The ceramic plate

She came down the castle hill and looked at the magnificent square facing the river Tagus. The blue sky reflected on the river and the sun was warm. It looked like summer had finally arrived. Below the arches of the old late 18th century buildings there was a handicraft market. She was walking by distractedly when she saw a table full of ceramic plates featuring the many professions andshe  remembered that her elder son was doing his last exams at university, soon to graduate in Agronomic Engineering. She found a small  plate with the word “Engineer” painted in yellows and blues and she bought it for him. She would give it to him after the last exam, so that he would remember the day of his graduation.


When she handed it over to him three weeks later, a proud and happy mother, he thanked her but would not accept it. He asked her “Mom, don’t give it to me just yet! I’m still only a “technical engineer”. I’ll only be a real “engineer” after I finish my master’s degree, in two years’ time! Please keep it and give it back to me then, ok?” She smiled and nodded, and retrieving the plate put it back in a shelf among her favourite books.


Into the future

Ten years went by, and so many things changed in her life. Her elder son did his masters degree and began a successful career; for some time he worked in a wheat farm in Alentejo (a region of Portugal), while at the same time he began his own business of raising biological poultry with a partner. Soon demand was so much they had to dedicate themselves to their business full time, and she was happy to see her son was progressing quickly, both financially and in terms of getting the utmost satisfaction for his job. He had moved in with his long-time girlfriend, who was very dear to her, and she could see they were very happy with each other. She hoped for a grandchild sooner than later now that they were both settled and pursuing their careers, her daughter in law also a successful economist working for a bank.


As for her younger son, the Erasmus programme he had done in Italy during his third year of university had broadened his horizons and after graduating in Hotel Management he had decided to do his masters’ degree abroad, so he had spent two years in Spain – speaking excellent Spanish – and was now climbing the career ladder in a hotel in Mallorca; he was already managing a department and had an overriding ambition for more. He was considering moving back to Portugal – for several years now a highly popular tourist destination – as he had received several interesting proposals. As for his personal life, he had had a steady girlfriend for several years now, a bright, spirited girl she was also very fond of, who had also studied in Spain and they had been together ever since. She had been to see them quite a number of times, making the most of the opportunity to get to know the places her son had been to, but of course she would love to have them back.


Her own  life had gone through many changes too. She had finished working on her book with her developmental editor and had published it on Amazon. After some time she was contacted by a publishing house that made her an unbelievable proposal for her book and consequently changed her life forever. She quit her job and dedicated herself full time to promoting her book, which became a bestseller. Meanwhile her blog had steadily grown with a Face book account of a few thousand followers who received her book enthusiastically and asked her to write the next one. She had moved house and was now living in a more spacious apartment in a better located area of the city where she could go for long walks in the park – curiously, the park that was near her former high school and where a few of her book’s scenes took place. As she walked there almost every day she marvelled at her life and how fast the years had gone by – she only had to close her eyes and feel the smell of the flowers and the trees and it would be as if time had gone back to the days when she was young and reckless and full of dreams for the future…


And now she was trying to organize some boxes she had brought from her former apartment. She found some old photos of her sons when they were little more than babies and one still had photos on paper…she found some tickets for a Queen and Adam Lambert concert she had been to the summer of her son’s graduation, and then she found an item wrapped in paper. She touched it but she could not figure out what it was. She unwrapped it and suddenly she realised it was the small ceramic plate depicting the word “Engineer” that she had bought for her son ten years ago. It had been lost in the confusion of their moving house and she had not given it back to her son as she promised – on the day he had really became an Engineer, the day he finished his master’s degree. Just to look at it brought back so vividly the memories of those times, when her sons filled their home with their presence, always speaking out loud, eating huge amounts of food, going out at night and coming home early in the morning when she was already up; making her angry because they left their discarded clothes on the floor and never closed the doors of their closets; coming back for dinner from their rugby trainings at eleven pm when all she wanted was to collapse in bed; calling to tell her “Mom I need this or I need that”; joking with her and telling her she was getting old and grumpy; the three of them going on a long weekend together to London to watch a Rugby Six Nations game and having a pint of beer together at a pub in the early evening…and so many happy memories of days long gone by, never to come back again. How she missed those times, how happy she was then without being aware of it, how she would have treasured those moments had she known they would go by so fast.


She held the little plate in her hand and then she put it on her dresser, thinking she must give it to her son the next time she sees him. They will laugh together because they have completely forgotten about it. And, she thinks, I must put these nostalgic thoughts completely away from my mind. After all, what do I want more of life? All my dreams have come true. My boys are healthy, happy, they have their lives, their careers…I have my writing, my books, my readers, my travels on holidays or to meet my readers and do research for the next book… I have time for myself, to be with the people I love, to relax, to meditate, and to enjoy life…


Her mobile phone rings. She beams as she hears the deep voice on the other side, telling her he will be picking her up in an hour for dinner with some friends. As she hangs up she smiles to herself: and I have love too, a love that brightens up my life and will be with me in my old age. A companion, a lover, a friend. What more can one wish for?


Back to the present

She wakes up, startled. She must have dozed off, and she remembers her dream of an ideal future. She remembers the feeling of peacefulness and contentment she felt in her dream, but also a nostalgic feeling of the “empty nest”. She will work hard in every sense to make her dream come true, but in the meantime she will enjoy her present life and all the things she knows she will miss in a not so distant future. And she gets up and opens up her laptop and sits down and begins to write, so that her dream may come true…

Turning eighteen

Bedtime stories

Empty nest

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