourth of December.
And he must have fallen in love at first sight, too, because when, after a few weeks’ vacation in Tacna, she went back to Arequipa, he wrote her a number of letters and even made a trip there, to say goodbye to her when Panagra transferred him to Ecuador. On that very brief visit of his to Arequipa they became officially engaged. The engagement was carried on by letter; they didn’t see each other again until a year later, when my father—whom Panagra had just transferred once more, this time to Lima—appeared in Arequipa again for the wedding.