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.)

The Portugal Adventure – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Lisbon

 (The first post of this story is here)

 The Plain in Spain

We began our last leg of the journey back to Lisbon, Portugal. The sky was blue, the temperature was warm (as behooves the plain in Spain in summer), and I was thoughtful. The van was humming along in a south-westerly direction. I had a ticket to that would take me to Kennedy Airport in New York, and I was scheduled to fly due west in two days. Would he, or wouldn’t he? I wasn’t sure that Harry himself knew at that point.

Don’t Wake Sleepy Teens

 The Portuguese teens, who occupied the back of the van, were talking and joking as we rode. At some point along the way, they became quieter. When silence reigned, I turned around to look at them, and they were all sound asleep. 

Harry and I began a conversation about “back in the day.” The memories made us smile as the miles flew by. We talked about the long silence (seven years) in our friendship, and the time we passed on the street in Philadelphia where we both attended college after a long pause in our friendship. I came to the conclusion (for about the fiftieth time) that I would be content no matter what.

And. Then. It. Happened.

There was a pleasant lull in the conversation. Then, Harry suddenly gripped the steering wheel, sat up straight, and said, “Oh, Susan, if I could marry you tomorrow, I would.” I sat there, thunderstruck. I wondered if I had heard him correctly. Then I began to wonder exactly what that meant? Was it a proposal? Was it a goodbye-sorry-it-didn’t-work-out? Was it meant as a question? And if it was, what was the appropriate response? Finally, I managed to squeak, “I would like that.”

I looked over at Harry, and he was grinning from ear to ear (still with eyes on the road – you durst not take your eyes off the road in Europe). Then, until we stopped for lunch, we talked and talked of “shoes, and ships, and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings.”

At the lunch stop, Harry announced that we were engaged to be married. Almost no one was surprised, but his roommate was worried that we didn’t know one another well enough. Really? We had known each other from when we were wee tads. (The roommate, one year later, went back to the states and married a woman he’d known for only two months.)

Before we reached Lisbon, we had settled on a wedding date, and discussed having me stay another week so we could begin making plans. One of Harry’s plans was to put a ring on my finger before I left Portugal.

The Transatlantic Phone Call

 In due course, we arrived in Lisbon. It was too late to call the states when we got home, but the next day, Harry manned up and called my dad. Transatlantic phone calls were pricey back in the day – and no cell phones. Harry successfully connected to my home phone in Pennsylvania. It was a tense conversation. Harry navigated the greetings, then got down to business. I heard him say he had called to ask my dad if he could marry me. Dead silence on the other end for at least a minute. Wait for it. Dad:  “How soon do you want an answer.”

The Portugal Adventure – Inquiring Minds Want to Know !

Stopped on the Autobahn

I’m fairly certain that the German chickens were still asleep the day we boarded our vehicles and turned southward to the Iberian Peninsula. We were heading right out of Germany on the Autobahn. You can go pretty doggone fast on the Autobahn, and it’s legal. The only thing holding you back is how fast your car can go. Or, whether or not your vehicle gets a flat tire.

Yep, it’s a flat tire!

Stopping on the Autobahn is discouraged by law. (See the link above,) But, driving with a flat tire on a road that has a top speed of 240 Kilometers per hour (150 mph) would be frowned upon.

How long will it take?

Everyone exited the van and removed all of the luggage so they could access the spare tire Then, we waited. And, waited.

When we got back on the road again, we headed for the Swiss border. We began to zip through Switzerland on a toll road. The trouble began when we arrived at the first toll booth where the legal tender was the Swiss franc. The toll collector spoke French, Italian, and German. Harry spoke English, Portuguese, and had studied (and forgotten) French and Latin in high school. Since we came in from Germany, the collector tried talking to us in German. Harry then tried English, and Portuguese without success. As seems to be the custom in these situations, both parties tried speaking his native language with increasing volume in the vain hope that louder will be more comprehensible.

