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.
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The Portugal Adventure – The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the Long Year

Recap: A dozen red roses led to a transatlantic flight to the Iberian Peninsula – specifically, Portugal. The flight preceded a cross-continent trip to Germany with Portuguese teens for a week. On the return trip to Portugal, Harry asked me to marry him (well, sort of asked), and I said yes. We left him petitioning my dad for my hand in marriage. If you are just joining us, the first post about Portugal is here.

Santa Justa Elevator

Harry, who was paying for the overseas phone call to my dad, was getting a little antsy by the time Dad let him off the hook reluctantly (and a Dad had a bit of a sulk that he never really got over). That was “canja” compared with the conversation he had with his parents. His family had no idea that he had invited me to visit.

Jewelry Store

Young and in love, we meandered over the remarkable paving stones of the streets of Lisbon. We found our way to jewelers row, the Rua de Ouro, where Harry bought a beautiful ring and put it on my finger. We rode the Santa Justa Elevator, which was built by an apprentice  of Gustave Eiffel – a name you may recognize. The steep hills of Lisbon can present challenges for pedestrians!

The rest of our time together we spent looking into one another’s eyes, walking with our arms around each other and stealing kisses. We talked as folks have always talked at such times where most conversations began “When did you…” and ended with a hug. It seemed like we passed through the streets of Lisbon about half a meter off of the ground. The weather was perfect with sun and temperate breezes. Lisbon was made for lovers.

But at last the flawless summer days came to an end. Harry took me back to the airport, and gave me directions for both when I left Lisbon and when I arrived in New York.  Boarding time came all too quickly for both of us, but I had a 7-hour flight and an airport limousine ride to remember, reflect and recharge.

Upon arriving home, I got a phone call from Harry’s parents. He had neglected to inform them that he had invited me to Portugal. They wanted me to come and visit. I did, and they were most gracious to me. Of course, there was some teasing. My father-in-love to-be warned me about “Skip” as they called him. He cautioned me about what a rogue his son was. I was well accepted – and I got the best in-laws in the world.

By the time the post trip dust settled, it was time for me to get into my classroom and prepare for my last school year I would teach for a while.