Article

My Childhood Is Over

conversations with hank

(Not too late, Pai (Hank’s dad) and I in bed watching a movie, kids in bed… or so we thought when there was a knock at the door)

Pai: (pausing the movie)

Me: Come in.

Hank: (sniffling)

Pai: Is everything okay?

Molly: (from their shared bedroom) Mano (brother) sad. Don’t cry, mano (brother).

Me: Hank?

Hank: (wailing, floods of tears) MY CHILDHOOD IS OVER!!!!

Molly: (from their shared bedroom) MANO!! PAPA! (crying because her brother is crying)

Me: Oh honey, come over here.

Pai: I’ll get the girl.

Me: Crawl up here in this big bed right now.

Hank: (weeping, falling into my arms)

Me: (giving him space to cry)

Hank: It’s over.

Me: Is it?

Hank: (stuttered speech) It is. It’s over and I am not ready.

Me: (holding him tight)

Hank: (sobbing)

Me: (listening)

Hank: I’m not ready.

Me: I agree.

Hank: I have been pretending.

Me: (nodding into his shoulder)

Hank: I have been pretending that everything is okay, but I am not okay. I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to give up my blue blanket (his childhood lovie that over vacation he said he no longer needed and asked me to pack away) and I don’t want to go to a new school.

Me: Change is the hardest.

Hank: I don’t want to change.

Me: One of the only things you can count on in life is change. Change cannot be avoided and you will learn to evolve with those changes.

Hank: Everything is changing too fast! My body, my life! It all hurts.

Me: (rubbing his back, soothing tone of voice) Growing pains aren’t just physical. I am listening.

Hank: I didn’t know. I thought I was doing so well. Then we were all on the couch, eating popcorn and I just kept thinking, “I don’t want this to end.” And then that thought kept growing and pounding in my heart and I just…

Me: Growing older, changing schools, learning new things and making new friends these changes are unavoidable, but you don’t have to change.  You don’t ever stop being you. You never have to stop being the you you are right now, because this Hank (putting my hand on his heart), now Hank, is a very special someone to know. Aging, loving, learning are all apart of evolving, but you never have to stop being yourself, this self. Stay you don’t change you.  Stay you while your world evolves to meet you. People don’t tell you that.

Hank: They don’t.

Me: But it’s true. Your body will change, you will learn algebra and geometry and know where Kazakhstan is on a map, but you can still be this Hank, the Hank you are today, when you’re 14, 35, 67, 105. And if you give yourself permission to be you, stay you, while the world changes and you evolve with it then you will be ahead of the game, because you are a wonderful person and adding a bit more independence and responsibility to the person you are will only add to your special, caring, precious heart. Don’t listen to the lying parts of your brain, to what media claims and kids at school say that cause you to doubt. Listen to me. Do you trust me?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Then hear me when I tell you I never grew up. I never grew up and I am better for it. I am the same me that brought swamps in ziplock bags to kindergarten and who hated school after 3rd grade and lived inside her imagination and loved to draw and sing and go cloud gazing. I am the same person who was artsy and avant guard in middle and high school, who cried in movie theaters and standing in front of paintings. I am the same person I was when I was your age and I have a mortgage and student loans and take a large amount of pills to manage my doenças (diseases). I am that same person who is a mestre de oleiro (potter) and an author and a blogger and your mother. And I miss my frog, Walter, my “blue blanket” from when I was young every day of this part of my life since he was lost when I thought I had to let go of my childhood things.

Hank: You do?

Me: Absolutely, he was my lovie and my favorite huggable confidant!  He was a printed pillow of a frog in a waist coat with spectacles and everyone feels the way you are feeling right now! Everyone! But the correct answer is to not grow up! Evolve instead! Let the world change around you while you evolve to meet it’s demands, but whatever you do, don’t grow up. Be you, the real you, this you and support your wild and precious heart while you learn and grow and add new tools to your life toolbox.

Pai: (with Molly in his arms) And sleep with blue blanket. (tossing Hank’s lovie into his arms)

Molly: Hi Mano (brother)! Feel better?

