I tend to think 13 is my lucky number and I even recall more than one meaningful Friday 13th in my life; but now that I think of it, 5 must be my lucky number, closely followed by 8.
It has to do with the years of my life.
In 1965 my brother was born; even if at the time I didn’t find it amusing at all – I was terribly jealous – he was my childhood companion and my accomplice during my teens. We had many wonderful, and a few crazy, brother-sister moments that I will cherish for as long as I live.
In 1968, when I was 5, my grandparents took me on my first trip to Lisbon. What an adventure! It was the first time I felt cold – it was winter – and I see myself in old photos looking smart with a dark blue woollen dress with colourful stripes and high boots, walking the cobbled streets of Lisbon hand in hand with my proud grandparents. That year was like a frontier in my life, as I still keep distant memories of it.
1975 was not a good year, but a momentous one, that changed my life forever: it was the year of sadness and loss. We lost our beloved home and our homeland Mozambique, that we were forced to leave because of its independence. Our family lost everything, from properties and assets to money in the bank, but worst of all was the loss of a way of life, in a country of perpetual summer where we were wild and free. Insecurity and fear were our constant companions during most of that year, until we boarded a plane for Lisbon, Portugal, in October. In my family, I was the only one to go back there, four decades after. This trip to the past healed my heart.
1978 was a good year too. At 15, and after a few years feeling like an ugly duckling, I finally felt loved by someone, and it was the best feeling in the world.
Then 1985 was probably the most significant of all years, for its consequences. I finished my degree in Law, got my first job in the financial sector, where I would remain during my whole career, and I met my future husband, the man I would be with for 21 years and, most important of all, who would become the father of my children. It was a year that shaped my future.
I got married in 1988 and, even if that marriage was ultimately to end, at the time I was happy – we were happy – and the first year was wonderful. I recall how we loved to “play house” – having a house to ourselves, living together, was so novel, we even enjoyed cooking and tidying things up. We spent a wonderful honeymoon in Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) even if I almost caused a small crisis when I “forced” my new husband to walk the Dubrovnik old city wall under 40º Celsius! Being African, I’m not much affected by the heat, but he made a huge effort to follow me while I marvelled at the beauty of this historical monument, without a second thought to his discomfort. He must have been very much in love with me at the time…
In 1995 my first son was born, and I finally understood the meaning of LOVE – in capital letters. Nothing I had experienced so far, or would ever feel, could compare to the emotion that invaded me when that tiny being looked at me with his huge, beautiful blue eyes, that spoke to me from another dimension, from another life; the feeling that I had known, and loved this being since the beginning of time, and would until the end of everything.
1998 was the year of the Expo 98, an event that changed the city of Lisbon forever – and for the better; it was good for my career as I moved up the corporate ladder, but most of all it was the year that gave me my second son, a baby born in December only a few days before Christmas, another piece of my heart outside my body, another being to love unconditionally as I did his brother. And if, like many mothers, I had feared I would not be able to love a second baby as I had the first, I needn’t have worried: a mother’s heart expands, and has no limits; I loved my new baby no more, no less, that I did my first. My love just grew and grew.
The new century
Another important year, 2005. A career move, with significant progression; we moved house too, in the Summer. In the fall, my son Afonso suffered a knee injury during a rugby match that would shape the years to come. He suffered, but he fought for what he wanted, and as young as he was, he showed incredible strength and courage. And he overcame it.
2008 was a lovely year. After my divorce, I was in love again; I felt happy and cherished. I had the most romantic holidays of my life, in Florence and Tuscany, and there was never a more special moment than one at Pontevecchio as the light of the day began to fade and two new lovers believed their story would go on forever.
In 2015 I began writing my book, which I have recently published. I also began my blog; a writing adventure that has become what I want to do with my life. I have so many stories to tell; I feel so happy when I write that I know for sure I want to do this for the rest of my days.
Finally, in 2018 I went back to Mozambique, on a memory trip shared with my boys. It was a dream for them, and for me “one of the things you have to do before you die”. We visited my city, I showed them our beautiful house, and then we went on a safari where they understood why I always told them there is no sunset like the African sunset. A photo I took of the boys, by the jeep, at dusk, with the pink light of the setting sun painting the sky, says it all – they simply fell in love with Africa.
So, there you are. My lucky numbers, my lucky years. Together with so many others, neither 5 nor 8, that have made for a full, privileged, wonderful life, for which I am so grateful. And now that I think of it, 5 plus 8 equals 13…