Hank: What’s for dinner?
Pai: Salad, Tuna Pasta, easy, light, no fuss. Who wants pão (bread)?
Hank: Not me.
Molly: (both arms raised) Pão (bread)!
Me: (walking into the dinning room wrapped in a blanket pulled up and over my head, wearing several sweaters and shivering) Not me.
Hank: Um, mama? You okay?
Me: No, I got cold. I am cold to the depths of my bones and to the core of my being! I have only ever been this cold once before.
Pai: (bringing bread to the table and a cup of hot tea for me) I know where this is going.
Hank: Do I know this story?
Me: Probably not. It was my first Christmas and also my first winter in Portugal. Your papa and I had just gotten back from Spain where someone stole my coat. Twice I have had my coat stolen from my hotel in Andalucía!
Me: I know, so I had only sweaters and a light jacket and we were staying with your Avós (grandparents) by the sea in a summer house of a friend and I had gotten cold earlier in the day and wasn’t able to warm up and then by the evening I was wearing someone else’s coat and practically sitting inside the fire place.
Pai: She was. My mom was worried she would set her coat on fire.
Me: I had studied a semester of Brazilian Portuguese at the university and in a pinch I could Tarzan speak what I needed or wanted, etc., but I really didn’t speak or understand Portuguese at all and while I was sitting by that fire and I wanted to say, “My ass is freezing,” so I was working it out in my brain very slowly.
Hank: O meu rabo é como o gelo. (My butt is like ice)
Me: Exactly, but before I could say the phrase your Avó Alfredo (grandfather) looks me dead in the eye and says, “When I was young and it was this cold we all slept in one bed because we couldn’t afford blankets.”
Pai: And I had to then translate it for your mãe (mom) and as soon as I was done she burst into tears.
Hank: You did?
Me: I did! I just couldn’t handle the cold and after hearing that I just imagined that life and how cold I felt and my emotions overflowed.
Hank: Is it true? Avó Alfredo didn’t have blankets in his house?
Pai: Life was very hard in Alentejo when your Avó was young. Yes, it is true.
Pai: So your mother is sobbing.
Me: Mostly because I was pregnant with you, but we didn’t know it yet.
Hank: Really? I am in this story?
Pai: And she looked at me and said, “In my life I have been poor and I have been hungry, but I have never been cold.”
Hank: In America you have heat everywhere because of snow.
Me: True story.
Pai: So my girlfriend is crying, my dad is confused, my mom is hiding in the kitchen…
Me: Probably in front of the oven to keep warm.
Pai: So I called your Tia Paula (aunt, my BFF) back in America and handed the phone to your mother.
Hank: Oh, that was a good idea.
Me: So I sob into the phone and you have to remember your Tia Paula lived in a Yurt, which is a huge circular tent, for seven years in the woods of Southern Indiana. She knows how to survive the cold and I said, “No matter how many blankets I layer on top of me I can’t get warm.” And she said, “Well, there’s your problem right there. You have to sleep in between the blankets. Make a blanket sandwich. If you sleep with only blankets on top of you the cold air comes in through the mattress.”
Me: “But if you sleep in between the blankets you will warm up!”
Pai: So smart!
Me: And I have been sleeping that way every since through the three months of wet, cold, no heat Portuguese winters.
Hank: I want to sleep like that.
Me: YOU already do.
Hank: (mouth full) Huh?
Me: Both of your mattresses have a blanket wrapped and tucked under your sheets. I keep my babies warm.
Molly: Mais massa! Mais massa, peeeeeeeeees! (more pasta, please)
Hank: It was so cold today we all had to wear our coats all day inside the classroom.
Me: I believe it. The cold crept up on me. I knew it was terrible today, but as I was working the cold seeped into my feet and crawled into my bones and just sat down and refused to leave.
Pai: But your mama will be okay, because I have put a hot water bottle inside of our bed and I have turned on the heater to toast the room and she will drink a hot cup of tea and I will warm her up. That is what husbands do.
Me: (touched) Really?
Pai: Joy, you have been walking around the house, hunched over like that creature teacher from that movie you love.
Me: (pause to translate the reference) Jen’s Master in The Dark Crystal?
Pai: (chewing, nodding)
Hank: Sometimes I have no idea what my parents are talking about and I don’t know if that is normal or weird.
Me: Embrace the weird, Hank, normal is just a setting on the dryer.
Pai: Your blanket is brown and pulled up over your head, your wearing like 25 sweaters giving you a slight haunch, you move slow because of your RA… You deserve a hot water bottle.
Me: (eyed twinkling over at my person, sipping my tea) Hank, you don’t have to understand what we are saying to know that it is full of love. All this is true love.
Hank: Oh, well that I know for sure.