Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Portugal, Matriarchs and Girls, Girls, Girls

I ended up in the states in 1967, when I was eight years old. The only words of English I knew were a few lyrics from a Beatles tune or two. My parents, older brother and I had been living in the U.S. for twenty years when my parents decided to move back to their home country of Portugal. I've visited many times since. My last two visits happened last summer. I went first in June to help my mother Maria, 78, with her recovery from gastric cancer surgery. In the last two years, she's suffered through the loss of my father, open-heart surgery and the recent stomach surgery.

The second visit, In August, my daughters, a.k.a The Girls, came with me to spend quality time with their grandmother, whom they adore. The solace of family and community kept us going. My aunt and cousins and their children visited daily and helped in countless ways that I may never fully be able to thank them for. The number of visitors to my mother's house to give her hope and strength through her recovery seemed endless. Everywhere I went in this busy Portuguese village - the farmers market, the pharmacy, the bakery, the bank, people knew who my girls and I were and that we'd come to take care of my mother. When I gave them a report, they all seemed genuinely interested. They showed empathy and concern and I recieved more sincere good wishes than it was possible for me to accurately pass on to my mother. Offers to help abounded, even from more casual friends. In Portugal, the "good folk" don't send a Hallmark card and call their duty to the ill and elderly, the grieving ,done. They visit and spend time with a neighbor, an old elementary school friend, a co-worker. They do things that matter. Once, when I had too large a load to walk back with to my mother's house from the farmer's market, my favorite produce vendor there insisted on keeping my packages for me and delivering them to the house at the end of her day. When she did, she also brought a bouquet of fresh cut flowers. The next time she was able, she said, she would come for a visit and tea. And she did.

Through all she's endured, our beloved mother, grandmother and recent great-grandmother, is more beautiful, more loving and wiser than she has ever been. She has chosen to remain at home in her own country despite pleas from my brother and me to come live with us and be near four grandchildren and two great-granchildren (my brother's son and his wife have two new babies). Since my visits last summer, I have altogether stopped asking my mother to return to the states. And if you call a place like that home, why would you ever want to leave it ever again?

Girl #1, Maria, Girl #2 & cousin Susana, also a Great Girl

Super Girl #2, age 19 & Snoopy, my aunt's pooch, age unknown

Super Girl #1 - age 20

My mother, Maria, Matriarch Extraordinaire


  1. By the way, if that were MY home I'd want to spend my last years there as well, surrounded by a whole community of caring friends (who spoke my language!)

  2. What a beautiful face she has! I don't blame her for not wanting to leave a place as caring as that.

  3. You had to pick THAT picture of me?! I should hook you up with my collection from that trip- I have some awesome ones. Your post is so sweet and so true. It's one of many reasons why Portugal is one of my favourite places on earth. It really is how society should be, and such an incredibly far cry from the social realm we exist within here in the United States. I swear they call us simply "The States" for a reason. The states themselves are not united, nor are the people who live in them. It's so isolating. We could learn a lesson or two about that.

    I love your blog, sweet Momma, and I can't wait to read more and more and more...
    Alas, once my Postmodern Feminist Theory paper is done, perhaps I can settle in. <3

  4. Dear Girl! Hello! Postmodern Feminism...don't get me started! get me started...we'll talk tomorrow. I miss you and can't wait to have you home, even if it's only for a little while.

    I love that picture of you! You look the picture of Portuguese perfection!


  5. Judy - hi and thanks for stopping by. I read a couple of your more recent posts and I LOVED them! May I add you to my list of blogs?

    Those pictures on the buses were PRICELESS!

    the P.S.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. the cunning runt: you're confusing the hell out of me, boy! What IS up??? lol...maybe you should consider changing your name to The Confouned Runt... just kidding,"real meat-world friend"...hehehhehe


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