Tomorrow it will be precisely twenty-one years that I received the most precious Christmas gift of all: my son Pedro, “the most beautiful baby she had ever seen” in the words of his proud Grandma, who naturally had already forgotten saying the very same words almost four years before, when my son Afonso was born, on a sunny February day that felt like an early Spring.
Little Pedro was born on a grey December day, but he brought with him a special light that has been with me ever since; from the very beginning he showed he cared about his mother, as his birth lasted no more than half an hour and before we knew it he had come into the world! I remember the tears of joy as they put him on my breast – that most sublime moment for all mothers – and, later, looking at his round rosy face, my heart exploding with love for this new, tiny being I was seeing for the first time, but had nurtured inside me for the last nine months.
Then the emotion of introducing him to Afonso, who took his “elder brother” role very seriously and held this tiny person with such care, a care he would continue displaying to this day. I was so worried that he might feel jealous of his new born brother that I took the utmost care not to hold the baby in my arms while Afonso was visiting us at the hospital, giving him all my attention; it was a bit too much, as I later realised I had not even one photo alone with my new baby, only with the two of them, or the four of us as a family, or even Afonso holding his brother in his arms while we watched in some trepidation…but it paid – Afonso was never jealous of his brother; on the contrary, he has always been protective of him.
I remember his first Christmas. As any six day-old he slept most of the time and when he was awake, we would bring him into the living room, and it seemed his little eyes already looked at the Christmas lights while his brother stood by him explaining what Christmas was about. It was a Happy Christmas, with a newborn baby by the Christmas tree, and the whole family together. Those were the good times, without vacant places at the table and in our hearts.
Little Pedro grew up fast, like all children do. His first year was a difficult one for he was often ill with bronchiolitis and our life was a constant go between doctors and treatments. Nights were most difficult for he couldn’t breathe properly, so in despair we sat him on his portable chair and placed it on our bed among us, and that’s how the three of us slept during several months. Thank God, when he was about one year-old, I found a homeopath who changed our lives, and Pedro became a healthy child from then on!
He was a chubby, rosy olive-green eyed baby, with light blonde hair. A pretty baby for all accounts and, after that first year passed, a smiling, happy, affectionate child. When he went to kindergarten he adapted well and made friends easily, soon having a little group that lasted for years, through primary school.
I remember he enjoyed making up stories, and when he started complaining about his eyesight – “Mommy, I can’t see this or that”, we didn’t really pay much attention. But as he insisted, we took him to an ophthalmologist who said he had to wear glasses urgently and I felt so guilty! He never really liked his glasses, and at first, he would take them off at every opportunity but then he got used to them and went on with his cheerful disposition.
Active and sporty like his brother, he first played tennis but then could not resist the call to play rugby. After all, at the time Afonso had been playing for some years and we had now moved to an apartment only 100 metres away from the rugby club. So, rugby he trained, and soon he had made new friends – his best friends, still today – and he was very active between his training and his matches.
Sometime after, I remember his coach telling us about a rugby tournament for children that was going to take place in Toulouse, France – and his team was going to participate. He was barely nine at the time, and I was so scared something might happen to him – after all they were going by bus, an odyssey in itself, he might get lost, someone might take away…he was so young, so defenceless…my heart shrank but never for a moment did I thing of not letting him go. I trusted the coach and the other adults from the club who were going with him, but even so, the day they left I went to work in the morning and as I drove back home at noon to say goodbye, I cried my heart out with worry. But I knew I had to let him go, live this experience, that he tells me he will never forget. Later, when all had gone well – thank God! – he commented that he was very sorry for some boys of his team whose mothers had not let them go. I knew that I had done the right thing, and I knew this would happen again and again – a mother’s heart is soft, and worries too much, but it must also be wise, for our children must learn how to live their lives and we must give them freedom so they can spread their wings and fly.
He continued to grow as a brave little boy, not easily intimidated. I remember another story, when he was in the 3rd grade of primary school. He loved school and always wanted to go there in the morning. One day, at a school meeting, I was confronted with very worried parents; their children complained they were afraid to go and play in the courtyard during breaks because there were some older boys from an orphanage, who would mistreat them. Apparently, I was the only parent who didn’t know about this as Pedro had never mentioned it. When I came home later that day and asked him why he hadn’t told me about the older boys, and if he was afraid of them, he looked at me very seriously and replied “Of course not, Mommy. They are not my friends, but I play football with them”. And that was all, and I was so grateful to sport, because it really builds bridges between people.
Even as a teenager he was not difficult – I usually say he had a “silly time” for six months which is more than acceptable. Even if we had our arguments, there would always be a dialogue, and he rarely confronted me. All through those years, I never felt I had “lost him” – he would always talk and confide in me and sometimes, during his brother’s difficult teenage years – fortunately now long gone – I would tell Pedro I felt that he was the only person in the world that really loved me; and I really felt that.
So many dear memories, that I cannot tell them all: he was always so warm, so affectionate, always running after me for a kiss; and how good it was to feel his arms around me and his, sometimes sticky – he was a sweet tooth if ever there was one – kiss on my cheek; how he loved bedtimes stories and kept asking for more; what a scare he gave me when one morning – after he had crept into my bed the night before as he did often, because of his nightmares – I discovered his hair was infested with lice; it was a miracle I didn’t get any but I was very worried or a few days…happy memories, not only with me, but also with his Dad, his brother, with Mimi, who has been their guardian angel since they were born, with his Granny, his friends…I would go on and on and on.
Christmas and a new tree
Now my Christmas baby has grown into a man. He is turning twenty-one, and he is still loving and affectionate. He still hugs me or puts his arm around my shoulder calling me “old girl” in the warmest of tones. He worries about me and wants to know if I’m happy and okay, and I know I can count on him. We confide many things to each other and I’m proud to trust him and his brother completely, as I know they trust me.
Today we went to get a new Christmas tree together. Our old tree was that – old and outdated, and the boys didn’t really help me make it any more so in the last few years it was a lonely exercise, one that made me feel nostalgic about Christmases of old. Not today. He took me in his car, and we went to get the tree, and he was thrilled to have a new tree; it is actually quite original, different from the traditional models but in our view much more beautiful. The fact that it was bought in the shop where his girlfriend works part time (her mother’s shop, in fact) certainly has helped make a unique tree, for it is a smart decoration shop with amazing, creative ideas in the trendy quarter of Chiado. As he drove me downtown in his car, I felt so happy, and I felt he is happy too, with his love, with his friends, with his life. And when my sons are happy, so am I.
So, my Christmas baby is now a man. A lovely man I’m so proud of. With strong values, caring, considerate, naughty at times, enjoying a practical joke, a music lover (especially rap), not too studious but always doing what it takes to move forward; above all, I would describe him as a kind, generous heart, and also as a most charming young man, a true diplomat. Who is enjoying life as it should be enjoyed, who is living his youth as it should be lived. Deep in my heart he will always be my Christmas baby, but there could not be a prouder Mom of the man he has become.
I look at the Nativity scene and silently thank Jesus, and the Three Kings, and the bright star in the sky, for bringing me the most precious Christmas gift of all, twenty-one years ago. They have gone by so quickly, it might have been yesterday.