The Portugal Years: Before, During and After

George MacDonald, a Scottish preacher and author, had a gentle character who had a mental disability. He went around saying over and over again saying, “I didna ken whaur I come  from.” This week you will see some moments in my life before, during and after Portugal.

last vacation
Fenwick Island, Delaware

My dad’s boss had a house on Fenwick Island, DE. He let my dad rent it at a reduced amount and we spent some lovely summer days walking the beach. We were near Ocean City, Maryland, which had a boardwalk. The last summer before my older brother joined the Army we spent two weeks. We all kind of knew that it was the last family vacation.

Fifties Party, Denver, CO
Fifties Party, Denver, CO

In November of 1975, I got a job at a small Christian publishing house (now defunct) in Denver. I boarded in a woman’s home with another young woman who also worked at the publishing house. Judy invited me to go to her the young adult Fifties Party at her church. It sounded like fun, so I dug into my wardrobe. I got engaged to a man I met in a college class – Modern Fantasy Literature – but he was ready to get married, and I knew I wasn’t.

wccs wedding
June 30, 1979  Aren’t they the sweetest kids you ever saw?

At the end of a year, being thoroughly fed up with working in a cubical, I accepted a position at West Chester Christian School as the fourth grade teacher. How I loved doing that and loved my students. Most of the time, at any rate. Harry and I had dated when I was in high school, and broke up over some silly thing. He came back for another round, invited me to visit him in Portugal and before I returned to the states, he had put an engagement ring on my finger.

Harry at work
Look at him! Who could resist a face like that?

We the following summer, and I went back to Portugal with Harry and the idea that we were going to stay there until we died. With a few visits to family and friends in the states, of course.

Me with Elisabeth at 4 days old.
Me with Elisabeth at 4 days old.
Bethy's bath time.
Grandmom taking charge of bath time.

We were so excited about having our little girl followed by another little girl and finishing up with a little boy. We were content. Our children were thriving in Portugal. We never imagined our Paradise would end. But it did. In the spring of 1999, we left part of our hearts in Portugal and ended up in Lancaster County, PA. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t home. Not for us.

Valentines Day Homeschool Craft
Valentines Day Homeschool Craft
cousins
Cousins
Forever friends
Forever friends
Sarah-Sarah at Christian Character Club on Wednesday night
Sarah-Sarah at Christian Character Club on Wednesday night
Valentine's Day Sweetheart Banquet; Harry acting out Casey at the Bat while I narrated it.
Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Banquet; Harry acting out Casey at the Bat while I narrated it.

 

 

My daughters participating in the Greek Tragedy, Electra.
My daughters participating in a Greek Tragedy, Electra with our homeschool group.

We had friends, and Harry had a job, but those were painful years trying to re-enter the American culture when we felt mostly Portuguese.

Other Grandma and us on our front step in West Willow, PA
Other Grandma, a friend and us on our front step in West Willow, PA – my favorite house ever.

Eventually, we moved to Florida. But it’s not Portugal.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you like to live?

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37 thoughts on “The Portugal Years: Before, During and After

    1. Thank you, Amy. When we get back there, you need to come and visit. (That’s “when we get there” as in we have no understanding as yet the hows and means but we see it as a given at the right time.)

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  1. That is a great question. I always thought I would somehow thrive in the UK, London, England to be exact. No particular reason. I am very attracted to what some might construe as “stiffness” not to forget the accents of course. Although I enjoy the benefits of being an American citizen, sometimes I feel that I don’t quite fit in and not sure I ever will. Right now I don’t know……

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    1. I found that the culture in Portugal was more formal, but that the formality itself invites genuine relationships with people. It would not surprise me if it was a European thing in general. Or maybe there’s something indigent to American behavior. It’s all well and good to be hail fellow well met but relationships require time and attention over the long haul. So, what I do know of you, I am not surprised that you don’t feel like you belong in America at times.

