The Portugal Years: The Fourth Year – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Lisbon

Bethy arrived in the states when she was 9 months old, and when we returned to Portugal, she was sixteen months old.  We were traveling with a sixteen-month-old tired walking, talking toddler – still without a seat. And of course, airline policy was if you don’t have a seat you get nothing to eat. We had packed some snacks for Bethy that included crackers, a couple of bananas and juice. Our flight left JFK around seven p.m. EST, and we expected to land in Lisbon near dawn. It was about a seven hour flight. All would be well.

Bethy, to my delight, fell asleep about two hours into our flight. I am always amazed by the people who can sleep on the plane. I can’t. The best I could manage on that long flight was to close my eyes and let my ears do the working. On some level I believed that God was  in charge and would take care of us; but all other levels were on red alert.

The flight attendants served donuts, orange juice and coffee. We could almost smell the familiar aromas of Lisbon. When the captain began to speak on the intercom, we were confident that he was preparing us for landing.

The year was 1983.  Lisbon airport had not yet installed radar at the airport. The Captain’s message was not what I was expecting. He told us that heavy fog engulfed the Lisbon Airport and it was impossible for us to land in Lisbon. Before we could blink, we were on the way to Faro in the south of Portugal where the plane  refueled. The captain called for our attention again. This time, he gave us the news that Lisbon was still out of reach. Then he added that Madrid was clear and we were going there to have a layover there till the fog lifted.

In Madrid, we exited the plane. Then we sat and waited in the terminal and we waited for several hours.  We had one quickly deteriorating  banana left for Bethy and nothing for us. And no money to buy anything. Fortunately, I was still nursing her, and we did have plenty of water to drink.

Eventually, we embarked again and landed in Lisbon about noon. We got in a taxi and headed for home.  It was early to bed that night, and Bethy slept well until 7 a.m. – EST.

Do you have any interesting traveling stories?

fogplane

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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.