The Portugal Adventure – Into the Wild Blue Yonder

I looked at the thin envelope. Good news or bad? Was he going to dump me? Then I tore it open.

That undersized missive felt ominous as I opened the letter. Then I saw the rest of the story. The Portugal team was taking a group of teens to Germany for camp. Adult would driving the teens in vans and all of us would do some sightseeing along the way. Then he asked me the life changing question: would I come along on the road trip? Harry  would pay for my food and lodging.  If I could buy my airline tickets. It was my turn to have no words. I had a feeling, though, that we might be getting closer to the answers to my questions.

But now I had another question. Could I pay for the flight? Christian schools do not, on the whole, have money to throw about and I was certain that the airline would not take my word that I would pay when I had the money.  Reluctantly, I prepared to write a letter to tell Harry the sad news.

Then, my dad with puppy eyes in place, offered to buy my ticket. I was to pay him back when school started back up in the fall. So, I was left without excuse.

A travel agency in town 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, so I reserved an airport limo. Suitcases were procured and a good friend helped me shop for the gaps in my wardrobe.

Somehow I managed to keep both feet on the ground. At least until the day of departure. When the airport limo arrived it looked suspiciously like a van. But, we arrived at Kennedy Airport with time to spare. The direct flight to Portugal left in the early evening and I had adequate time to ponder Harry’s last letter.

The detailed information he had painstakingly written was astonishing. Customs had been carefully detailed. He could not come in to the airport and help me get through, but his directions lacked nothing. He added that I should try to sleep on the plane, because it would be a long day after I landed. Right. He signed the note simply, “I love you.” Given our history, I wasn’t sure what that meant.

The flight was about seven hours, and we were circling over Lisbon by 7 a.m. I peered out the window. The sun slipped over the horizon and bathed the city in red-gold beams.

Harry’s instructions were perfect. I passed through customs like a seasoned traveler. Before I could panic, he walked in the door. He beamed as he walked over to me, reached out his arm, and shook my hand.

Lisbon sunrise

Advertisements

The Portugal Years: Year Three – The Journey, the Wedding and the Housing

The Journey

We faced a seven month absence from our home and friends. This trip felt like an unending challenge. It was not a solo flight, nor a flight for two; it was a transatlantic voyage with an infant. Wearing cloth diapers. And she would have no seat. For at least seven hours. (This was not including getting through customs on both end and the long road to Philadelphia). Another couple would be staying in our house while we were gone, and I was uncomfortable about that. Then, before we could leave, we had to find a place to board our Samantha cat. It would not have been my first choice, or any choice at all. She loved me and trusted me, and I was leaving for what would be, for her, an eternity.

The flight was better than I expected. Bethy was eating food, but was still nursing, so she had food and comfort for the trip. In fact, some of the adults on the plane were more trouble than she was. Harry and I took turns holding her. We watched the inflight movie – Back to the Future.

We left Portugal around 10 a.m. and arrived in Kennedy Airport in the early afternoon (about 5 p.m. Portugal time). Our journey ended up at my grandmother’s house where my parents had installed themselves to care for her after my grandfather’s death in May. All of our luggage was shlepped up the narrow attic stairway into the makeshift bedroom that my grandfather put together for my parents many years before. It had no plumbing, but it had a crib. Fortunately, we would be there only a couple of weeks. After the wedding, we moved.

Elisabeth meets three of her cousins: left, James and Mary, right Amber and Bethy
Elisabeth meets three of her cousins: left, James and Mary, left and Amber and Bethy on right, June 1982.

The Wedding

We arrived during the mad dash to the Big Day of Harry’s Sister’s Wedding. They whisked me to the bridal shop for a fitting  for the bridesmaid gown. After a few adjustments for width and length, we dashed off to whatever was next. The Wedding on June 17 was the same day that Harry’s parents married . Bethy’s Aunt Sally made matching dresses for Bethy and her own daughter, Katy. Suddenly, it was the night before the day, and we found ourselves at the rehearsal dinner. Then we went to the rehearsal, where there was the requisite amount of carrying on. followed the next day by the wedding.

The Housing

After the wedding, with the bride being gone, we shlepped our luggage downstairs and then up into second floor of Harry’s parent’s home into what had been his sister’s bedroom. Living with one’s in-laws might be intimidating. Happily for us, mine have always treated me as one of their own. In fact, I preferred staying with them. Which was a good thing; we had another six months in the states.

The big aggravation was that crazy jet lag. Elisabeth was waking up at 8 a.m. – Portugal time. That was, in American time, about 2 a.m. Eventually, she changed her sleep pattern, but had begun teething in earnest. Everyone who knew us wanted to hold the baby, (even when she was drooling). Sometimes she just wanted Mommy.

We had culture shock in reverse. During the few years we had been in Portugal, I had forgotten how Americans rushed around in such a hurry. We were homesick for Portugal. On the bright side, we had time to visit friends and families that  the cost of phone calls prohibited. And everyone was encouraging Bethy to walk.

And the summer and the winter were the third year.