My favorite panel of  tiles at the São Bento Train Station in Porto.

My favorite panel of tiles at the São Bento Train Station in Porto.


Hank: (sitting opposite my on the train home from Porto waiting for departure) This was just the best day. Just the best.

Me: (getting settled for the hour+ train ride home) Buddy, I am so glad.

Hank: I just loved this day so much and I know I sometimes have a bad attitude or get sassy and try and tell you I hate my life, but I don’t, I love my life and I love days like this so much.

Me: Thank you so much for saying so.

Hank: I appreciate so much that you took your afternoon to come with me to Porto Editora (where Hank does voiceover work). Today was really fun and all the people there were great and I wasn’t nervous at all and then buying me a iced mint mocha on the way home AND a trip into Tiger! I mean, I think Tiger is my favorite store and I just had so much fun browsing, no THE WHOLE DAY was fun, from school to  having lunch on the train to Porto and talking with the family who shared our seat section! Just the whole day (sigh), thank you, mom.

Me: It was my absolute pleasure.

Hank: OH! And I almost forgot! How was your time in Porto while we worked? Did you have fun with Kylie’s mom.

Me: Who’s name is Rebecca and yes we did, indeed. We went on a bit of a walkabout and found simply the coolest artsy-fartsy Central Commercial with these gigantic sweet gum trees in the courtyard and tons of cool shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back there. I think it will be my new go-to spot for lunch with friends.

Hank: So we both had the best day?

Me: Yes, I think that is a fair assessment.

Hank: I love that. I am so happy. I am going to remember this day the next time I hate everything.

Me: Life is a mix of ebb and flow, pal. You need a variety of challenges to teach you prospective.

Hank: (digging his headphones out of his bag) Really good motivational advice, mom. You should really consider writing this conversation down for the blog.

Me: (chuckles) Thanks for the suggestion.

Hank: Now, if it’s okay with you I’d like to listen to some music and relax. Are you okay? If you need me I can keep talking with you.

Me: Dive right in, buddy.

Hank: Thanks, mom.

Me: (grinning at his reflection in the window as we pull into the tunnel that leads us out of São Bento train station and towards home.


The True Value of a Gift

conversations with hank


Hank: (coming to the dinner table with a new-to-him camera around his neck)

Pai: Filho (son), I love your enthusiasm, but you are absolutely not allowed to eat dinner with your camera around your neck.

Hank: Oh, I won’t! I’m still shook. I seriously can’t believe this day was real. Did you know, mom?

Me: I had no idea. I knew Alice was stopping by because she had brought me a few things from The States, but the camera was an amazing surprise.

Pai: You will have to fill me in, because I was not in the room and then I had to leave for a meeting.

Hank: I was walking around with Manny (Alice’s one year old toddler) in the hallway and I came back in the living room and mom was already crying.

Me: I cannot help it! My happiness is tied to my tear ducts.

Pai: We know; it’s genetic.

Me: When Hank and Manny left the room Alice digs into her bag and says, “Oh yah, I wanted to ask you if it was fine before I offered, but I got a new camer and I wanted to give this one to Hank if it’s okay,” and she pulls out…

Hank: THIS! (holding up the camera still around his neck)

Me: And I just bumble and nod and obviously start crying and then…

Hank: I walk in the room and Alice says some very nice things about the photos I take and hands me the camera and asks if I want it and I just, I don’t even remember what I said…

Me: Besides, “thank you.”

Hank: I mean, of course I said thank you a lot, but I was just shook, completely shook. I still am.

Pai: Instead of being shook be honored that someone believes in supporting your talent and interests.

Me: What a special day.

Hank: I will never forget this day! It’s like when the woman from Crayola

Me: (beaming) Julie.

Hank: Yes, It’s like when Julie sent our Robin’s Egg Blue crayons and then all those other art supplies. I feel like that day. I feel special.

Pai: It is the same gesture.

Me: When you give someone the tools to further pursue a passion it is a gift for both people, the giver and the receiver.

Hank: I mean this camera, I looked up what it cost, new and used…

Me: OP-BAH-BAP-BAP BAP-Bup! (shaking my head no)

Pai: Don’t do that, Hank. The value of a gift is not in its intrinsic value, what it costs or is worth, but in the reward of what you can do with that gift or how it makes you feel. Alice invested in you and proved she believes in you. She gave you a tool to help you take your interest in photography forward. Now it is up to you to use that tool.