Hank: (engulfing his blue blanket with relief and love) Hi Mana (sister), I’m feeling better.

Molly: I’m feeling better, too.

Hank: You are?

Molly: Yah! Me, too!

Hank: Let’s go to bed, Mana (sister).

Molly: Yah. (head on her pai’s shoulder)

Pai: (leaves the room to tuck Molly into bed)

Me: Thank you for telling me how you feel.

Hank: (sigh) It was sitting with me for a while. I was trying to be strong, but I couldn’t keep it in.

Me: You did the right thing.

Hank: I feel better now. I feel like I can do this. I was so sure on the 13th (when school starts) it was all ending.

Me: Oh no, some things will change and evolve, but who you are, as long as you let it, will always be the same. You just have to give yourself permission to never, ever grow up.

Hank: Why don’t people know this? Like, why don’t people talk about this?

Me: Because it is a sad fact that so very many people in the world felt the exact same way you do right now, but forced that painful, terrified feeling deep into their soul and grew up with a broken heart because of it.

Hank: Like, so very many people. Like…

Me: Most people?

Hank: (deep sigh of recognition) Yah!

Me: I know.

Hank: But why?

Me: Because the world isn’t fair, because not everyone is born to the right tribe, because sadness is a trap, because comparison is the thief of joy, because…

Pai: Because they didn’t have you for their mother.

Me: (blushing)

Hank: (deep sigh) I feel better. (hugging his blue blanket to his face) Goodnight. (bouncing off the bed) I love you, papa. I love you, my mama.

Pai: Love you (wrapping Hank in a hug).

Me: Wait for me. I wanna tuck you into bed.

Molly: (from their shared room) Me, too. Tuck, me too!

Me: Right, be prepared for the coziest nests I can possibly make.

Hank: (tears replaced by giggles dives into bed and soon is fast asleep)

Article

Why I Oughta

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

 

(from the back seat of the car)

Hank: Mana (sister)?

Molly: Mano (brother)?

Hank: Are you my baby?

Molly? Noooo.

Hank: Then who’s baby are you?

Molly: Um… mama’s baby.

Me: (fist pump, whisper scream) Yes!

Molly: Quero água (I want water).

Pai: (driving) Do we even have…

Me: (inspecting the picnic basket) Moo-Moo, I don’t have water. I have juice.

Molly: Juice, please.

Hank: That was so polite, mana (sister).

Molly: Juice please, agora (now)!

Pai: (officially micromanaging) And there is no sippy-cup is there?

Me: (bicker-flirting) I didn’t get the motherhood preparedness badge in girl scouts, okay?

Pai: You were a girl scout and that is a real thing?

Me: I was a brownie for like 4 weeks until my contrariness caused the other mothers to advise my mom that maybe girl scouts wasn’t for me.

Pai: You couldn’t even be a scout?

Me: AMERICAN girl scout. I am sure I would have excelled at European Scouts where the girls and boys are equal, but I wasn’t into selling cookies and knotting macramé.

Pai: (mocked shock, completely facetious) Don’t you write a parenting blog?  Isn’t being perfect, like, your job?

Me: (soooooo much side eye)

Molly: JUICE!

Hank: Say please, be kind.

Molly: Juice, please, sim (yes).

Me: I have a cup and I have a straw which means I will need your help, Hank.

Hank: That is perfectly fine! I will make sure she doesn’t get a juice bath. Just don’t hit any big bumps.

Pai: Portuguese highways don’t have bumps or traffic and for this our country was practically bankrupt. If you can help, Hank, then we will be home in 15 minutes without a birra (tantrum).

Me: (handing back the unsecured drinking vessel to the nine year old to be administered to the two year old completely unsupervised)

Pai: (turns up the radio, whispers sarcastically, escalating the mock argument) Do you have a change of clothes for her? (trying to keep a strait face)

Me: (feigning defensiveness) If I didn’t pack a gawd-damn-sippy-cup do you think I would have planned ahead and packed a spare outfit for the toddler? You’re lucky there were diapers and wipes today.

