The Portugal Years: Photo Shoot At Camp



The Guys
The Guys

This was during the early days of the camp. The director and the teens and young adults were close to the same ages. We didn’t always know what we were doing, but we kept on trying. And even if we could travel back in time and parcel out some good advice, I daresay it would not change anything, human nature being what it is.  But how we miss them. Um grande abraço para os nossos queridos irmãos. Que saudades de vocês.


Brazilians, Americans, Portuguese all worked together…mostly well. Do you think you can tell which of them are Americans and which are not?

The Portugal Years: Year Five – Not The Momma!

Susie in the Jumper.
Susie in the Jumper.

After two years and four months with my compliant first-born, I had, I thought,  certain understandings about babies. One of them was that when people want to hold the baby, that said baby would entertain those people in an adorable and engaging manner. Another expectation was that I would have ten minutes a day all for myself.

In the early 1990’s there was a TV show called Dinosaurs where the baby dinosaur was  attached to his mother. His response to any other people was “Not the Momma.” Though we were still in the 80’s and the show debuted in the early 90’s, I am convinced that Susie was the prototype for the show. She had no time for other people, but she was a real cuddle bug with me.

I fell in love with her in spite of the lack of time alone. After she was crawling, I tried to get a solo stint in the “necessary” one night. I snuck out of the living room and tiptoed down the hall. I didn’t turn on the light or close the door. She missed me and began the trek down the hall and passed the bathroom saying “Mama, Mama………..” in time to the sound of her knees.

Sweet as she was in her devotion to me, it presented certain challenges. Her “fussy hour” coincided with time to cook dinner. I could nurse her until she fell asleep and before I could open a cookbook she was singing her “I’ve been abandoned” song. I tried putting her in the “Johnny Jump-up”  over the doorway. The idea was that she could be able to see me. Except she was crying with her eyes shut.

One day I remembered the front carrying baby tote I had received when Bethy was a toddler. I looked at the gas range and the length of my arms and decided that if I was careful, I could bundle her into it while I made dinner. It worked! Susie slept and I knew she was fine. Bethy lost her worried look because Susie was not crying and Daddy came home to a peaceful house with dinner on the table.

And the summer and the winter were the fifth year…

The Portugal Years: Great Expectations

Well, we all had some expectations after the flood. Bethy was expecting to watch the television after the rain let up, and we were back in our own home. Twelve days without electricity was a long time for a two-year to wait, but her expectation came to fruition and she was once again nestled in her chair  watching her Abelha  Maia.

Abelha Maia
Abelha Maia

Bethy also anticipated being able to ride her bike outside. That was also an expectation  fulfilled –  but only in part. The garden and the paving stones were in the process of being rehabilitated from the muck and slime. But, she did well on the front varanda safely over the the part of the neighbor’s farm that had come to rest at our abode.

Loving riding on the varanda.
Loving riding on the varanda.

Thanksgiving peeked around the corner and prompted our gratitude for all that we had in spite of the mess. Our house was intact, and we had an electric radiator that we could move from place to place in the cold winter temperature. The rooms all had doors that we could close to keep us warm in whatever we needed to do.

We were healthy, and had enough. Our salary was not generous, but we had enough for our daily bread and a little more. Our expectation was that our Heavenly Father would continue to provide – and He did. We had Elisabeth. Each day I marveled as I saw her growing and learning.

Soon our expectations of Christmas crept up on us. Money and presents arrived from family and friends in the states. It was only Bethy’s second Christmas, and she had few expectations. Nevertheless, we enjoyed shopping for her. We had decorated the tree shortly after Thanksgiving, and her eyes were wide with joy,  wonder and a bit of apprehension. But, we had another expectation in that Christmas tide.

'Twas the night before Christmas....
‘T was the night before Christmas….
Christmas Morning
Christmas Morning

Our other expectation was about a very young lady who had yet to show her face. She had a name (Sarah Susanna) and Harry’s expectation was that she would be born on his birthday, January 7th. The doctor said she could come at any time. With that expectation in mind, we bought Bethy a baby doll named Susie, and a crib to put her in. We hoped thought that it would help Bethy make the transition from only child to  big sister. The time was getting close, but not soon enough for me.


Elisabeth with the baby doll and the cradle.
Elisabeth with the baby doll and the cradle.


The Portugal Years – Year Five: Part 2, No Lights


Flood Zone
Flood Zone

As we talked about how to get our two-year old daughter upstairs and out of the flooding, someone outside knocked on the bathroom window. It faced the steps up to the landlord’s flat. Harry opened the window, the landlord told us to hand Elisabeth to him and he would take her up to their flat. Bethy was duly handed through the window, which was large enough for her, but definitely not big enough for her parents to pass through.

Down the steps from our front door we went with me and my baby belly first. I wondered if we would have anything at all after the flood. At the bottom of the stairs, the brown river was already almost up to my shoulders. The neighbors watched us, and told me that it would be easy for me to swim since I already had a beach ball  on my belly to float on. Then, they giggled. If ever I had any dignity, it was gone.

Finally, we reached the top of the stairwell soaking wet and shivering from the cold. Our landlady offered to let us shower down in her bathroom, and I gladly accepted it. The water heater ran on gas, so we even had a hot shower.  They enfolded us up in voluminous blankets and we all sat sitting in the dark which we  alternated with looking out the window at the flooding.