Then, Harry remembered that I had studied German in high school, and asked if I could help. Put on the spot like that, I was certain I would not remember anything useful. I mean, I remembered a song about Augustine and the chorus had a lot of ja, ja, ja, ja! in it. But, then it happened. A couple of German phrases came running to our rescue, and were modified for the occasion. “Wir haben keine Schweizer Franken. Wir haben Deutsch Mark.” (We have no Swiss francs. We have German Marks.) That proved to be a negotiable proposition, and we were soon back on the road.

We arrived at the Bible Institute in Barcelona late at night and spent the night there. I stayed again with one of the American missionary families. I was so tired, I forgot to lock the bathroom door when I was bathing. Suddenly, the doorknob rattled, and the missionaries’ two-year-old son came wandering in to have a conversation with me. I ducked down below “see” level, asked him to stay in the doorway, and enjoyed a lovely (loud) chat with him until his mother heard us and fetched him out.

Sunbathing on the Mediterranean Sea
By the sea

The next day we went to the beach. The one on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s funny, you know? You study about all of these things in school, but it’s an imaginary excursion at the time. When you are standing in front of, and swimming in the sea that has touched so many nations down through history, the reality of it is almost overwhelming. One of our Portuguese chaperones proposed taking a picture of Harry and me together in that historic location. We stood, side by side, smiling and waiting for him to snap it. Then he looked over the top of the camera, and told us to stand closer. He checked the camera, and  looked over again. This time he instructed Harry to put his arm around me. Isn’t he adorable? Does he look bashful to you?

The next morning my hostess grabbed my arm as we were getting ready to leave. She took me aside, and asked me, “What is going on with you and Harry?” I told her, “I have NO idea what is going on.”

Next week: the plains in Spain again.

If you are reading this story for the first time, you will find the first post here, and there are links from each post to the next. The next post is here.

The Portugal Adventure – Beautiful Bavaria: The Waiting Lady

The days melted away like a snow cone in summer. There were plenty of things to do at camp when we weren’t sight-seeing. Harry was busy, and though we talked as often as possible, by the last day at camp I still hadn’t heard the words that I was waiting to hear.

On that day, we read a devotional together, and prayed. Then, we talked. Harry said that he sure would like to date me. I responded enthusiastically. He then said, “It would be pretty hard to date with you in the states, and me in Portugal. I felt rebuffed.

What did he mean by that? I was on tenterhooks all day. Every time I added everything up, it did not seem like it should have been a “goodbye, nice to know you.” But it felt like it.

In the afternoon, I wandered around the campground watching the various activities. The castles were on Lake Starnberg, and some of the campers went swimming. Though it was August, the air was too cold in Bavaria for me to want to test the waters!

Lake Starnberg

Some campers played tennis.

Others played volleyball.

Harry and I went to see the sunset on Lake Starnberg.


There were swans.

We took pictures of each other.

Then, we went to get ready for the closing night banquet. Never ever tell me that it takes women longer than men to get ready. I was dressed up, and ready awhile before Harry appeared.

All of my dorm mates asked on a regular basis what was going on with Harry and me. I told them I would like to know that answer to that question, too. That evening, when I was getting ready, they asked again. Remembering the remark of the morning that I did not understand at all, I burst into tears. They gathered around me, and helped me with my hair and makeup, and were so affirming and encouraging that I was able to face the evening with a smile.

Harry appeared in his Portuguese suit. If he wasn’t so tall, he could have passed for a Portuguese man any day of the week. I searched his face, but he wasn’t giving away anything as far as I could tell.

The banquet food was delicious, and I enjoyed our last dinner in Bavaria. The next day, we would begin our journey south back to Portugal.

What would come next?

…and the lady waited…

The next post is here.

The first part of this story may be read here.

The Portugal Adventure – Beautiful Bavaria: Linderhof Castle

Linderhof Castle,  Bavaria, Germany
Ludwig II

The last of the sight-seeing trips we made in Germany was to a castle. Bavaria has some beautiful castles and palaces, and Linderhof has to be one of the prettiest. Ludwig II built it to be his “hunting lodge.” Built in a secluded area, it was the only castle that Ludwig actually finished. He completed it in 1878, eight years before he died. It is small, but lavishly appointed.

