My Immediate Portuguese Family, Photo by Robin Nations
I am away for a few days to be with the family in Northern Cali.
Let me bring you into the home our Portuguese Family Christmas Eve.
Come on, let’s go…
The minute we step foot into my aunts entry way, we hear…”Oooohhhhh…Awwwww…Eeeeeeee….” and feel a plethora of arms, hands, lips from sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins grabbing us from various directions.
Bright, passionate, beautiful, LOUD people lovin’ on us.
Here comes the Matriarch (our Va Va…meaning, Grandmother in Portuguese). She charges through all of the folk, throws her hands up in the air, claps a few times, and fists them together as she brings them to her lips with a huge smile on her face. She then grabs your face with both hands and kisses you on each cheek, then your lips with her plump, wet lips that have a few crumbs left on them from something she was nibbling on. She then proceeds to look at you up and down (with her gorgeous blue eyes) and says…”You Look Healthy!” (Translation = “You have put weight on and look chubby”).
Can you imagine my poor husband experiencing all this for the first time? He comes from a small German family. When my Va Va first saw him, she grabbed his face and covered him with kisses, then looked at me and said…”He’s a hunk…if only I was your age!”
She continues to say this to me every time she sees him. My grandmother has a crush on my husband.
So…after sitting/standing around catching up on one another’s lives and eating until our bellies protrude enough to when the top button needs to come undone, we all gather into the living room to sing Christmas Carols.
As we are all squeezed into this one room, shoulder to shoulder, limbs toppled over one another on couches, my aunt passes out the sheet music to every other person.
As she stands in the middle of us, conducting her Portuguese Family choir, we belt out the carols (mostly out of tune), glance at one another and giggle with amusement. Although, there are always those few that take this very seriously and have a desire for us all to know how beautiful their voice is.
Are those bells ringing that I hear outside the window??? *ding, ding, ding*. Did I just see a large man in a red suit walk by??
Into the living room comes one of our family members, dressed up in a red Santa suit two or three sizes too large, with a white beard falling apart, hanging below their chin, and a large pillow sack full of gifts over his/her shoulder. “Ho, Ho, Ho…” We all gasp in surprise as the little ones squeal with glee. Side note: My husband has to do his deed as soon as we have children. He’s not looking forward to it; although…I think he’ll be a Supa’ Star Santa.
One by one, the wee ones (or not so wee) sit on Pseudo-Santa’s lap and receive one gift (bought by that particular child’s parents) and Santa shares something comical about the child’s personality which brings us all into a fit of giggles.
After Santa stumbles out of the room, the evening mellows.
This is when I (the quiet wallflower of the family) just sit and observe what is transpiring all around me. I typically feel overwhelmed, almost brought to tears by the abundant energy, the fierce and passionate love shared between us and it always brings me back to watching Va Va (Grandmother) across the room.
None of us would be here if it wasn’t for her. Our Matriarch. She sits on her throne and watches all of her children and children’s children with a peaceful smile on her face. A knowing that all the fruits of her labor have blossomed.
Va Va, Photo by Robin Nations
She ponders these thoughts as crumbs fall off her lips…