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.



  1. hey, Louise...thank you for taking us there...how wonderful to be able to do that for Tom to celebrate his birthday! i love idea the fresh white tablecloth, too...oh, and the home made wine! ; ) xoxo

  2. Terry Lee it's so nice to hear from you- and it's always great to receive comments.

    When Tom's birthday comes around each year he always thinks about Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit and how on each birthday Bilbo's mission was to give presents, rather than to receive. I love this. So our trip to Madeira was Tom's present to us and to his father and Conceicao.

    The linens and embroideries in Madeira are so beautiful. Besides the wine it is one of things they are known for.

    Love to you. XO

  3. What a lovely woman! I enjoyed seeing your photos! What a beautiful place - you took me there in my mind. I'd love to taste the wine! How hard goodbyes must be with such a distance. We have the constant flux of the kids coming home and saying goodbye. The time and distance spans are not as deep, but certainly turn my world upside-down in a delightful and tiring way!

  4. I know what you mean Jane. Just this morning we put our youngest back on the plane to Guatemala. So sad, so worrisome, but so great to see her spread her wings.

    And now we must readjust once again here in her absence.