Hank: Mom already downloaded the users manual and I am researching getting a camera case and I am going to spend my whole school holiday taking pictures.

Pai: Smart.

Me: Her gift will only be honored if you use it and every picture you take and share with her she will be a tiny bit apart of that. That is how you can give back.

Pai: That and writing an American thank you note and offering to babysit when you’re thirteen.

Hank: OH, she and Filipe can count on that and farm chores if they need! They will have to teach me how to do the farm chores and I will do my best to ignore spiders, but, I mean, I would have done all of those things anyway.

Me: We know.

Pai: I think she knows that, too. Now take that camera off your neck so we can eat. Amália Sofia?

Molly: Sim, pai (yes, dad)?

Me: Dinner.

Molly: I coming. (walking over to the table and struggling to climbing into an standard dining chair because she refuses to use a “baby chair” anymore, once settled placing an arm on her brother’s shoulder) How your day, mano (brother)?

Hank: Mana (sister), I had the best day!

Molly: Me, too! (wrapping her arms around his neck)

Hank: Awe, I love you, mana (sister).

Molly: I love you too, mano (brother).

Me: (instantly sobbing)

Pai: Round two!

Hank: Oh, mom!

Me: I can’t help it! It is genetic! My happiness is tied to my tear ducts!

Molly: (to Hank) She happy? She happy, mano (brother)? Happy crying?

Hank: Yes, mana (sister). Don’t worry.

Me: (face in my napkin, just a weepy mess of awesome, grateful love)


A Historic Day



Me: Y’all… Dinner!

Pai: (walking in with a sick, sleepy Molly in his arms having just woken up from her 4th nap of the day) Look who I found.

Me: Well, hello chicken! Did you have a nice sleep?

Molly: (face still pillow creased) Good morning! It morning time.

Pai: It is actually dinnertime. (putting Molly in her chair)

Me: Do we need anything else to come to the table. Where’s Hank?

Hank: (from down the hall) I’m in the bathroom.

Pai: (sigh)

Molly: (racked with coughing, not covering her mouth)

Pai: Amália, remember? (placing his face into the crux of his elbow)

Me: (doing the same but more for protection as my medications for RA/AS result in a suppressed immune system) When we cough or sneeze we…

Molly: (following suit, muffled) Put in cor-too-velo (cotovelo, elbow)

Pai: She says it wrong just like you.

Me: At least she can say elbow in two languages.

Pai: Almost. (smiling) Cotovelo, filha, CO-TO-velo (elbow, daughter, EL-bow).

Molly: (coughing into her soup)


Hank: (within earshot) COMING!

Me: I’m going to put a “No Loitering” sign in the bathroom.

Pai: (exhausted sigh, half serious) Is it wrong that I just want them to go to sleep right now? Am I a horrible person?

Me: (oozing with sarcasm) Listen, we only have to pretend to like them on weekends.

Hank: (sitting down at the table with his phone to his ears) Hey girl, listen, I have to go. Yah, I have to eat dinner with my parents and pretend I think they’re funny. Right. I KNOW. Yah, totally. (laughing) Okay. For sure! Later, bye. (puts the phone down dramatically, picks up his napkin with a flourish and places it in his lap, raised eyebrow, oozing with sass)



Molly: (slurping her soup)

Me: (hand to my heart, momentarily speechless)

Hank: (panicking) What? You know that was a joke, right? My phone’s not even on.

Pai: And you don’t have any friends who speak English with you. (chuckling) We get it. That was great.

Me: (overly dramatic and sincere) I hoped this day would come, I dreamed of it, but you never know, you know?

Pai: Some people are born without a sense of humor.

Me: (slow clap)

Pai: (joining me) Well, done.

Me: (half getting up) Excuse me while I go apply water to that burn.

Pai: Don’t the kids say, “Awe snap,” in these moments?

Me: Bravo.

Hank: (proud, diving into his soup)

Me: (diving into my soup) That was funny.

Pai: (diving into his soup) That was so funny.

Molly: (oblivious, picking up her soup bowl and chugging the rest of her soup) All done. How the day? How the day, papa? How the day, mano? How the day, mama? (coughing into her elbow)

Me: Historic, MaGoo. Today was positively historic, thank you for asking.

Hank: (beaming)

Molly: Oh, that good. That a good day.