Phone Call and Candlelight Dinner

conversations with hank

Sunset by the Sea. Photo Credit: Ana Sofia Santana


Pai: (smiling) It’s for you. (handing me his phone)

Me: Estou (speaking)?

Hank: Mama!

Me: Oh, Hank. Oh, darling boy are you bronze from the sun and the sea?

Hank: I am so sorry I didn’t call you earlier.

Me: It is completely perfect that you didn’t call sooner I was doing yoga on the veranda with Vaibhav and Prima Monica (cousin).

Hank: You were?

Me: Here. (handing the phone to Vaibhav)

Vaibhav: Hello Hank! Are you enjoying the beach… Yes… Oh that is good… Yes. Say again? … Oh (laughing)… You mother and I spoke of this and that is why I want to invite you to our next class… Good. Yes, thank you… Have a good time… Do you want to speak again to your mother? Okay,Bye bye.

(handing back the phone)

Hank: Mama, if you did yoga that means you were feeling well enough to do yoga.

Me: Yes and the whole time it was raining ash on us from the forest fires and the witching hour was approaching and it smelled like winter in Alentejo (the south of Portugal). It is magical.

Hank: And you were well enough to do yoga. That is so, so good.

Me: I agree, baby. I am happy. And now we are eating dinner by candle light on the veranda.

Hank: Where is Molly?

Me: She is sleeping.

Hank: I’m in bed, too. Oh and I finished my book. It was very good. I want to ask the librarians if there are any more books by those writers and I tried Peter Pan, but I didn’t like it. I couldn’t go into the story because of the words were too tight.

Me: (pause, processing the meaning of too tight words) Oh, I see. That happens with stories from that time. When life used to be the language was more formal.

Hank: This is it exactly, mama. I will find another book tomorrow. Ana will help me. They have lots of book here. (yawn) We went to the beach today at the end of the day and I am having the most fun and I love you and I am going to bed now.

Me: I hope you have the loveliest dreams and we are thinking of you.

Hank: I am thinking of you and I love you and papa and Molly and Prima and Vaibhav.

Me: Good night, my dove, I love you so, so much.

Hank: I am hanging up now.

Me: (smiling, phone disconnects)





Dragon Stew

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Hank: (all tucked into bed)

Me: Right, all settled?

Hank: Yup.

Me: Tell me about your very best favorite part of today.

Hank: Um… Oh, today I rode my bike and then we made cakes out of terra (dirt).

Me: That was my very favorite and my best game when I was your age.

Hank: Gomos (Hank’s summer program) has an outdoor kitchen with real panelas (pots) for cooking whatever we can imagine.

Me: Nice.

Hank: I was thinking I would like to make a kitchen for our veranda.

Me: Molly would love that. Let’s do it.

Hank: This weekend?

Me: Consider it done. Did you make dragon stew, yesterday?

Hank: What’s that?

Me: It is a magical meal just for dragons. I used to make it with my cousins all the time when we were kids.

Hank: How do you make it? I want to make it tomorrow.

Me: Well, the first thing you absolutely must do is dig a shallow pit in the earth and line that pit with smooth stones. This is essential, because of the threat a dragon could sneeze and accidentally set a wild fire.

Hank: Oh.

Me: Then you collect the ingredients for your stew. A collection of all of a dragons favorite foods.

Hank: I know this: pine cones and needles, eucalyptus seeds and leaves, shiny things like mica… what else?

Me: Only white flowers because yellow flowers give dragons indigestion, sea shells, green leaves and sweet gum burs, horse chestnuts…

Hank: The kind you don’t eat.

Me: Correct, also commonly called buckeyes or conkers.   Dragons also love quartz, but hate dirt. You collect all the ingredients then mix it together to make a stew. Then, just like when you leave food for the dragons at the castle you can whisper your wishes and fears into the stew and in the cover of night a dragon will grant you luck to make your wishes come true.

Hank: But you have to work hard to make the luck real.

