The Portugal Years: Year Six – Things That Grow

Jade Plants courtesy of blogs.vancouversun.com-
Jade Plants courtesy of blogs.vancouversun.com-

Until  we moved to Florida, I’ve never had trouble taking care of my house plants. We had geraniums on the veranda along with jade plants. They loved the climate and grew to magnificent sizes. I discoverer something on the jade plants that I had never seen in the states: they had tiny flowers blooming in the winter. I had an African violet in the house.

Plants were not the only thing that thrived in our home. Our cat, Fofinha, had been to the vet for an operation. After that she made herself at home, and grew. She made peace with Susie after she got into Susie’s food that I was warming on the stove once; she regretted it afterward.

Eventually, we had a pair of canaries courtesy of my friend who opened her own flower and bird shop. They were Caruso and Kate (short for Kate Smith). Caruso’s song was complex and always lifted my heart. When Kate laid eggs, we loved watching how he fed her so she could feed the chicks.

 

I'm being a good kitty now.
Do I really look like someone who would eat the baby’s food?                                                                                                                                                                                              

Bethy had grown up a lot that year she turned four years old and began to lose her baby looks. Being the big sister sobered her to a degree as well. She worried about Susie’s unpredictable moments. A lot. (And I think she still worries at times.)  Christmas was a familiar friend by then.

Susie didn’t know what Christmas was, but she was ready to party. She clung to her habit of waking me several times a night, and I decided that our family size had reached its limit. Never again. Harry and I had also been growing along side of the girls; it is difficult not to when you have two young children whose needs often required to be dealt with before our own.

Right after Christmas, it was Susie’s first birthday. Of course she had a chocolate cake. She was a proper girl!

Both girls were growing rapidly.
Both girls were growing rapidly.

 

Susie's First Birthday
Susie’s First Birthday

 

 

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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The Portugal Years: The Fourth Year – And Home Again…

What had loomed as an interminable furlough abruptly developed into a frenzied stretch of friends claiming our last few weeks before we left the states.  Where I had been anxious about the prospect of spending six to seven months in my in-laws’ home I had wistful thoughts of their love and support. My father-in-love even helped me beat Harry in Parcheesi.  And, Pai Natal’s bells were ringing (Father Christmas).

We had become accustomed to simple holiday celebrations, and this one….  Loving friends and family kept bringing just one more thing. The moment to begin packing hesitated just around the corner.

The tree tickled the ceiling diffusing holiday cheer; the pile of wrapped gifts grew where curious eyes wandered. Harry lobbied to open the gifts first thing in the morning since he wouldn’t be there for Christmas for a long time. His  mother stood firm. Everyone must eat Christmas dinner before even a corner of a piece of wrapping paper could be breached.

Bethy and her cousin Katy got their first Barbie dolls. Toys, clothes, books and odds and ends of gifts of things that we could not find in Portugal littered the floor. It was fun watching the children’s wonder.

Harry had asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Well, I knew what I wanted, but truly doubted he would be able to buy it. I seldom ask for specific gifts, but when I do, it is always practical and unfailingly a big-ticket item. You see, the mixers available in Portugal were kind of flimsy. I had already taken one down. So, I asked for a Kitchenaid mixer with accessories. I cooked a lot  from scratch. Harry (perhaps with some help) got the mixer for me. Or for himself! In 32 years of hard use, I’ve only had to replace the sieve because blackberry seeds are big and tough.

While Harry was still scratching his head trying to figure out how to pack the mixer in a suitcase, the families of some of our colleagues sent some things for us to take back to Portugal for some of the the other team members. It was a tradition. Happily for us, we both got two suitcases each and carry-ons.

We left on January seventh, Harry’s birthday. His mom and I felt sad that we would be traveling on his special day, so we conspired.  In spite of the pastries  in Portugal, his favorite sweet treat is a Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet. We hid them from him in my carry-on. A quiet word in the flight attendants’ ears sufficed. Right on the dot of 00:01 on January seventh, 1983, the flight attendants cued the other passengers and walked to Harry’s seat singing happy birthday to him.

Courtesy of TastyKake
Courtesy of TastyKake

Some Christmas Photo Memories.

Kitchenaid Mixer
Kitchenaid Mixer
Bethy and her cousin, Katy
Bethy and her cousin, Katy
Aunt Sally reading a book to the girls.
Aunt Sally reading a book to the girls.
Bethy's favorite toy
Bethy’s favorite toy
Aunt Nancy, Bethy and Uncle David Price
Aunt Nancy, Bethy and Uncle David Price
Grandma in the kitchen while Tim and David wash the dishes.
Grandma in the kitchen while Tim and David wash the dishes.

