We All Have A Skeleton (A Conversation with Molly)

Take your daughter to work day! Molly with the research psychologists at University of Minho.

Take your daughter to work day! Molly with the research psychologists at University of Minho wearing her “Power Ranger” sensors.


Juliana (psychology grad-student researcher): Now Amália would you like to play a game?

Molly: YAH! I a Power Ranger! (showing off her cool head and wrist band sensors worn for the experiment)

Juliana: You are a Power Ranger? Wow!

Molly: Yah! (showing off her Power Ranger moves)

Juliana: I am have a puzzle just for Power Rangers.

Molly: Hurray!!!

Juliana: (placing a puzzle in front of Molly to put together, the kind of puzzle where you remove a puzzle piece with the exterior of a food and underneath you see what is on the inside of the food) What Power Ranger are you?

Me: Are you the Red Power Ranger, the Blue Power Ranger?

Molly: I all dem.

Me: She’s all of them.

Juliana: Wow.

Molly: (removes the fish puzzle piece)

Me: Look Amália, this is the fish skeleton.

Molly: WHAT!?! Loooooook, Juliana! SKELETON FISH!

Juliana: Yes, those are the bones of the fish.

Molly: You like skeleton, Juliana?

Juliana: No, I don’t like skeletons, I am scared of them.

Molly: (serious) They not scary.

Me: Amália loves the skeleton.

Molly: (nodding, jumping to her feet, pointing) You have one! You have one skeleton!

Me: Amália’s best friend is also scared of skeletons so I told her to help her friend not be scared she could explain we all have a skeleton so we shouldn’t be scared of them.

Molly: Juliana, you have skeleton! You have a coluna (spine). You have crânio (skull).

Juliana: I do! I won’t be scared anymore.

Molly: You no scared. You have skeleton! You no scared anymore!

Juliana: Amália, can we play another game?

Molly: Sure!


Vimaranense (a person from Guimarães)


conversations with hank

A drawing by our little Vimaranense (person born in Guimarães), Amália (Molly)


Hank: (devouring €0.35 cakes on our way home from school) Mama, I have been thinking about something.

Me: Spill.

Hank: You really shouldn’t be so upset anymore about your swearing habit.

Me: What’s this now?

Hank: (swallowing) Well, it’s just… You don’t pay attention very well to other people when we are in the street, because they are speaking Portuguese and you really only pay attention when someone is speaking to you, like to your face, so you don’t notice.

Me: I don’t notice what exactly?

Hank: Mama, everyone swears in Guimarães. Everyone uses palavrãoes (curse words). Absolutely everyone! All the time. Even kids. Kids in my class (whispers) diz caralho (say fuck) like it’s fine.

Me: (blushing) That so is not fine, Hank, don’t you fall into that habit and be careful making broad generalizations.  Not everyone in Guimarães uses adult words freely and in public, although people in the north have this reputation.

Hank: I know, but they do, so you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself for swearing a lot.

Me: Thank you, my dove. That is very nice to you, but it would be one thing if Amália went to kindergarten and said, “A Nossa Senhora!” (The Virgin Mary) when she spills her milk, but it would be a whole other kettle of fish if she yelled, “Shit!” That would fully come back on me. There is no question where she would have picked up that gem.

Hank: (laughing, walking and attempting to eat cake at the same time)

(passing an adorable, tiny Granny on the sidewalk talking rather passionately to her friend)

Granny: O mor de deus, filha de puta! (God damn, motherfucker!)

Hank: (Like he won the lottery, point proven) SEE! SEE!!!! You heard that, right! Tell me you heard that avózinha (cute grandmother) right there!

Me: (nodding, bursting out laughing) Oh, Hank. It’s like Vimaranense (a person from Guimarães) are my people!! This is my tribe.

Hank: Not even you would swear like that in the road.

Me: Truth story, buddy. I may swear like a sailor, but even I have standards!

Hank: Mom, you need to realize our Amália is a Vimaranense (of Guimarães) ! She was born here. She is going to swear. It’s normal here.

Me: Here, but no where else and we will do our best for her to grow up like her big brother, always making the better choice!

Hank: Truth. (stuffing the last of his cake in his mouth)




Jen and his Master in The Dark Crystal

Jen and his Master in The Dark Crystal


Pai: Dinner.

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!

Hank: Weird!

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.

Hank: Wow.

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?

Me: Yup.

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.”

Hank: OH!

Me: “But if you sleep in between the blankets you will warm up!”

Pai: So smart!

Hank: Yah.

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.