I loved walking through part of Bavaria’s history. School history textbooks can be so dry and boring. If one picture is worth a thousand words, being there is worth an entire volume of words. 

Dining room

Ludwig II acceded to the throne at 18 years of age. He knew next to nothing about politics or even about life, though he was popular with the ladies.  Ludwig was a a shy man who valued his privacy, and his solitude. While he was alive, no strangers were permitted in his castles. He even had a kind of dumb waiter made so that he did not have to see his servants; the entire table went down into the kitchen where it was filled with food and sent back up to the dining room.

Ludwig reigned  during the “German War,” during which his uncle, King of Prussia, conquered Austria and Bavaria and they became his vassals. This triggered his need to have a “fairy tale” life where he was ruler over all he surveyed. In fact, he overspent on his various dwellings, and was being dunned by foreign banks for their money before his death.

The Grotto

One of Ludwig’s fantasy projects was his grotto. He built a lake inside of it, and had a boat shaped like a shell from which he, an audience of one, enjoyed performances of Wagner’s works. Ludwig had brought Wagner to Munich in 1864 when he became king. By 1865, Wagner had gotten into trouble with the government with his anti-semitic remarks, and had to leave.

King Ludwig was religious, and felt keenly the weight of sin in himself. He had an ongoing fight within himself to be free of sin, and to be pure before God. In his castle Neuschwanstein, renamed the Castle of the Holy Grail, he designated the throne room The Hall of the Holy Grail as a reminder of the mystery of salvation for the world.

One of my favorite rooms in the castle is the famous Hall of Mirrors. When you stand there, it seems as if that room goes on into infinity.

The Peacock Room, and the king’s bedroom are two other places that tourists find interesting. You can take a virtual tour of these two rooms without having to fly to Germany.

The King’s Bedroom

The Peacock Room

Our week in Bavaria was going by quickly. We kept busy, but I did wonder from time to time if . . . .

Link to the first Portugal Adventure

Link to the next Portugal Adventure

The Portugal Adventure – Into the Wild, Blue Yonder

(Disclaimer: this is by way of being a memoir. After 33 years, memories tend to get a little fuzzy around the edges. If you notice something that you remember differently from me, please don’t disillusion me. Thank you. 🙂 )

(If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here: one and two.)

Any hesitation in making a decision to fly to Portugal in the summer of 1978 lay in the necessary financial commitment on my end. VISA credit cards were still somewhat of a novelty, and I was certain that the airline would not accept my Strawbridge’s credit card. When you make around $6000 per year (before taxes), even in 1978 the necessary expenditure was an impossible commitment. I nearly had to say “No.” Then, my dad stepped in and offered to lend me enough to supplement my budget. He said that I could pay him back when school started back up in the fall.

I went to a travel agency in town which took care of my passport photo, and my travel arrangements. I had never flown anywhere on my own, and was all in a dither getting things together. No one wanted to drive me to New York City, (go figure) so I reserved space in an airport limo.

In late June, or early July my whole family spent two weeks at the beach. Someone my dad worked with had a cottage on Fenwick Island, Delaware. We had been going for several summers. Our routine included cooking meals ahead, and keeping it simple when we were at the cottage. Another ritual included my mom putting together a jig-saw puzzle, and my oldest brother taking one of the pieces and hiding it. My oldest brother had joined the army by that summer, so someone else had to carry on that tradition. I can’t quite recall who it was. 😉 Mostly, we just kicked back and enjoyed sun, surf, and sleep. We kept the possibility of one more family member missing by the next summer in the back of our minds.

TWA Flight Center

Somehow I managed to keep both feet on the ground until the day of departure. The sad puppy eyes that my dad used when he looked at me might have helped that. When the airport limo arrived, it looked nothing like what I had pictured. But, the driver did his job well, and we arrived with time to spare before I needed to board the plane.

