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

 

 

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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?