Me: That’s right. I used to make dragon stew all the time and would pray that a dragon would find it, but I alas, there are no castles in America so I had to wait a long time to have any dragon luck.

Hank: Mama, I think dragons travel. You are forgetting about tourist dragons. Tourist dragons search the world for magic and I know they found your stew and brought luck to your primos (cousins) and you. You are a very lucky person.

Me: You really think?

Hank: I know.

Me: You’re right. I’ve made a lot of luck in my life.

Hank: Who knows, maybe one of the dragons who eat my stew will remember your recipe and say, “Hey, this tastes like that American Dragon Stew I had on my travels in the 1980s. Best stew I ever had.”

Me: (beaming)

Hank: (yawning) I will add some wishes and dreams in my stew for you, too, mama.

Me: Thank you, my dove.

Hank: Good night, mama.

Me: Sweet dreams, my best boy.


Recipe for Dragon Stew

White flowers (never yellow, yellow flowers give dragons indigestion)
Eucalyptus Seeds and Leaves
Sea Shells (to add salt)
Green Leaves
Pine, Cones and Needles
Horse Chestnuts
Sweet Gum Burs

When making dragon stew first dig a small, shallow pit in the earth and line that pit completely with stones. This incase of dragon sneeze this prevents a wild fire.

Next, collect all the ingredients and make a stew, mix well and it is best to sing or laugh while mixing, that is how you add magic. Lastly, decorate artfully the top of the stew with green leaves and white flowers. Dragons love artful presentations.

Place your finished stew in the stone lined pit. And finish by taking a quiet moment to add your wishes and dreams the dragon can use to find you later and bring you luck.


Receita para O Cozido Dragão

Flores Brancas (nunca amarelas, flores amarelas dão indigestão a dragões)
Sementes de Eucalipto e Folhas
Conchas do Mar (para adicionar sal)
Folhas Verdes
Pinho, Cones e Agulhas
Cardo de Ávore Doce

Quando fizer dragão cozido primeiro cave um pequeno buraco, rase na terra e revista a fossa completamente com pedras. Para o caso do dragão espirrar isso impede que comece um fogo selvagem.

Em seguida, recolher todos os ingredientes e fazer um cozido, misture bem e é melhor cantar ou rir enquanto mistura, é assim que você adiciona magia. Por último, decorar artisticamente o topo do cozido com folhas verdes e flores brancas. Dragões amam apresentações artísticos.

Coloque o seu cozido terminado na fossa forrada com pedras. E terminar tomando um momento de silêncio para adicionar seus desejos e sonhos o dragão pode usar para encontrá-lo mais tarde e lhe trazer sorte.


SASS, Broken Hearts and Lost Childhoods

A Drawing I did of Five Year Old Hank (2012)

A Drawing I did of Five Year Old Hank (2012) at a time when we fed the dragons at our castle at least once a week.



Me: Hey there chicken, off to bed?

Hank: Yah. (lingering)

Me: Got something on your mind, buddy?

Hank: I was just thinking about my level of sass today.

Me: Yo, your level of sass this afternoon was at maximum capacity not to mention your defensive level.

Hank: What is defensive?

Me: A person is defensive when they are attempting to not feel big feelings or stop a another person from pointing out where they might be going wrong. When I begin to speak to you about a chore you’ve neglected or the fact that you left your bedroom light on, instead of calmly acknowledging and handling the situation you have a habit of throwing a jagged, barbed “sorry” at me and storming off to do it. That is being defensive. You are defending yourself as if you were in battle for something minor and insignificant.

Hank: I do that a lot.

Me: You learned that from me. I also do that a lot. I spent a great part of my life totally on my own and because I made all my own life decision without help or guidance, so when someone questioned my choices I would instantly get extremely defensive because I was scared to learn I was doing something wrong and just scared in general. It isn’t good behavior but I haven’t been able to break the habit yet. I am still learning, just like you.

Hank: Lately, I have this feeling deep inside that I just want to be sassy. I just want to be sassy all the time.

