The Portugal Years – Year 6 Tudo o que é pequeno tem graça.

The Portuguese have a saying:”Tudo o que é pequeno tem graça.” Loosely translated, it means that all things that are small are cute. Along with all the fun that we had with the campers, the bakery that made our Mafra bread had a six-week old litter of kittens. Our Samantha cat when we were first married did not survive our first furlough. The bakers offered us one of the kittens. I argued that it was too young, but they said something like, “Now or never.”

We named her Fofinha (Fluffy) and she came to live with us. We soon discovered that she was ill named. Oh, her fur was soft and fluffy, but she was a wild child. Or kitten if you prefer. I had to feed her with canned milk from a medicine dropper. I had to learn to keep her clean as her mother did (I didn’t wash her with my tongue, though, I used a wash cloth.) Eventually, I gave her the pureed soup that I fed to Susie. While Fofinha was still small, I made a sling for her so I could hold her and keep her warm.

Fofinha grew and thrived. Eventually, she decided that squatting over the bathtub drain was more sanitary than the litter box. She employed the litter box for the solid waste.

Susie was also thriving. I had patterned my feeding “schedule” from the information I had received from La Leche. They encouraged mothers to “feed on demand.” So, when Susie whimpered at night, I picked her up and nursed her. I figured that she would get over it eventually.

One night, Susie cried in the night and was inconsolable. I got up and checked her over, and I found a lump on the side of her neck. The only sleep I got that night was when I held her close to me. In the morning we called the pediatrician. The doctor said to bring her right in to the hospital.

Susie had an abscess. The doctor said she was going to lance it. I immediately took Bethy with me into an examining room some distance away from where I closed the door and started to tell her stories. It wasn’t enough to keep the outraged screams. We went home with an antibiotic, and Susie recovered soon (except for the scar that she still has). Except mine. No one had told me that mothers feel the pain that their children suffer.

Susie and Fofinha post surgery.
Susie and Fofinha post surgery.
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The Portugal Years, Year Six: Camp

Teens at first year of camp.
Teens at first year of camp.

Summer of ’83 saw the first year at camp. Kids hunkered down in their bunks or in one of the apartments (because the bunks were not completed). The necessities were there, but it was rough. The “kitchen” was a small shack that would eventually be the snack shack.

When I visited the camp with Bethy, the activity she saw entranced her and she begged to  be a camper. She was too young,  but she begged and her daddy would be there all day so she  joined the fun. I warned her that she had to stay the week. I was pregnant and I could not drive the car.  (A perfect example of how parents punish themselves.)

My beloved daughter had fun during the day, but the nights found us both weeping and missing one another. She made friends of both American and Portuguese kids, and had one special friend named Matthew. He was an “older man” (he was six)  and fascinated her by showing her how the side pieces of his glasses could be stretched and pulled and not break. Except that he broke them….


By the next year, spring of 1984, the camp was fully ready for the campers. Benches and wooden adorned the dining hall, and restaurant appliances and kettles, stoves and a walk-in refrigerator filled the kitchen. The cooks made good use of the facilities and kept the hungry campers well fed. The snack shack covered during the times in between meals. I contributed to the snack shack food with homemade cinnamon rolls – they never got completely cooled.

The apartments, set away from the noise and fray, was a good trot to the dining hall. Bethy spent her days running around camp all the day long. Susie was happy as long as she could see me from where she was. They never lacked for company from among the campers!

Staff members were encouraged to eat their meals in the dining hall. I tried to coöperate. The stumbling block was that Susie found the noise level in the dining room intolerable. Generally, I ate quickly and took her back to the apartment before she had a meltdown.

One noon before lunch, she nursed and fell asleep. I figured she would be safe enough if I walked up to the dining room for a bite to eat. My bad. I had scarcely arrived at the dining hall when one of the campers came up to tell me that Susie was crying. Bellering was more like it. I could hear her before I was halfway back to the apartment.

But, as summer came to an end, Susie became accustomed to the noise in the dining hall and looked the food over. Till then she wanted no food but mother’s milk. One day the kitchen put out ripe pears  for dessert. I watched Susie as she reached out for one of those soft juicy pears, then mashed it with her tongue and ate it. And begged for more. There was no stopping her after that.

Susie at camp
Susie at camp

What do you think that blue thing is in the picture?

Dia dos Reis Magos

The Twelfth Day of Christmas is the day the Portuguese remember the kings, or as the Wise Men. They arrived from the far east to worship the Christ Child.

 

dia-de-reis_009

Of course, there is a special food for this celebration. That would be the Bolo Rei – the King Cake. Of course it is available all through the Christmas season, but one simply cannot not have a Bolo Rei. It is made from sweet bread dough, and filled with dried and candied fruit. Embedded in the dough is a fava bean and a small toy.

When the King Cake is served, the person who has the slice with the toy is to have a prosperous new year. Those who pull the fava bean out of their slice must purchase the King Cake the following year. The cake is much better than our traditional fruit cake, and it is amazingly good toasted the next day if you have any left over.

 

Bolo Rei
Bolo Rei

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2014 in review

A big thank you to all of you who come visit and those who read. Without you, this would be a lot harder to do!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.