About 6 a.m., dawn reluctantly began to peep through the clouds. The swirling waters rippled like an enormous vat of Hershey’s Chocolate. The water had slowed down and stopped just after it reached the next to the fifth step of our flat. By sunrise, the waters had abated and we were able to trudge back up the steps to our home.

Our flat felt alien to me. The long night had left us exhausted. As a very pregnant woman, I was a bit miffed. The slimy earth was slippery and emitted a peculiarly unpleasant odor.  Everything that we had stored in the garage lay ravaged by the flood. And we had no electricity.

I ventured into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. We did not have an enormous amount of food in that small appliance, but most of it did not make the cut. I cooked what was salvageable on our gas stove, and reluctantly threw the rest out. That was when Bethy found her way to the kitchen and asked to watch Abelha Maia . Having been saturated in Portuguese language the all night, I  automatically responded in that language: “Não há luz.” Bethy translated it in English as a question: “No lights?” A detailed explanation concerning lights and electricity followed that, sadly, landed on mostly deaf ears. “No lights” became her daily battle cry.

To be continued….


The Portugal Years: Fifth Year – Bethy’s Summer (Photo Essay)

Bethy was a busy little girl the summer that she celebrated her second birthday. She explored her world and began to learn to dress herself. At that age, she was all about doing what I did. Scarcely a day passed by that I didn’t find her in the my wardrobe trying to dress in my clothes. She especially loved clacking around the house in my shoes with heels.

Dress up

My friend, Ana Maria, had a son about Elisabeth’s age named André. They played while Ana Maria and I cleaned the house. A large African violet on a table and one day it got knocked off onto the clean floor. Ana Maria cleaned it up in a blink and the violet bloomed more than it ever had.


One of the things that Bethy liked to do was to play on the varanda. The Portuguese mothers taught me  to keep a hat on the children’s heads in the summer. Bethy didn’t always follow the letter of the law, but she got into the spirit of it. She liked to be where she could see people in the street and people in the house. She still remembers our neighbor who worked in her night gown all day. Just before her husband came home, she showered and dressed. She said it saved wear and tear on the clothes.

cover your head

We had a real Portuguese birthday party for Bethy’s second birthday. We invited all of the loving adults in her life as well as the children she knew. The house was full of people, confusion and noise. There were all kinds of Portuguese finger foods, sweets and of course, her cake. It was fun, but it would be four more years before I would repeat it. Tia Lilia was Bethy’s godmother. She wasn’t a fairy godmother, but she could do magic with her professional sewing machine. She made a sailor dress for Bethy’s second birthday. About that time, we learned that the baby we were expecting was a girl.


And today is her birthday once again. Happy birthday to my beautiful and wonderful daughter.

The Portugal Years: Year Five – That Crazy Summer of 1983

Bethy and "Tommy" on the day he left to go home.
Bethy and “Tommy” on the day he left to go home.

On June 30th, 1983 we found ourselves catapulted into year five of our Portugal adventure. About mid-summer, one of my former students came to visit us. Tommy (name changed  to protect the guilty) kept the classroom lively for me when I was his teacher.

Once he tried to scam his mother. Tommy failed a Social Studies test on Thursday. He had until Tuesday to get a parental signature that they had seen it. So, he hid his failing test and took his study sheets home. He persuaded his mother to him help him study for the test all weekend.

On Monday afternoon I got a phone call from his frustrated and weeping mother. It mystified  me. She kept saying that she had studied with Tommy all weekend for the test he took that day. I had no idea what she was talking about. I repeated several times that I never gave tests on Mondays. Then the truth struck me. It took me 15 minutes explain to Tommy’s mother and for her to understand  that he had totally scammed her. We will pull a curtain of charity over the succeeding events.

Shortly after Tommy went back to the states, we set up Harry’s “single” bed for Bethy. She was almost two years old, and was going to sleep in a big girl bed. Then, the night terrors began. She woke up in the middle of the night screaming. Harry dashed down the hall certain something horrible had happened to her as she slept.  When she saw her daddy, Bethy told Harry that there were lions in her bed. Harry tried to reassure her, and eventually she went to sleep.

This happened several times a week. I was not a fan of the lions. Finally  Harry, in a moment of inspiration, asked Bethy to show him where the lions were. She pointed to the top of the high headboard. He reached up and  “grabbed” all of those lions. He held them as he ran down the hallway, opened the door and yelled out into the dark of the night: “You are bad lions. You get out of here and don’t scare my Bethy anymore.” After that when she woke up scared he chased the lions again, and she soon grew out of it.

Bethy with her doll on the varanda
Bethy with her doll on the varanda

The Portugal Years: The Fourth Year – The Car

Our Renault 4 - photo taken from the varanda of our apartment.
Our Renault 4 – photo taken from the varanda of our apartment.

While we were in the states, we got permission to raise money for a car. At this point, we lived some distance from team members who had vehicles, and some places Harry needed to go did not have a convenient bus stop nearby. So, he looked around, talked to people and we ended up with a Renault 4. It is bigger on the inside than you might imagine, and it was economical to drive. It had, as did most cars in Portugal, a manual transmission.

I had some experience driving stick shift, but I’d never seen the likes of the Renault 4. The gear shift was on the dashboard! I tried to learn how to shift it, but never really succeeded.

Harry customarily parked on the sidewalk as you see here. It kept the car safer. Across the street was a farm where they grew the best potatoes I have ever in my life eaten. A small river helped with irrigation. It was a wonderful neighborhood, and a great place to live. I loved it.

Bethy loved to help Harry wash the car.
Bethy loved to help Harry wash the car.

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.]