The Portugal Years – Year Two: Winter

chuva

New York City is on the same parallel as Portugal, but the Jet Stream moderates Portugal’s climate. Summer is less humid and hot, and except in the north of Portugal, winter seldom pulls the freezing card. Nevertheless, the cold we did get was a force that drove us to layer on clothing and blankets, and to make as many oven meals as we possibly could.

We had no central heating (or cooling). There was no insulation in our home. It was cold and humid during the rainy season. We seldom saw snow except in photos of the mountains in the north of Portugal. What we got plenty of was rain.  frio_2

The rain arrived some time in October, and took its good old time leaving in April. Usually. Umbrellas were our daily accessories as we waited at bus stops and walked on the wet, cobbled sidewalks. That year, I tried to remember the sun, but by January it seemed like an old wives’ tale.

The weather brooded over my emotions. Seven months before we had committed to parenthood, but parenthood had stood us up. Granted, it had not been a really long wait as waiting goes, but it was a painful one for us.

Twice during those seven months I walked to the pharmacy to verify what I thought was a pregnancy. Twice I walked home with my hopes dashed. I wondered why it seemed that some women had only to think a pregnancy into being. Every pregnant woman that I saw stirred my envy and I dreaded the well meant but frequent question, “Are you pregnant yet?”

On January 20, 1981 Harry thought I should go to the pharmacy yet again. I decided that I was too fragile to do that. So when he got home from work, he borrowed a car and took the little jar to have the contents analyzed. Half an hour later, he burst in the door grinning from ear to ear; Harry had lassoed the stork.

cowboy-lasso

Have you ever waited a long time for something? What was it?

Advertisements

The Portugal Years – Year One: The Summer and the Winter Were the First Year

sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And suddenly, or so it seemed, the year had rolled around to June 30th once again. It had been two eventful years from the time I visited Portugal until our first anniversary. I was comfortably settled with the culture, and could speak well enough to go on with, but my ears…well, the Portuguese words ran past my ears much more quickly than my ears were able to catch them.

Harry, in spite of the landlady’s consternation, had painted the living room. We went to the store to pick a color. I was looking for a very pale peach to lighten up the room. Someone should have warned me. What looked like pale peach on the paint chip became pumpkin pudding on the wall. We lived with it. It made a great conversation starter.

I had become a competent food shopper by listening to and watching the Portuguese women shop. There was fresh produce all year ’round, but winter time was the time for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – and Harry didn’t care much for them. We got through it with a little cheese sauce poured over them and sometimes a hollandaise sauce.

Soccer barged into my life. I learned that Portuguese boys often learned to kick a soccer ball (futebol in Portuguese) before they could walk. And the aficionados of soccer are even more passionate about the sport than baseball fans in America are about going out to the ball game. I did find it much easier to watch than baseball.

My formal language lessons ended, but learning to speak Portuguese would be an ongoing project. Writing in Portuguese is fraught with its own pitfalls. Written Portuguese is much more formally expressed than in conversation, and requires great care in the writing. Another challenge was that two people in our organization were raised in Brazil. Brazilian Portuguese is less formal. Is it any wonder that people who didn’t know me thought I was Brazilian?

And, of course, Harry and I continued to hold a hope in our hearts that our dream would come to pass. We were ready, but the dream was not. We still had Sammi cat and I wasn’t lonely during the day.

Harry took me to a seafood restaurant in Lisbon to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding. He had been saving up for quite some time so he could give me a lobster dinner. It was delicious, and we finished the meal with a performance of Cherries Jubilee.

cherries jubilee

The summer and the winter were the first year. And President Jimmy Carter was finishing his last year in office.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever eaten a flaming dessert?  What do you think you would like about Portugal?

 

The Portugal Adventure – Part 7 – The Long Year – Baby

Christmas was over. The decorations, as always, had come down on January first. My sister’s baby was overdue. She felt clumsy, and desolate. For over nine months, she had nurtured this beloved little life in her own body. But she had agreed to give this child up for adoption to a family. She was told the family could give her baby a good life. Her heart felt first ripped in two and then shredded. She wanted the baby. Someone who would be hers. I don’t know how she got through those days.  Some days we  waited with her at the edge of her pool of despair as she waited to birth a baby that she would never cuddle. Something just did not feel right.

Two weeks past her “due date” in the middle of the night of Tuesday January 16 into Wednesday January 17, my sister got my mom and dad up to take her to the hospital. Those were the days that I could go back to sleep easily, and being superfluous in this part of the adventure, I went back to bed. Wednesday was a school day.

I was up and dressed for school when my parents returned from the hospital. They told me the baby was a boy who weighed about nine pounds. My sister would be coming home in a couple of days. Alone. When she did come home, there was no way to comfort her. She had handed her son over to the couple who wanted to adopt him. She was dejection on an island of abandoned hope.

But unknown to me, she did have one hope. The baby’s father is a kid magnet. He loved my sister and he loved kids; she knew he would fight for his baby. Pennsylvania adoption law requires a signature from both parents before the adoption can be finalized. The baby, who was born on his father’s birthday had an advocate.  A week after my sister walked away from her baby, she was in the lawyer’s office where she picked up her son up to bring him home. baby

On the way home, my brand new nephew  paid a visit to his great grandmother. She held him, loved on him, blessed him and prayed over him. Then, my sister brought him home. And he was beautiful.

