This is where I stopped some time ago on The Portugal Adventure, so I will repeat it and will begin with the next installment next time. I had just received flowers. Red roses.
Those beautiful red roses perfumed the house. Mom fidgeted and kept the roses watered. My dad took to sulking in the lounger in the corner and got out his whipped puppy expression. I wrote a brief “bread and butter note.” And I added that they have come on April Fool’s Day and waited.
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 at the time. And teaching requires one’s full attention.
Harry’s reply came in short order. With an explanation. He explained that he had asked that they be delivered 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 the letter, “Love, Harry” And now I had another unanswered question.
Then, Harry began writing with all of the words that he had never used when we dated seven years before. Letters came often, always signed “Love, Harry.” They were filled with anecdotes of life in Portugal. Stories about no electricity and no water for weeks on end abounded. Even a few tales of his co-workers found their way to Pennsylvania.
I started thinking of what to do over the summer. The year before I had driven across the United States with my sister and a friend. That was going to be tough to top!
In early June, Harry’s missive was extraordinarily thin.
After 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.
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.
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.
(If you missed any of the Portugal posts, and want to follow along, you will find them under the topic, Portugal.)