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      1. You know when I went to Spain in high school I think what you described stuck with me. The relationshipa were formal but after conversation development was expected, meaning the relationship wasnt meant to remain shallow.
        I believe relationships in America are generally fragile and superficial. Not ti mention the all common place practice of stepping over personal boundaries. Perhaps when opportunity presents itself I will visit a different country and then I might know if I am attempting to recreate a high school dream or am destined to be elsewhere.
        🙂

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  2. Susan! I enjoyed reading and viewing all the pics very much! Chuckled a few times….it looks like quite an adventure! And the painting of the faces was coolio. That’s something the professor might do. You’d like to return to Portugal, right?

    I think I love where I’m at now, but I’d definitely love to travel for a bit!

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  3. Those are some great pictures! I had no idea you had one with Jackie in it or that super scary one of me as a ghost! You must have dug deep to find some of those!

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    1. 😀 Frankly, so much water has run under the bridge that I had no idea what pictures I might have. And there are more, oh so many more. That was an awesome dress for certain. I wonder if Jackie was there because that was when her parents were in Albania that time? As for me, I miss that house.

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      1. Do you have any pictures of the blizzards??

        I don’t think so–not that time. I think when her parents went to Albania was Fall and of course her siblings would have been there.

        I think that picture was around my birthday and maybe Jackie just came over for a sleepover.

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        1. I haven’t come across any photos of blizzards.

          You are right. The last time I talked to someone from Lancaster about Jackie she had run away.

          That was one bodacious caregiver thing…a whole month was it? A long time for sure.

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          1. Bummer. I’ll have to go hunt one up.

            I remember you mentioning that. A lot of my childhood friends seem to have done drastic things.

            Yes, it was a really long time. We got used to having them around and it was empty when they were gone. Other then the breaking of glasses it really wasn’t that bad.

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        1. It’s a wonder I have any brain at all. I was always doing that kind of thing. You knew they came back from Albania, right? I forget why, but they were never the same after that.

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          1. I remember yes. They came back before we left the church I think? Something to do with something. I didn’t put it in my brain because I figured the official reason wasn’t the truth. And no, they weren’t the same after that.

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  4. So enjoyed this entry, and all the photos, Susan. 😉 For now, i would live almost exactly where I am. Perhaps eventually in a different abode, but in the same area!

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    1. We moved so often when I was growing up that I think my parents got into the habit of moving ever few years. 😀 Harry and I have lived in the house we are now in for almost 15 years, which is a record even for us. Of course, we were in Portugal for quite awhile, but moved twice within the country. I am not a fan of where we currently live for various reasons, but I won’t talk about the why on a public forum like this.

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      1. Ok, but I take it you wish you could move. Ours has it’s drawbacks as well, but for now this is it!

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  5. I never really thought I had an attachment to place till I moved to London for a few years. Talk about homesick! I became more and more Scottish the longer I was away (even though there were lots of things I loved about London) and the day I came back for good was truly one of the happiest of my life. I like to visit other places but here is where I want to be – I’ll never live more than a few miles from Glasgow City Centre again! Hope you make it back to Portugal one day soon…

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    1. I can understand that. We’ve always wanted to visit Scotland some day, but if we could manage it we’d move back to Portugal. I’ve never been 100% American since we lived in Portugal.

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  6. I love those photos and memories! I went to Christian school for 10 years here in Florida. You make Portugal sound so romantic and friendly. I’d love to visit there. But I have to ask, you seriously prefer Florida to Lancaster? Wow, I was born her and moved to NY for a few years, then came back. And I’ve spent a lot of time in PA and just love it to death. I’m only here because it’s cheaper to live. Great post! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for coming by and commenting, Rachel. We moved down here because it was cheaper to live here – and for a few other reasons as well. Lancaster County is a beautiful place, and the other reasons we moved down here are complex and painful. A lot of it had to do with abusive churches.

      Life here in FL has been difficult in many ways, but especially financially. We arrived mid 1999, and my husband had a hard time getting a job, and has been laid off four separate times – none of them his fault. It’s been a challenge, but God has been faithful. The worst of the move to Florida was that the church we joined when we arrived was a Bible-based cult. But that is a story for another day.

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