Me: Sass makes you feel powerful. It’s combative behavior just like being defensive. Learning to manage the sass is a part of growing up. I didn’t manage my sass level well at all when I was young.

Hank: Really?

Me: Your poor grandparents. I went through a lot as a teen which made matters worse. I was SASS-BOT-9000! I, personally, turned your Grammy Kate’s hair from blond to white in one year with the stress of my sass and bad behavior. Me, all by myself.

Hank: What?

Me: I was the worst. It was all a cry for help, but it backfired because I was so awful to deal with. Your Grammy Kate would say to me every time I left her side to be kind, every single time, and the truth was, and I am ashamed to admit this, I was kind to others, kind and very polite, I was just rude to her.

Hank: That makes me sad.

Me: Me, too.

Hank: Is this when you had a broken heart?

Me: Yes an extremely broken heart.

Hank: I get sassy but I don’t think my heart is broken. Well, maybe a little it is because my friends have moved away and Ana is in Ireland and I miss her.

Me: Sass and attitude and defensiveness and sarcasm are things you have to learn to control. Even a tiny crack in your heart can feed those things. Childhood is so magical and important that when you begin to grow up and mature your heart has to break a little when losing the magic of childish things, but Hank, the thing to remember is that it is just as much fun making magic as it is receiving it. And being kind, listening to people with an open heart and being respectful can also make you feel powerful. It is your choice to be sassy and defensive and the only reason I am telling you this is so you know you have a choice. You can stop being defensive and sassy before they become a habit.

Hank: It’s hard to think I am growing up when I am eight.

Me: (pulling him into hug) Growing up is a trap. Stay a kid as long as you can. As your mother I promise I will do my best to help you and answer all your questions as long as you want my advice. When you are doing with my advice then I am here to listen.

Hank: You grew up but your insides stayed five years old. That’s what papa says.

Me: That is a kind way of looking at it. The truth is I grew up too soon and I have been trying to recapture a bit of my lost childhood ever since.

Hank: That is the saddest thing I have ever heard.

Me: It is, indeed. Don’t be like me. Stay a kid, protect your special, precious heart, learn and grow, but slowly, enjoy the magic and when you are grown and you have kids…

Hank: That you will call your clucks since you call me and Molly chickens.

Me: (smiling) You will get to make all the magic of your childhood all over again for them.

Hank: And make some new magic.

Me: And regionally specific magic, too. I used to make dragon stew with my cousins in America in the forest and under pine trees but we didn’t have actual dragons near by!

Hank: You need a castle for a dragon. We haven’t fed the dragons at our castle in a long time.

Me: They must be starved.

Hank: They haven’t brought any luck to Molly.

Me: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Hank: We’ve gotta go out with Molly and collect dragon food.

Me: Eucalyptus seeds, pine needles and cones…

Hank: All white flowers and stones, mica and…

Me: Sea shells for salt.

Hank: And then we need to take them up to the castle and tell our wishes and dreams to the sleeping dragons and then when they wake up they will have their snack and smell our smells on the wind and come and bring us luck.

Me: And then we will make that luck real.

Hank: I love you, mama.

Me: Love you, chicken. Time to sail off…

Hank: (grabbing my hand and leading me off to his room) To the Island of Bedfordshire where I will dream my very best ever dreams and not of spiders. Mama, I saw the biggest spider today at Gomos (Hank’s summer program) with the biggest, longest feet.

Me: Ha! What kind of shoes was he wearing? Oxfords? Doc Martins? Berkinstocks? (giggling) What a funny and not scary at all way to describe a spider.

Hank: Now that I think about shoes he wasn’t that scary at all. He was wearing red salto-altos (high heals).

Me: Oh lala. Fancy spider going out for a night on the town. The very best and not at all scary disco diva spider, Latin name: Pracilla-Arachnidicus.

Hank: (giggling) Good night, my mama.

Me: Good night, sailor.