Monday, March 7, 2011


A couple of years ago I ran across a term that was new to me - a Portuguese word saudade. It's one of those "impossible to translate" words that doesn't have a clear or easy definition in English. It's close to nostalgia or melancholy, both of which have Portuguese equivalents, but there's another aspect to it that makes it uniquely Portuguese (though a few other languages have similar expressions). Of the many attempts at definitions on the wikipedia page, the one I like best is "a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist." Emphasis added - it's that last bit that I like best - the feeling of longing for something that no longer exists and yet could not exist, or maybe never really existed.

I've felt saudade several times over the past couple of years - most often in the summers on family vacations that bring up old memories and old echoes of family history. I feel it when I think of my tenuous connection to my Portuguese heritage, and how ever more fragile it is for my children. And I feel it when I think of the loosening connections to the eastern shore, and my mother's family and my old friends.

A couple of weeks ago for some reason I was thinking of how much we document of our modern lives. The blogs, the videos, the 10,000 photos on my computer. But the past is all just memories. If I close my eyes, I can remember the cadence of both my paternal grandparents' accented English. I have a vague feeling that I remember a little of my maternal grandmother's, but almost no memory of what my maternal grandfather sounded like - it's moved just beyond my memory. I do still hear the voice of my mother's sister in my head. Oh, honey, is what I always remember her saying.

A few years ago my parents sent me a self published memoir/recipe book written by a woman who knew my paternal, Portuguese grandparents when they lived in Brunswick, Georgia. My grandfather, who immigrated by himself at age 16 to this country, was a pillar of the Portuguese community there. He welcomed new immigrants, help run the social structure of the community, and it was he who raised the money and traveled to Portugal to bring back the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which is still used for the Blessing of the Fleet on Mother's Day.

My grandfather is the man on the far left in the front. We went to the Blessing of the Fleet once, when I was 10 or 11 and my grandparents were still alive and I don't actually remember much. It was hot. There was a lot of Portuguese spoken, which my brother, mother and I did not understand. It was just a little boring for me and my brother. My grandparents, who followed the shrimp and left Brunswick for Key West in the 1950s, were very proud to be there, and very popular among their old friends.

I believe there is a small plaque in the church that talks about how Our Lady was brought to the US. I believe it may mention my grandfather, but I'm not sure. I think maybe someday I'd like to at least stop by on some family trip, with Elizabeth and Andrew in tow. They will be bored. I will sit in the cool, dark church and light a candle for Our Lady and feel just a little saudade.

The From Left to Write Book Club consists of over 100 bloggers who read books and then write posts inspired by the book (not a review of the book). This month's post was inspired by Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, by Natasha Solomons, a lovely book that was entirely about saudade. As a member of the book club, I was given a free copy of the book, and, because I quickly and eagerly accept free items and was one of the first 20 bloggers to sign up for the book, also a package of Walkers Shortbread. Thank you, publishers. I usually pass along these books to someone else, but I think I'd like to hold onto this one for a little bit. You can borrow it. Or visit your local library or Amazon or better yet a small, quaint local bookshop in the countryside and you won't be disappointed.

Tell me, when do you feel saudade?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Boo-boos and writing

I was going to write today about Andrew's rough week - the falls (seems like every day), the scrapes (last weekend), the fat lip (Wednesday), but then Elizabeth's writing last night captured my attention, too. So first Andrew - this has been a rough week for the little guy. Last Saturday, somehow he tried climbing the wall in our backyard and slipped and scraped up all the knuckles on his left hand, and so he's been sporting impressive scabs. Maybe because of the scabs, he's been pretty focused on his hand as his boo-boo, so even though he's fallen and gotten subsequent extremely minor injuries, if you ask him about his boo-boo he holds out his hand. I kiss it every time he holds it out and one day he asked, Do you love my boo-boo?

The other notable injury occurred when he tripped over the rug in the kitchen and smacked down on his face, giving him a fat upper lip and a crack in his lower lip. Neither seem to bother him at all. He's fallen out of the stroller more times this week than we can count (since he insists on climbing in and out himself), and once fell climbing off a chair, smacking his head on the floor.

I of course scoop him up and he cries hard while I feel around for any injuries. But, tough boy that he is, I'll say, ok, let's calm down - tell mommy what hurts? And he'll calm down and most of the time say, scary! and just need a little comfort from the scary part of the fall. We've learned you have to be precise with your wording - if you try to ask where he fell or what he fell on (trying to figure out what part of him hurts) he just looks at you and says, the floor! (Duh, mommy!) But nothing phases him for too long, and after a quick cuddle he's always right back where he left off.

Last night at dinner Elizabeth had a pad of paper and a pen. One of the issues with her writing struggles has always been that her imagination works much faster than her writing skills could possibly approach. So sometimes, she narrates a story and chicken scratches on the paper while she speeds along in her own world. We were a little alarmed at the start of this story:
Yep, bad boys. Ut oh! But then she started in on the story part, and there is no way I could ever even capture the complexity of her stories, but apparently the boys were henpecked but the farmer was really worried about the foxes but the chickens took care of it and then the bad boys were henpecked some more. That's the vastly abridged version. Or something like it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Elizabeth has struggled on and off in school this year, as she makes the transition to reading and writing. It was rough going in the beginning, but we decided for better or worse, to just power through. And now she loves writing and learning to read and wants to write all the time. She writes lists, she captions photos, she narrates stories, she labels - it's all come together. Well, sort of. There's a long way to go yet.

This is my favorite picture ever I think. It just cracks me up - the detail is great. Can you read it? Translation provided below.

Tell me what
you did on your
snow day?
I had hot
(trailing down the right side) chocolate inside.
And the picture shows her two friends playing outside while she is sitting inside drinking hot chocolate. I don't know what the two friends are doing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - more sleep

(so we left our camera at Rich's parent house and I hadn't uploaded pictures for months, so jsut going through shots that are on my camera - this is the drawer of her nightstand, she must have been rummaging before falling asleep.)