The direct flight to Portugal left in the early evening. As we queued up for takeoff, I had time to ponder Harry’s last letter. It was full of the detailed information I needed to get through the airport, and customs. He could not come in and help me get through, but his directions lacked nothing. When I got to the exit, he wrote, he would be waiting for me. He added that I should try to sleep on the plane, because it would be a long day after I landed. Right. At the end of the letter before his signature, he wrote: “I love you” with no further explanation. That pretty well freaked me out. But not enough to keep me from going.

Lisbon at sunrise

The flight was about seven hours. I wasn’t thrilled about being in a jet hovering between sky and water for seven hours, let alone doing that while trying to sleep, but I tried. I passed the hours reading, thinking, watching the inflight movie, and eating. Shortly after our on-board continental breakfast, the sun came up over the horizon, and we were circling over Lisbon. It was about 7 a.m. Lisbon time.

Even though I knew no Portuguese, Harry’s instructions were clear, and I had no problems. I was a little stressed when I didn’t see him immediately upon passing through customs, but it was only a short moment before he walked in the door with a big smile on his face. He walked over to me, reached out his arm, and shook my hand.

Next installment: here

The Portugal Adventure – My Laddie Lies Over the Ocean

(Disclaimer: this is by way of being a memoir. After 33 years, memories tend to get a little fuzzy around the edges. If you notice something that you remember differently from me, please don’t disillusion me. Thank you. 🙂 )

(If you missed part one, you can read it here.)

Oddly enough, at age 25, I was not looking for a romantic relationship. I had been disillusioned by the dating game, and was content with my job at the Christian school. My delightful fourth grade students (27 that year) were more than adequate substitutes for having children of my own. I had some friends with whom I could hang out, and was mostly independent. Yeah, well, I still lived in my parent’s home. With my gross salary around $6,000 per year, it was a viable option. And yet, those beautiful red roses perfumed the house even as I resisted their implication.

On Monday, I took a rose or two and put them in a vase on my desk. The students noticed and asked questions, of course. But there was little to say about them at the time. Full time teaching leaves little time for daydreaming and speculation.

I wrote a letter to Harry thanking him for the roses, and told him  that they were beautiful. Then, I added that they had arrived on April Fool’s Day, and waited.

Email was not widely used at that time, so our correspondence always went snail mail. Air mail, to be more exact. Harry’s  reply came in short order. He was, in fact, a tad miffed with whoever was responsible for delivering the roses on April first. He explained that he had asked that they be delivered a week earlier, for Easter. On March twenty-fifth. It was an explanation that didn’t answer my real question. But, then, I hadn’t asked my real question. He had signed off on the letter, “Love, Harry” — for the first time. So, then I had two questions. Given that the whole of my senior year in high school when we were dating, Harry had not used more than maybe 250 of his words at most over the course of the year, I might have made an educated guess. But, I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to know the answers.

School is over, oh! what fun!

 Anyone who teaches (or has taught) school knows that once April Fool’s Day is past, the school year runs down to the end in a blink. Achievement tests are added to report cards. Students are already feeling the euphoria that the freedom of summer will bring; it all contributes to the general mayhem.

Harry began writing more frequently, and always signed his letters: “Love, Harry.” I enjoyed hearing about life in Portugal, and continued to reply to his letters. They seemed to be coming more often. Sometimes I’d wonder where he had been keeping all of those words the year that we dated. Occasionally I’d catch my dad looking at me in a forlorn tone of “voice.” After the roses arrived, he, at any rate, had no doubts whatsoever about what Harry meant! And he was feeling a bit depressed about the whole thing.

In early June, I opened a very thin, light envelope with a letter from Harry in it. He wrote that the missions team would be taking a group of Portuguese teens to Germany for camp, and asked me to come along. He said that he would pay my expenses while I was there, and asked me if I could buy my airline tickets. (His salary was also bare bones.) It was my turn to have no words. But I had the feeling we might be getting closer to the answers to my questions.

Next installment: here