February 26, 2013

Spreading Wings

The hostess with the mostest, Conceicao
We've all been in Madeira, Portugal the last ten days visiting Tom's Dad and his wife Conceicao in part to celebrate Tom's 50th birthday. Aside from the usual grueling eighteen hour journey on three planes to get there, we had a lovely time. The days flew by.

I met Conceicao almost thirty years ago on my first visit to Madeira. Back then she worked in the house in the city for Tom's grandparents and oldest aunt. What a surprise it was, fourteen years ago, when Tom's dad told the family that he was going to ask Conceicao to marry him and bring her back to the states part-time. She was 52 then, had never married, and was delighted to take his hand. 

The language barrier has been hard for her however.

I love Conceicao's warmth, and that she loves to laugh, and have fun. She is an amazing care-giver to all of us, as well as an incredible fine delicate embroiderer.

Now 65-years-old, she and Tom's dad live a simple life out in the country, where they each were born, high up on a mountainside, overlooking the sea.

Every morning the bread man comes and Conceicao throws a rope over the terrace, to which he attaches a bag of delicious fresh rolls.

Tom's wing-dinger of a birthday party.

And nearly every day she ironed a fresh cotton tablecloth to have beneath our delicious meals. I love this.

Like most Madeirans, they grow vegetables, bananas, grapes, raise chickens, and best of all- make wine every September. The wine is made the old fashioned way; by putting the grapes into a specially made square cement tub at their home and squishing them with bare feet.  I kid you not!

And it's surprisingly good.

And very potent-as are many things in Madeira.

Visually, being there is like being in a dream.

As we were leaving she hugged us all tight and started to cry. In Portuguese she said, "My home has been so full and now it will be so empty."

It brings tears to my eyes again just writing this.

I know what she means. I know the challenge and excitement of preparing for a full house, but also the relief and sadness when it empties.

I imagine that you might too.