Throwback Thursday – Aerograms: Letters From Portugal

Due to the cost of phone calls, most of our news to family and friends arrived by letters. Aerogrammes helped ease the fiscal burden as well. My wonderful mother-in-law saved a great many of the letters we wrote, and today’s Throwback Thursday features an aerogram sent to the in laws right after we had moved to Loures. Without further ado, I give you, the aerogram.


aerogram 2

aerogram 3

aerogram 4


The Portugal Years – Year Three: The Baby and Her Grands

On the third day after birth, the pediatrician, Dr. Maria Helena Freitas checked Elisabeth and sent us home. I felt  apprehensive. After babysitting for many years, I faced the one child who would be living with me for years on end…sobering thought.

My parents arrived the next day and stayed for a week. Until that point, the only time they had been out of the country were on day trips  to Canada. After a five-hour time difference, and a 7 hour flight, they arrived sleepy and with their heads spinning. But Mom wasted no time honing in on Elisabeth and holding her. Until it was time for the baby to eat.

After reading every bit of information on feeding babies that I could find, I chose to feed Elisabeth the way mothers (or wet nurses) have fed  babies for centuries. The manuals described what  to expect from the baby, and Bethy fell into the category of babies who take so long  to eat that by the time she finished it was time to start over again. My mother was worried that she wasn’t getting enough to eat, and added that she thought that I would get tired of it pretty fast like she did. (I didn’t get tired of it, and Dr. Maria Helena said Bethy was thriving.) But, Mom had plenty of other opportunities to play with Beth.

The next morning my mom offered to make breakfast for Harry. He thanked her and told her what time he needed to leave to catch a bus to get to work on time. Imagine being affected by jet lag while trying to cook oatmeal in a country where you cannot read what is on the label. Furthermore, it’s a strange kitchen and you don’t know where to find the cookware and utensils. On top of all that, you had to figure out the stove. Yeah, Harry did end up having breakfast at a pastelaria in Lisbon. Mom cried.

On Saturday of the week they were there, I took Mom on an outing. After I bathed and fed Elisabeth we left her with the men and set off for the outdoor market. I gave Mom the 50 escudo tour, and we shopped for veggies and other necessities. Mom was boggled by the open market. We carried the groceries home, and two worried men met us at the door. During the 45 minutes we were shopping, they had had to change a dirty diaper, and apparently barely made it through. My dad had changed diapers, but not almost square ones. Harry had never changed one. Between the two of them, though, they got the diaper on her. Not well, but, as they say, good enough for government work.

Beth and Granddad
Bethy and my dad.

The Portugal Years: Rock-a-Bye-Baby, the Waiting Time

The private hospital in Lisbon.
The private hospital in Lisbon

Within two weeks I was certain that the baby was rockin’ and rollin’. Especially right around the time I should have been getting up every morning. It seemed like everyone had a cure for those queasy moments. I settled for a tin of crackers by my side of the bed where I could nibble a few before I had to stand up. By and by it passed and I had more energy. Meanwhile, I started reading all of the books I could find about the upcoming event!

We were amazed and dazed during this prenatal time. We could hardly believe it. We talked about baby names among other things. Harry magnanimously said I could name the baby if it was a girl, and he would name the baby if it was a boy. I let him think that.

Other times we discussed where we would go for prenatal care and the birth. Some of the Americans flew back to the states to have their babies. Some preferred the Red Cross Hospital where the personnel spoke English. Harry felt we would be well taken care of in the Hospital Particular de Lisboa (a privately run hospital as opposed to the national health care clinics). He had me call the hospital and make an appointment.

Doutor Purificação saw us the next week. She scheduled  an ultra sound and determined that the baby would be born around mid-August. We could see the heartbeat clearly, but not much else. Ultra sound was a relatively new diagnostic tool, and fairly primitive at the time.

Portuguese friends and Americans were excited with us. The field director’s wife made a beautifully embroidered maternity dress that was perfect for the summer weather. My parents began to make plans to fly to Portugal after the baby arrived. My Angolan neighbor was concerned that I was too thin and several times brought meals to me. I was still queasy when she brought a squid stew. The tentacles waved at me from the bowl, but I thought I needed to at least try it, and it was fabulous.


Meanwhile, António Figueira was marrying his sweetheart, Ana Maria. So, on April 18th, 1981 so  we rode down to Beja to his the church there. The families had been cooking and baking for days getting read for the festivities. It was an amazing, but tiring day. The weather was warm, and we stopped at a café on the way home. It was the only coffee I drank during the waiting time.


What is the best wedding food you’ve ever eaten?