The Portugal Years – Year Three: Smiles and Giggles

Bethy 5 mo
Five months – helping with the laundry

By the time that Elisabeth opened her eyes on her second month of living in the sun, things had settled down. A book I read said that my life would be forever changed. What had been normal up until then would cease to exist. Eventually, I would have a new “normal.” And it was so.

By the second month, we got more positive feedback from this small human who had in a cataclysmic way changed our lives. By then she smiled when she saw our faces. Of course that encouraged us to make complete fools of ourselves  to encourage this interaction. When she was five months old, she began to laugh; it was the most beautiful music we’d ever heard.

She was sleeping six hours at a stretch at  night by then, which gave me something to smile about, too. Sammy Cat took on the responsibility of watching over the small human. Our new normal was well on the way.

We started taking Bethy to church. There was no nursery, and young children generally wandered around the room at will (unless they got noisy at which time parental discipline came into play, usually by the pulling of an ear).

The first time we took Bethy, she was welcomed like daffodils on the first sunny day of spring.  Without fail, everyone commented on the full head of hair she was sporting and how fair her complexion was. Toward the end of the service, Bethy required sustenance. I had brought a shawl for such emergencies. It had been her daddy’s when he was a baby.  I found a quiet, empty corner to feed her.

After the benediction, everyone crowded around me again. My attempt to nurse discreetly was  disregarded as the ladies pulled the shawl away from Bethy’s face. No one was disrespectful. It was just a matter of fact: this is how babies obtain nourishment. That was my last bit of culture shock, and  my heart fell head-over-heels-no-reservations in love with the country and the people.

32 thoughts on “The Portugal Years – Year Three: Smiles and Giggles

  1. How nice. That would be shocking, the no reservations, but there is something nice about it. They seem to really have accepted you as family. It seems like a big family. 🙂

    Bethy looks so funny in the basket!


    1. It was only shocking for a moment. It wasn’t meant as an intrusion. They were celebrating. And, yes, they did accept us as family, and many of them still do. Half of my heart still lives in Portugal.

      Bethy has always liked to curl up in small places. I have a picture of her…but we’ll get there eventually and you will see it.


  2. I would like to see a recent photo of Betht juxtaposed to her baby pic. It’s hard to tell on her blog. 🙂
    I would have been horrified if that were done and in public. But culture is relative I guess. What is acceptable in one may be rejected in another.


    1. I can probably do that, but not today. Can you email me to remind me?

      I left Portugal with a much broader view of the world from what I arrived with. One of the tenets was that nursing mothers are not porn stars; they are simply feeding a hungry child. That was by far the least shocking thing I ever saw there. 😀


      1. Yes I can. It’s amazing how living in another country or a few states for that matter broaden one’s view. Having lived in a few states myself I am amazed (probably shouldn’t be) how closed minded many are.
        Oh you must divulge more shocking things. 🙂


  3. There’s something about babies and laundry baskets! The Princess still takes over mine at times! 🙂 If you remember I still have Portuguese in my blood when it came to feeding the Princess. I know poor hubby was shocked at times. Personally, I think it’s someone’s own problem if they stare and I would prefer a nice quiet nursing baby to a howling hungry one any day of the week. Plus it’s always nice to see someone enjoying a good meal no matter what their age. 😀


    1. Americans in general tend to have issues with stuff like that. They get all nervous about a woman nursing her child and yet they will watch and read all sorts of soft or hard porn.


  4. Bethy has a cute position there, in her basket. I adore these entries, and it is nice to read your memories. I bet it brings back so many details, and fondly, for you, S! And I super like the unabashed acceptance of what is just normal feeding! 🙂


    1. Thank you, DR. Of course, you’ve lived in other cultures, too. I think that every American should be required to spend a year in another country (not counting Canada).


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