Pai: (chuckling)

Me: What happened to the 15 minutes and we’re home attitude? Next time you make the lunch and pack the picnic basket then I’ll better pack the diaper bag instead of doing (whisper scream, shaking a fist at him) ALL THE THINGS, BRO.

Pai: (practically hysterical) Did you just call me bro?

Me: (giggling) You’re gonna drive me to drink. What makes you think I am the prepper in this family? Just because I carried those kids for 9 months each in my broken down trash heap of a body doesn’t mean I’m the one that has to carry their gear.

Pai: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: She’s lucky I didn’t ask Hank to have her drink strait from the bottle. Where’s the “she can scream for 15 minutes covered in orange juice” option, huh?  You’ve completely forgotten what parenting toddler Hank was like. He screamed for all of 2009. Every single day all day. Where were you?

Pai: Dissertating.

Me: (switching to my best three stooges impression)  A wise wise guy, eh? Why I oughta!

Molly: All done!

Hank: Here is the cup, mama.

Me: Well done! Thank you, Hank. (rhetorically to Hank, flirtatiously barbed towards Pai) Jeeze, how did you get to be such a kind and capable young man?

Hank: I don’t know. You’re my parents and you both taught me to be my best me so I guess I learned it from you because you’re such good parents.

Me: (heart melted into a puddle)

Pai: (beaming)

Me: Thank you so much, buddy!

Pai: That was so kind, thank you.

Hank: I’m your best filho (son) and you’re my best pais (parents).  I don’t know how good I’d be in another family, but I am so lucky I don’t have to think about that because you’re my parents.

Pai: Obrigado, filho (thank you, son).

Me: Truth.

Molly: More juice! MAMA! Juuuuuiiiiccceeeee.

Hank: Amália Sofia?

Molly: Please. PLEASE!

 

 

Article

Sopa de Legumes (made with love)

conversations with hank sopa de legumes

 

Me: Hank?

Hank: Yah?

Me: Come find me.

Hank: (unenthusiastic) Coming.

Me: (scrubbing veg in the kitchen sink)

Hank: What is it, mama?

Me: Summer Session: Soup Making 101

Hank: But I…

Me: Haven’t done anything worth wile today being stuck home because of the rain?

Hank: No, that isn’t true. I organized my school cabinet.

Me: That you did and now you will help me organize these vegtables into a soup.

Hank: (annoyed) What do I have to do?

Me: Come here and observe first. A basic Portuguese Sopa de Legumes (Vegetable Soup) to be healthy it is believed needs at least ten different kinds of veg. We don’t have ten today, we have about six if we count the garlic, so this will be only a moderately healthy soup. We have 5 potatoes, one turnip, a handful of carrots, 4 small onions, three cloves of garlic and I have purslane, which is called beldroega in Portuguese, from our veranda which we will add after we make the caldo (broth).

Hank: (already bored)

Me: What veg do you want to peel?

Hank: Carrots, I guess. (miffed)

Me: We need to peel and rough chop all of this and add it to the pressure cooker.

Hank: (annoyed body language)

Me: What’s wrong? Am I tearing you away from something important?

Hank: No.

Me: Then what is wrong?

Hank: (full of sass) What makes you think that something is wrong?

Me: Your body language, your tone of voice and your lack of enthusiasm. You would have thought I asked you to scrub a toilet, not peel a carrot. What is it?

Hank: I haven’t said anything.

Me: You can say a lot without words, young man.

Me: (peeling)

Hank: (peeling)

Me: (deep breath)

Hank: (deep breath)

Me: Soup takes five minutes of work to make and is the most important culinary skill I can teach you. I want you to be independent. In a few years I want to call you and say, “Hank, I will be home in 30 minutes. Make a soup for dinner please and have Molly make the salad.” And if you can do that when you are 12 then I won’t ever need to worry about you when you leave home. Basic cooking skills: Soup, omelet, quiche, pancakes…

Hank: (cracking a smile) Chili and tacos.