The Portugal Adventure – the Long Year Part 5 The Money Mystery

Twenty-Dollar-BillMy teaching salary during the ’78-’79 school year was $6000 before taxes. The average salary nationwide in 1979 was $17,500.00. Yes, I was teaching in a Christian school, and it was considered ministry. Ministry jobs seldom come even close to national averages at the best of times. I chose to live  at home, and paid my parents room and board as well as helping out with odds and ends of things. My mom and I had a deal where I did the cooking and she did the cleaning according to our gifts.

I never really worried much about money in my life. Even on that salary, I had enough for my needs and some to share. I also knew that my wedding would have to happen on a shoestring budget.

Also, I was pretty clueless about wedding planning. Enter, my friend, Karen. She asked me how my wedding plans were coming along. She suggested that now that we had our attendants, we might look for a wedding gown, tuxedos, plan menus, and other mundane details like reserving the church. Karen had known me for at least six years, and so she brought along an appropriate gift: two bridal magazines. My rose colored glasses changed to a more practical color: strictly business blue.

Karen knew then, (as my daughters know now), that I only get into the mood for clothes shopping about every other blue moon. Karen had talked me into buying some clothes before my trip to Portugal the summer of ’78, so she knew she would have to put some muscle into getting me to go wedding shopping. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I set a date with her to go look at and try on wedding gowns. She left me a list of things to do. (sigh)

The next day I grabbed my purse and got ready to go purchase some food to cook a treat for dinner. I made a list of ingredients and put it into my wallet. When I opened my wallet, the $20 that I had put in there after depositing my paycheck was gone. That twenty was approximately a quarter of my income for a week. I made a loud and noisy fuss, but no one owned up.

A few days later, I found a twenty-dollar bill in a shoe under my bed. About that time, my parents found the personal safe in their bedroom closet had been robbed, and the money they had saved up to buy Christmas presents was gone. Dad called the police, and they picked up fingerprints on the penny-loaferssafe. They belonged to  a family member who was living in the house at the time.

Charges were not pressed, and the money was not recovered. My parents were devastated. I was shaken to the core. Before the day was out, I had bought and installed a padlock on my bedroom door. I knew it wouldn’t keep out anyone who was determined to get in, but it might slow them down.

Harry was such a faithful correspondent during this time we were apart. This man who spoke only about ten words on our first date in 1970 now filled pages of words in weekly letters. He took all of my family’s quirks and spasms in his stride, and reassured me that they made no difference to him in our relationship nor in our future marriage together. I knew then that he was a keeper for sure.

The Portugal Adventure – The Long Year

Long-Year--8026After the Portugal Summer

The suitcases from my  trip were unpacked; the clothes washed and put away, and it was time to think about my incoming fourth grade class at the Christian school where I taught. I spent about a week in my classroom organizing and planning. This class was smaller than the previous year’s group. I was soon to learn, though, that what this crowd lacked in numbers, more than a few of them made up for it in misdirected energy. It was the only class that never got a field study trip. There were just some in the class I could not trust to follow instructions.

Old Business

One afternoon I was on the way to my car when a former boyfriend accosted me in the church parking lot. We had dated  when I was in college, but we broke up after a year or so. About a month before I left for Portugal, he asked me if we could hang out sometimes, just as friends. He had, he said, no expectations beyond that. So we had spent a day at Hershey Park before I flew over the ocean. I had not really announced to anyone what I was doing over the summer. I believe I mentioned to him I was going to visit Harry in Portugal.  This encounter, though, he wanted me to consider seeing him with the goal of eventually getting married. Yikes!  There really is no easy way to let someone down gently in a situation like that, though I tried my best. I told him about my trip, and that Harry had asked me to marry him. I showed him my ring. And I am drawing a curtain of charity over the rest of this scene.

The Parents

My mom and dad were still flummoxed by the phone call from Harry when he asked for my dad’s permission to marry me. Mom reacted the way she always did. She bottled it all up inside and said little. Dad was kind of quiet, too. Whenever I crossed through the living room, he was sitting in his recliner in the corner throwing sad puppy eyes at me. I don’t think it ever occurred to them that I would move six time zones away when I got married. I guess they forgot when I was considering going to Bangladesh to teach.

Harry’s family didn’t even know that I had gone to Portugal until I flew home. Harry eventually called them and let them know. They invited me to come visit, and I gladly went to see them. They were still kind of upset that I hadn’t said anything before I left. I had actually tried in my introverted way to start up a conversation with one of the family members before I went, but was misunderstood. Of course, they were sad that they had missed an opportunity to send something to him in my luggage. It never crossed my mind that they’d do that or I might have been more assertive in my approach. I would have been glad to do that for them. The first visit felt a bit awkward to me, but my father-in-law to be broke the ice by telling me I had no idea what I was getting into. (He was right.) …to be continued.              love portugal

(If you missed any of the Portugal posts, and want to follow along, you will find them under the topic, Portugal.)