 

 

 

Daddy, Bethy and Aunt Nancy Price Price
Daddy, Bethy and Aunt Nancy Price Price

 

Tim and Harry
Tim and Harry
Cousin James
Cousin James
Little Mary
Little Mary

The Portugal Years – Year Four: As Time Goes By

Summer melted into fall. The leaves danced in glorious colors and the days felt brisk. Sweltering Philadelphia nights accented by the nearby trains passing by gave way to sweaters and light jackets. Soon, hats were de rigueur.

Bethy got steadier on her pins and experimented with slices of cheese as fridge magnets. Of course Elisabeth spent most of that time teething and suffering from congestion. She suffered from congestion much of the time we were there. Bethy charmed her Grandma by looking up at her and sweetly requesting more “jooooce?” (juice) The women from church gave us a splendid toddler shower. Bethy’s wardrobe was complete – until she started to grow again.

On Halloween, Bethy’s uncle carved a pumpkin for her, and she discovered books. We celebrated my grandmother’s birthday, my sister-in-laws birthday, and my mom’s birthday. My mother-in-love  began her fall baking frenzy and Harry was never far away from the kitchen when she was baking. Around Thanksgiving time, Bethy finally got in sync with the time zone.

We visited family and friends, and talked about Portugal. Before we knew it, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and we were hoping for snow for Bethy to play in.

Toddler Shower for Bethy
Toddler Shower for Bethy
Bethy checking out the chair at the shower.
Bethy checking out the chair at the shower.
The bows are more interesting than the clothes.
The bows are more interesting than the clothes.
The party is almost over.
The party is almost over.
My mom's birthday
My mom’s birthday
The reading corner at Harry's mom and dad's house.
The reading corner at Harry’s mom and dad’s house.
Bethy with her "little dickens" face. After all, it's almost Christmas.
Bethy with her “little dickens” face. After all, it’s almost Christmas.

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?

The Portugal Years: Year Three – Bethy’s First Christmas and Other Stories

Bethy's First Christmas (4 months old)
Bethy’s First Christmas (4 months old)

Our Portugal Christmases were always fairly simple and small present-wise. We never felt hard done-by though. ”Things” come and go. Bethy’s giggles at that age made us smile. We had enough.

We lived off of the economy in Portugal (meaning that with few exceptions and as much as possible we lived as the Portuguese lived). Occasionally someone sent some things from the states. I was yearning to have a red velveteen dress for Bethy for Christmas. Right before Christmas one arrived from a dear friend in the states.

She is bundled up almost to the point of being unable to move in the photo. It was cold. Homes did not have central heating, and there were always a few months when it would have come in handy. The houses also had no insulation. We layered clothes on and off as needed. It was the Portuguese way!
Somewhere in the crazy year after Bethy was born, our landlady demanded a raise in rent. We tried to negotiate with her for less than she asked. She was one of the Portuguese who saw dollar signs when dealing with Americans. We probably did have more than most of them. Extortion, however, was not the way to our hearts.

We left Queijas and set up housekeeping in the Municipality of Loures. The grocery and bakery were handy to our new home. Our apartment was on the first floor up just one flight of stairs and we were permitted to use the ground floor garage for storage purposes. Our landlords were kind and lived in the second floor apartment. They had a six-year-old daughter who liked to talk to us. Next door a small family cared for the wife’s aunt. An ancient cathedral brooded at the other end of the street, and across the street was the best perk of the move: a beautiful park within walking distance.

Around that same time we learned that Harry’s youngest sister was getting married in June. And that meant an early furlough in the states. I was not enthusiastic. For me, it wasn’t “home” anymore. I loved where we lived and loved the people among whom we lived.

Early in May, I got a phone call from my mom. My grandfather had suffered a heart attack, and passed away. This is the grandfather who gave us a home during many of my growing up years. He bought me bicycles and built a sandbox for me. He could cook up a heavenly mess of fresh green beans and bacon, and his ‘mater sandwiches fashioned with mayonnaise and freshly picked tomatoes from the garden were summer’s delight. Unfortunately, he also had a bad habit of being very inappropriate with ladies old and young. The older ladies could duck and blow off the attention which he felt entitled to dole out. My sister and I, however, were unable to defend ourselves.

All of the conflicting emotions drove me to pick up my daughter and a blanket and go sit in the park with the other nursing mothers. At least, I thought at the end of the day, my daughter was safe from his unwanted attention. In two weeks, we would be on a jet heading west.

