Over Dinner

conversations with hank

Me: Alright, does everyone have everything they need?

Pai: Looks like it.

Hank: (mouthful, nodding)

Molly: (fists full of black beans, screeching victorious)

Me: Wonderful, bon appetite.

Hank: How was you day, papa?

Pai: I ran around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.

Hank: What?

Pai: It is an expression.

Me: When you kill a chicken, if you don’t hang on to them they run off, sans head.

Hank: Really?

Pai: Yup, hence the expression. I have seen it once and it is not very nice to see.

Hank: So how do you kill a chicken so that it isn’t so messy?

Me: You hang on to their bodies very tight and cut off their heads with a sharp, quick knife or when you are killing many chickens at once you can buy a special metal cone from the agriculture store and that way they are stuck, less scared and you can be a fast as possible so they don’t feel any pain.

Hank: That would be the way I’d do it. Is that they way Tia Alice does it?

Pai: Nope, she hugs them tight and snaps their necks.

Hank: And why do they need a fire-gun when they kill pigs?

Me: Still remember that day, do you?

Hank: Not very much, but I remember the gun.

Me: Well, on the day when you were three and got to hang out with the men slaughtering all the pigs in Alentejo I learned that pigs are covered in hair, like the hair on your arms only thicker and no one likes hair on their bacon so it is best to burn it off.

Hank: How did you not know it was the pig killing day?

Me: I was very new in Portugal and I didn’t speak much Portuguese and I remember your Tia Alice telling me that you couldn’t go over to her house that afternoon because she would be cleaning the tripas (intestines) all day, but that didn’t register with me that they would be killing all of the pigs in the village. So off you went to play and just followed everyone out into the fields and when you came home for lunch you announced that all the pigs were fine because they died very sleepy and happy and that you got to stand behind the man with the flame thrower.

Pai: Bit of a culture shock for your mother, because where she is from meat comes from the supermarket all sliced and packaged.

Me: True Story. A lot of American’s don’t understand that their meat was once an animal because they are so far removed from the source.

Hank: Like Gabe (Hank’s good friend), when he came to visit and went to see Tia’s chickens then didn’t want to eat their eggs we collected, because he said they were too stinky.

Pai: That isn’t because Gabe is American, like you, that is because he is from the city.

Hank: I forget why the pigs were sleepy.

Me: Because the men fed the pigs oranges soaked in aquardente (Portuguese brandy) until they were properly drunk and asleep that way they weren’t scared before they kill them.

Hank: Oh yah.

Me: Garvão (our village in Alentejo) has taught us a lot about life, hasn’t it?

Hank: Mostly about food and family.

Pai: As it should be.


Feira da Afonsina

conversations with hank


Hank: (clinging to me at Feira da Afonsina, our town’s Renaissance Fair)

Me: (With a group of friends trying to socialize) Com licença, amigos (excuse me, friends) Hank, come with me over here. (finding a quiet spot) Every year, Hank… Every single year! You were fine a minute ago. What’s up with you?

Hank: I don’t know.

Me: Are you thirsty?

Hank: I don’t know.

Me: Hungry?

Hank: Mama, I don’t know. Please. Really, I don’t want food. (latched to my legs, panicked)

Me: (taking a breath, getting on his level)

Me: Ok, I hear you. I am sorry I was annoyed. Since you cannot tell me why you are suddenly so upset I will be the parent and make the decisions for you, but I need you to also do your best and trust me. I want you to sit here in this quiet spot and take some deep breaths while I go and get you a cold drink. Then I will tell our friends we need to go and get some food.

Hank: But…

Me: Henrique, you told me you don’t know what is wrong. If you don’t know then you have to let me help you. You have to trust me.

Hank: (on the verge of tears, nodding)

(45 minutes later seated at a long table surrounded by friends, Hank comes up from behind me to give me a huge hug)

Me: (leaning into the hug, soaking it in)

Hank: (whipsers) Thank you, mama. You are my best, mama. You knew what I needed and now I feel fine.

Me: (turning around and giving him a big hug back) Thank you for letting me help you. I am so glad you are better.

Hank: I love you.

Me: I love you, too. Now, go have fun! Afonsina is only once a year.

Hank: (dashing off, wooden sword drawn, a brave little knight)



Decisions, Decisions

conversations with hank

Hank: (looking up from YouTube) Mama, remember when you said that if I could do my new dinner dish chore for a whole month without needing to be asked I could have a new chore to make money?

Me: (looking up from my book) Has it been four weeks already?

Hank: I have 14 euros. That is four weeks of €3.50.

Me: Good math!

Hank: So can I have a new chore?

Me: I have been thinking and I have a chore in mind. This deal is for today only. You say no today and your window of opportunity will close.

Hank: (puzzled)

Me: That means that if you do not say yes to this sweet deal then I will never offer it to you again. You need to be decisive. You will have to accept or reject this offer now… Ready?

Hank: Ready.

Me: I am willing to pay you .50 cêntimos (cents) a day, essentially doubling your €3.50 a week, if at 9pm every night you read until I tell you to stop.

Hank: (even more puzzled)

Me: At 9pm I will ask you what page you are on and then you will sit quietly, alone with no distractions and read until I come in and ask you questions about what you have read.

Hank: (whiny) But I am very tired after I get home from my activities at Gomos (summer program).

Me: I understand this. That is why you will read at 9pm. You get home from Gomos at 5pm. This gives you 4 solid hours to unwind and relax before reading begins.

Hank: (unconvinced)

Me: (getting slightly annoyed) Listen, I understand that you actually enjoy cleaning and organizing things and I could make watering the veranda plants every night your new chore. It is your choice, but just know… You will be reading every day starting next week as a part of your studies. No matter what job you choose when you grow up you will be reading. Reading will be apart of your every single day for as long as you live and the more you read the better you will be. THIS is why getting paid to read is a once in a lifetime opportunity; you can choose to get paid for reading or you can say no and have to read unpaid.

Hank: (uncomfortable) I don’t know.

Me: I get that decision making isn’t you strong suit. When you were a little boy you used to sob if we took you to a toy store with out a plan. Too many options overwhelm you so let me say this one last time. You can choose to be paid to read doubling your weekly pay from €3.50 to €7.00 or you can choose to water the veranda plants, but you will still be reading daily.

Hank: (appearing defeated) I choose reading, but do I get to pick the book?

Me: Of course.

Hank: What time is it?

Me: 9:20

Hank: (leaves room, returns with book) I choose to read Avozinha Gângster (Gangsta Granny) by David Wa – Wa –

Me: Walliams. Good choice. He wrote Mr. Stink.

Hank: I am on page 29. I will go into the living room and read because Molly is sleeping in our room. And you’ll come and get me when I can stop?

Me: I will.

Hank: Ok.

(twenty minutes later)

Me: Hank?

Hank: Mama please, I need more time…

Me: (smiling)