The Portugal Years: Year Four – Oops!

 

Bethy on the veranda with her baby doll.
Bethy on the veranda with her baby doll.

Toddlers! They are endearing, aggravating, interesting and busy small people. It is so important to say what you mean and mean what you say to them; they tend to be pretty literal creatures. One day I was walking down the hallway and she held out her doll for me to hug. I mentioned to her that her doll looked like she needed a bath.  I went on my way to put clothes away. On the return trip down the hall, I heard water running in the bathtub. Bethy was leaning over the edge of the tub preparing to give her doll (a soft stuffed one) a bath. In fact, she had several dolls in there waiting for a baths. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “You told me the baby needed a bath.” Oops!

Bethy loved to play “Catching Bethy” with her daddy. Harry always sat next to the door to catch her when she ran by.  He usually caught her, but a couple of times she overshot her mark and landed on her face. Oops! [See photo above.] It never slowed her down, though.

The door on our flat locked automatically when it closed. It was a great safety feature, but woe to you if you got locked out. One morning around the time I had become visibly pregnant for the second time around, Bethy and I went to the grocery store. She still needed some help climbing the stairway to our home, so left my groceries at the bottom of the stairwell and shepherded Bethy up and into the house. I put her little bag on the counter, and set the keys by it. I told Bethy I would be right back and headed down the steps.

As I climbed up the second time, I heard the door slam shut and Bethy giggling. After I gave her instructions, I confirmed that she was too short to pull the latch. When she realized that I could not get in and she could not get out, she started to cry. Oops!

Fortunately, I had left the shuttered windows off the veranda just slightly open. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to climb up there. Just then, the landlady’s maid came downstairs. She took in the situation and went and borrowed a ladder, climbed up and over the railing, and opened the door for me.

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: 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.

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.

The Portugal Years: The Fourth Year – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Lisbon

Bethy arrived in the states when she was 9 months old, and when we returned to Portugal, she was sixteen months old.  We were traveling with a sixteen-month-old tired walking, talking toddler – still without a seat. And of course, airline policy was if you don’t have a seat you get nothing to eat. We had packed some snacks for Bethy that included crackers, a couple of bananas and juice. Our flight left JFK around seven p.m. EST, and we expected to land in Lisbon near dawn. It was about a seven hour flight. All would be well.

Bethy, to my delight, fell asleep about two hours into our flight. I am always amazed by the people who can sleep on the plane. I can’t. The best I could manage on that long flight was to close my eyes and let my ears do the working. On some level I believed that God was  in charge and would take care of us; but all other levels were on red alert.

The flight attendants served donuts, orange juice and coffee. We could almost smell the familiar aromas of Lisbon. When the captain began to speak on the intercom, we were confident that he was preparing us for landing.

The year was 1983.  Lisbon airport had not yet installed radar at the airport. The Captain’s message was not what I was expecting. He told us that heavy fog engulfed the Lisbon Airport and it was impossible for us to land in Lisbon. Before we could blink, we were on the way to Faro in the south of Portugal where the plane  refueled. The captain called for our attention again. This time, he gave us the news that Lisbon was still out of reach. Then he added that Madrid was clear and we were going there to have a layover there till the fog lifted.

In Madrid, we exited the plane. Then we sat and waited in the terminal and we waited for several hours.  We had one quickly deteriorating  banana left for Bethy and nothing for us. And no money to buy anything. Fortunately, I was still nursing her, and we did have plenty of water to drink.

Eventually, we embarked again and landed in Lisbon about noon. We got in a taxi and headed for home.  It was early to bed that night, and Bethy slept well until 7 a.m. – EST.

Do you have any interesting traveling stories?

fogplane

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.