A Merry Portuguese Christmas

Harry and I have many happy holiday memories from our Portuguese Adventure. For me, though, our second Christmas stands out over all the others. We were members of the Igreja Evangélica de Algés at the time. Although Americans attended there, it was totally Portuguese in tradition and the congregation was amazing. Irmão Fernando Resina was one of the teaching elders. Our second Christmas in Portugal he and his wife invited us to eat supper with their family on Christmas Eve.

The adventure began when I asked Harry what time we would need to be there. He said, “Around 9:30 p.m.” I’ve always been a morning lark, and that made me blink. But, such a delightful invitation, offered in love was irresistible.

Before we left home on Christmas Eve, we had a snack around 6 p.m., and began to get ready to go. We borrowed the ministry van since it would be too late after supper to find public transportation. In addition, my tummy was feeling like I was coming down with the flu.

We arrived around 9:30, right on time, but the party had not begun. (Later I learned that it in Portugal, generally “on time” can be up to 45 minutes after the hour of the invitation. The Resina children had put their boots by the stove for Pai Natal (Father Christmas) to put presents in at midnight. The tree was beautifully decorated.  I learned that evening that, in general, Evangelical Christians had trees and Pai Natal who brought gifts;  Catholic Christians had manger scenes, and the Christ Child brought the gifts.

prespio

Bacalhau Cozido

Around 10:30 p.m., our hostess called us to the table. There was the traditional Bacalhau Cozido (boiled codfish).  That included salted cod fish, reconstituted and boiled. There was cabbage, boiled potatoes, and broccoli on the side. It was my first Bacalhau Cozido, and I really enjoyed it. As we finished the bacalhau, family members began clearing the table. I was comfortably full, and it was around 11 p.m.

Galo assado

To my surprise, there was another course; the galo assado, a roasted fowl that had once upon a time crowed at sunrise. Salad, and homemade potato chips accompanied it. I had slowed down on eating, feeling fine and was hoping the flu had given up on me.

Following the fowl, bowls of canja (chicken soup) appeared on the table. It was delicious, but I couldn’t eat much.  I was hoping that no one would be offended by my waning enthusiasm for food.

Bolo Rei

And there was more. We were directed to the dessert table. It was smothered with attractive sweets from rice pudding to Bolo Rei (King Cake). I’d never seen so many kinds of different pastries and puddings in my life. I nibbled a little here and there, and they were amazing. It was truly a feast fit to honor the King of kings. And no unhappy tummy all night.

Around midnight the children got their boots, and opened their presents. Food, fun and fellowship ran riot that night. Soon after midnight, we got into the van and drove back across town to our neighborhood.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all of you. I look forward to sharing more about Portugal and our time there in January. 

The Portugal Years – The First Year: Festas dos Santos Populare (Popular Saint’s Festivals)

festas

Each year, in the month of June, Portuguese cities and villages enjoy a two-week long “block” party. The parties go on long into the night and feature processions, music, singing, dancing and grilled sardines. In contrast to Carnaval, these two weeks are dedicated by the Catholic Church (remember that a large percentage of Portuguese are Catholic) to three beloved saints; namely Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint John, the Baptist and Saint Peter, the Fisherman.

santo-antonio

Saint Anthony was born in Portugal, and became a Franciscan monk.  He traveled to Italy and made his home in Padua. St. Anthony is the saint of lost things (including people and souls), and and also of newly weds (perhaps because newly weds are lost – maybe because they are lost to everyone but their spouse? – I don’t know. He was named a Doctor of the Church for his ability to clearly teach the Bible. He is often portrayed with a the Christ Child, who is believed to have appeared to St. Anthony. His feast day is June 13, the day he died. St. Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon as well as of other towns.

Saint John the Baptist

John the Baptist’s feast day is recognized on June 24th, his birthday. (Note: most saints are recognized on the day they died. Only John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus, are recognized on their assumed birthdays.) It is close to the summer solstice and you may notice many church festivals coincided with pagan customs. In addition to being the forerunner of Christ, he is considered the patron saint of tailors (he made his own clothing in the desert) and of shepherds (he called Jesus the Lamb of God).

St_PeterOn June 29th, the Portuguese celebrate the feast day of St. Peter, the Fisherman. Being a sea-faring folk and fishermenl, they go all out for this saint with music and dancing. He is considered patron saint to a long list of people including bakers and the the Universal Church. (If you want a full list, you can go here. It’s interesting to read.) When St. Peter was condemned to be crucified, legend tells us that he asked to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Okay, readers, why do you think that St. Peter is so popular? Would you want to have a chat with any of these saints?