When our children grow up and start spreading their wings, at times we mothers feel sort of “abandoned”. Of course we want them to be independent, free, autonomous, but we really love it when they give us a sign of their love, when they show, even by a simple gesture, that what they feel about us has not diminished one bit – it has simply evolved, as they have.
A few days ago, my younger son Pedro presented me with one of those delightful gestures.
This summer he has been working as a tuk tuk (auto rickshaw) driver to get some extra money to finance his Interrail trip. As he’s doing Hotel Management at university, I agreed it would be a good experience for him, having to deal with tourists, mostly driving them to the old areas of the city and telling them about some interesting episodes of our rich History.
I tried to help, of course, telling him about some of those episodes, such as the tragic story of Martim Moniz. He was a Portuguese knight who was crushed to death when, while leading an attack on one of the doors of St. George’s castle, he lodged his body against the doorway, thus stopping the Moors, who were defending it against the assault of the Portuguese and their allies the Crusaders, from closing the door; his sacrifice allowed the invading army to get in, storm the castle and conquer the city of Lisbon in 1147. To this day Martim Moniz is a hero all citizens of Lisbon have heard about, and there are several places in the city named after him, of which the most important is a huge square downtown, just below the castle.
Another story I shared with him has to do with the fact that St. Vincent, not St. Anthony as it is widely believed, is the patron saint of Lisbon. In Lisbon we all love St. Anthony and the 13thof June, date of his death, is widely celebrated, but even if he is our most popular saint it is St. Vincent, a rather obscure saint by comparison, who is the city’s patron. In fact, the city’s coat of arms is represented by a boat with two ravens, and this, I told Pedro, is due to the legend of St. Vincent.
Now St. Vincent was a saint who was venerated in the zone of Valencia, Spain. When the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the 8thcentury they began turning all Catholic churches into mosques, and a group of faithful, fearing the destruction of the remains of St. Vincent, considered to be holy relics decided to take them to the Kingdom of Asturias, the only Christian stronghold in the Peninsula. As it was located in the North, they took a boat and would have sailed around Portugal and Galicia, to Asturias, but there was a problem and they had to come to the shore in the south coast of Portugal, the Algarve, where they hid the relics in a cave. Some years after, the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, finally won the Algarve to the Moors and, hearing the story of the Saint’s relics, decided to look for them. Startled by a large number of ravens, he followed them to a cave, where he found the Saint’s remains. He had them brought to Lisbon on a boat and legend has it that there were two ravens flying by the ship for the whole duration of the trip; and that’s how the Saint’s relics arrived in Lisbon, on a boat guarded by two ravens, and this image would stick as the city’s image for all time.
Driving around the city
Pedro tells me these stories have been a success, as well as many others he already knew. Every day he came and told me about his adventures: on the first day he drove some Mexicans who were delighted that he spoke Spanish with them and absolutely loved to hear how Martim Moniz had saved the day; another time he drove a young couple, a Finnish man and a Greek woman, and at the end of the tour they stopped at Belém, where all the monuments related to the maritime discoveries can be se. They kindly invited him to have lunch with them, but, as they were vegetarian, Pedro had to find a suitable restaurant, which he did. A lover of meat as are most energetic boys his age he finally had to admit the tofu kebab he ate was delicious, so from now on I have some hope that I may introduce some vegetarian dishes at home, something utterly impossible so far. Anyway, we’d still have to convince his brother Afonso…
Finally, last Thursday he came home with a huge smile on his face. He had driven a very nice American couple, also to Belém. Already retired, in their sixties, he found them very nice and they chatted along as he told them how the Portuguese ships sailed in the 15th century and the centuries that followed from the place where now stands the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries), taking the indomitable Portuguese sailors to discover new lands never seen before, “giving new worlds to the world”, as it was said then. When they told him they would still be visiting Sintra area he gave them a lot of good tips about the area, that he knows so well, having spent all his summers there since he was born, such as the old Castle of the Moors on top of the hill, the Palácio da Pena with its exotic architecture and the Palácio da Vila and the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira. He also recommended a fantastic restaurant at Praia Grande, called Bar do Fundo, where you can have dinner watching the sunset and the fading light on the beach through the huge glass windows. By the end of the tour they profusely thanked him, and the lady gave him a hug and joked with him: “I would take you home with me”. He smiled and replied he didn’t think his mother would very much like the idea, to which she laughed, saying: “Well, I understand. You are a sweet boy and I think your mother is very lucky to have you as a son”.
As he told me this, I could not help giving him a motherly hug! It is true I am a proud Mom, of both my sons, and even if I scold them sometimes because they are so untidy and leave their rooms in a mess, I know their father and I have raised two incredible human beings, and I trust them with my life. Still, I am their Mom and therefore partial, so it’s always good to know other people appreciate them.
To this American lady, thank you for your kind words to my son. I hope you enjoy the rest of your holidays in Portugal and I wish you a safe journey back to your farm in California. I wish I had met you. To tell you you are absolutely right. I am a lucky Mom. A happy one. So grateful that I have my precious sons in my life.