The Portugal Years: An Old-Fashioned Love Song

June 30, 1979
June 30, 1979

Today is the 35th anniversary of our wedding day. If you could hear me say it out loud, you would hear a bit of amazement in my voice that we’ve come this far. The smile on our faces is the relief we felt with the belief that we had arrived at a goal that Harry had hoped for when he was a freshman at Drexel University some six years earlier. Some of you are laughing at those youngsters as I am today. It was a long journey to get to this point, a journey that I began to blog about  in 2011.

No, we had not reached the goal; we had only begun the race. If you take two strong, stubborn and hard-headed people, put them in close proximity for 35 years, you can pretty well read their history in their faces, and in the way that they look at one another. Those youngsters in that photo were 26 years old when they got married. They thought they were mature. Yes, I hear you laughing again. We are still working on that. 😀

Really though, living together  in holy matrimony has its good days and its rugged days; days when we are both ornery and obnoxious all at the same time. Then there are the incredibly wonderful days that remind us why we got married. As a friend of mine said to me, life is so daily. It takes Divine Intervention to get through it in one piece.

So, if I could, would I go back in time to tell that young woman what lay ahead for her? No. She would probably cut and run. In so doing, she would miss the sweetest moments that life would afford her.

So here is to Harry, the man who loves me no matter what page I’m on. Here is to being on different pages, because when we add up the information that way we don’t miss anything important. Here is to learning each other’s language and creating one of our own. And here is to hammering out our differences – as long as the hammer doesn’t land on someone’s head. 😀

[You will need to click through to YouTube listen to this version of the song.]

The Portugal Years: Year Four – Spring Has Sprung!

Portugal spring

From the dark, cold and wet winter, springs emerges with hope in Portugal. Slowly, layer by layer, the warm clothing withdraws into dresser drawers and armários. Pallid arms turn to bronze from the sun’s warm kisses. The aroma of the lemon trees fills the air. Spring is the planting and growing season.

Bethy always liked playing  out-of-doors. She was right beside me when I was hanging up the laundry in the back yard and spent her time examining the garden our landlady had planted. Vanessa, our landlady’s daughter, often came over to play with Bethy.

One day when Bethy was outside in the garden while I was fixing lunch, she came into the house with bright eyes and said. “Mommy! Mommy! I found a “tattole.” I mentally checked the vocabularies of my English and Portuguese languages and asked her if it was any of the things I could think of. No. It was not.

When Harry came home, I told her to ask Daddy what it was.  No  bells  rang for  him, either.  He asked her where it was. She took him by the hand, down the steps and into the back yard. In the yard, she made a beeline for the fence. She pointed to something on it. As we advanced, she said, “See? Tattole!!” And there it was. A large caracol, called a snail in English, with a shell about the size of a quarter was slowly ascending the fence.

Yes, it was a season of growing, planting and hope. Our little rosebud was thriving. And in that season of hope, we were nurturing another hope that would bloom sometime after Christmas.

Bethy and Vanessa on the stairway up to our apartment in Loures.
Bethy and Vanessa on the stairway up to our apartment in Loures.

Throwback Thursday

My brother and me circa 1959 standing outside my grandparents' back door.
My brother and me circa 1959 standing outside my grandparents’ back door.

This was taken shortly after we moved back into my grandparents’ home where we stayed until my dad got his degree in Bible. We moved from the prairie of SE Colorado to just outside of Philadelphia – the city that my dad called The City of Brotherly Shove. When we left this house, I was four and an only child. In this picture I was about seven and had a baby brother. It doesn’t take long for things to change!

The Portugal Years – Year Four: Tia

 

"Tia" at her house with Bethy
“Tia” with Bethy

The best parts of Portugal are the Portuguese people. Knowing them has made my life richer. I met Tia (tee-ya) when we moved into our second home in Loures. She was a childless widow who lived in a couple of rooms added on to her niece’s home. When she learned that we were going to the states for a spell, she kept asking me if we were coming back. When she saw how much Bethy had grown while we were away, she exclaimed over her for a long time..

Bethy and I had been on our way to buy our daily bread when Tia emerged from her little cottage and welcomed us home. Bethy did not really remember Tia, but she responded to Tia’s greeting with a smile.

Tia was a good friend and my door into “Old Portugal.” She lived under Salazar‘s dictatorship in her youth. (If you are a history buff, the link has a good bio of Antonio Salazar.) He ruled with a hand of iron. From Tia, I learned that Salazar passed a law that no one could walk in the street barefoot. That was so that any foreigner who might  visit the country would not know how poor the Portuguese were. It would make him lose face. Littering in the streets was illegal. He enforced laws in unpleasant ways. Like jail time – and Portuguese prisons make the worst American ones look like a week at the Ritz.

When she was growing up, Tia’s family seldom saw meat except for the occasional chicken on a Sunday. When they did have chicken, children gave way to the working men and women in the family, and the kids got to gnaw on whatever was left. The gnawed bones were then boiled to make canja (chicken soup). As one of my American friends over there said, “First it was (grilled) chicken on the spit, then it was the spit on the chicken” that went into the soup.Tia loved to cook, and she amazed me bythe things she made from the little that she had.

One day in early spring, I found Tia in her house taking down a very hard roll of bread, a small coin and something I can’t remember from her door and replacing them with new. She told me that the coin was to keep her from poverty, the bread was to keep her from hunger and the other was to keep her in good health through the year.

(Any of my Portuguese or other readers who can correct me on that please do.)

I think that the best thing that she gave me was unconditional love. I was a foreigner in her country (and Americans are notorious for being obnoxious when they are out of their own country) but she accepted us as we were. And in doing that, she enriched our lives.