Me: Totally. Once I know you can make those things, do laundry without turning a whole load of clothes blue or pink and scrub a toilet then my work is done. You already are a master of cleaning floors, organizing and making your bed.

Hank: (tone of voice brightens, shoulders lifted, attitude adjusted) I like to do those things and I like to cook. I don’t know what was wrong with me a minute ago. I wasn’t thinking strait.

Me: You have the ultimate power over your attitude and your attitude makes any job easier or harder.

Hank: I feel better. Before I felt tired and terrible and annoyed, but then I listened and soup only takes five minutes.

Me: (having peeled all my veg like a pro) Two minutes down. Are your carrots all peeled?

Hank: Yup.

Me: Cut off the ends and hand them over. (moving the pressure cooker to the sink) Now, do you see here where the top of the veg sits in the pot?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Mark that spot with your smallest finger and you will know you have enough water when the height of the water reaches your fourth finger.

Hank: Four fingers of water.  I have heard this before but didn’t ever understand it.

Me: It’s a Portuguese thing.  This measurement will never fail you when it comes to soup. (resting my pinkie-finger against the outside of the pressure cooker and adding water until it reaches my pointer finger)

Hank: That is easy.

Me: (lifting the pot to the stove) Now, I know this will be your favorite part.

Hank: What?

Me: Seasoning.

Hank: Huh?

Me: (fetch olive oil, bouillon and sea salt from the cupboard) Sopa de Legumes requires two bouillon cubes, a tablespoon of salt and a ton of olive oil.

Hank: (excited) I want to do the olive oil.

Me: You can do it all, my dove. Put enough olive oil that you have a slick of it on the service of the soup about the size of um carcaça (bread roll, hamburger size). I wouldn’t recommend this amount of olive oil in American or abroad.

Hank: (still pouring olive oil from our cruet in a long thin stream) Why?

Me: Because the olive oil in Portugal is so good we add it for flavor as much as for necessity. You don’t get this level of quality outside Portugal and olive oil is often bitter and very expensive.

Hank: Really? That is so sad.

Me: Chega, ja chega (Enough, that’s enough)! Now boullion…

Hank: Two cubes. (plopping them in one by one)

Me: You can use which ever flavor you like and then salt.

Hank: Can I use a spoon?

Me: Let me teach your muscles the right amount of salt to use. Cooking is as much muscle memory as it is recipe. (taking his hand and placing a tablespoon of sea salt into his palm) Take a moment to feel the weight of this salt. Learn to cook with your whole body and you will learn to cook faster and with better instincts.

Hank: (bouncing the salt in his hand) Can I put it in now?

Me: Yup.

Hank: Now what?

Me: Last but not least, we seal up the pressure cooker and once it starts singing…

Hank: It sings?

Me: What one person might consider the sound of steam spitting angrily from the pressure cooker valve I consider singing. You want your pressure cooker to sing for about 15 minutes, 20 if you are making a bean based soup, before you turn off the heat, release the pressure valve, wait for all of the pressure to be released and the pot to go quiet before you open the pot, purée the vegetables to make the caldo (broth) before you add the purslane and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Hank: So now we wait?

Me: Yup. You can go back to whatever you were so grieved to be pulled away from before.

Hank: Okay, but mama, don’t forget to call me for the next step. I want to help finish the soup.

Me: You will hear when it is time for sure. Once I release the pressure valve the singing turns to screaming.

Hank: (on his way out the door, turns back) Mama, Monica (Hank’s cousin) said when she tasted Dalia’s (Hank’s grandmother) soup it tasted exactly like Aldina’s (Hank’s great grandmother, Dalia’s mother) soup, so does that mean I will learn to make your soup and that my soup will always taste like yours?

Me: That tends to be what happens. (lighting the gas under the pressure cooker)

Hank: I love that.

Me: (gathering vegetable peels) Love is the best ingredient in food.

Hank: (coming back into the kitchen to help clean up)