A week ago, we were in Madeira as a family. A heaven-on-earth type island of Portugal, on the Atlantic Ocean.
Purity, order, peace, and beauty. The weather was also great except for one day, what more could you ask for?
And when we ran into two of our friends Luís and Rui, whom we love dearly, the 10-day vacation transformed into just what the doctor ordered following the humdrum of Turkey.
In a recent article, I had mentioned that life in Lisbon, especially business, is unbearably slow for a ‘Speedy Gonzales’ like me. Keep that in mind when I tell you this: the chef who served us at the bar table on our first day in Madeira told us that he had moved to the island because he was fed up with the tiring life in Lisbon. Imagine that.
The joy of vacationing with my wife and children is priceless. Perhaps I should say, the joy of spending time as a family is priceless.
Generally, when someone starts off like this, they add, “Especially before the children grow up…” but our situation is slightly different and that’s one of the things I would like to talk about.
In our family it doesn’t matter even if the children grow up. Let me explain.
I have traveled half the world as a single person, but traveling with one’s partner and children is what makes memories. I don’t know how to describe it but I guess the memories of journeys as a bachelor are more fleeting whereas the memories of journeys when one is married are much more permanent.
I met Teri 18 years ago, and quite serendipitously. The moment I saw her, I had said “This is it”, perhaps it took her a bit longer…
At a time when I was going through my second bankruptcy, when I was awfully miserable and without a penny in my pocket, we went out on our first dinner with the money I had borrowed from a friend of mine.
I was 35 years old. I had nothing to tell or offer her except for my 35 years of experience and dreams for the future.
She quickly became my truest believer in life. Emma was born 10 months after we had met, and I was still saying, “I will establish a cooking school and it will be one of the best in the world”, with a million different ideas in my mind.
Except for her, nearly everyone whom I spoke to about this would look at me as if I was a crazy person.
I love her very much.
I love her because it’s her and because she has stayed true to herself over all these years.
And I love that she loves me so much.
When I look around, I see how rare it is for these things to be mutual, and I am all the happier for both of us.
It is even more special to see that our love for each other has extended from us to our daughters. I think they also have the opportunity to observe and feel the love and respect two people have for one another. I think both Emma and Isabel are very lucky.
Actually, I am an unbearable man. I would say that I am extremely egocentric, extremely antisocial, obsessive and a somewhat terrible person who is usually a ‘my way or the highway type of fellow’ towards my wife and children.
She loves me in spite of all this (I think in spite of is a very very very important phrase here).
She doesn’t love me because of my certain traits but in spite of some (I had read this somewhere year ago).
I think she is a genius in bringing out my good side. She is a master at turning my mood around even on my most angry, tired, and unbearable days.
I try not to reveal it, but she is also good at teaching me on the sly.
The best thing she and her acquaintances have taught me is to be part of an extended family.
Although I have been brought up listening to how I was a member of a deep-rooted and big family since my childhood, we actually lived as a ‘nuclear family’, which consisted of my mother, my father, and me for years.
It was always the three of us due to the conflicts that have arisen over years and between generations of our ‘deep-rooted’ family. Think about it, I even met my first cousin through friends.
I think life has taught me a lot until I was 35 years old. And, when I look back, I can say that I have had an amazing youth.
But after I got married to Teri, I explored emotions brand new. Being a big family was a feeling that I had not known and had not experienced until then. Four generations live as if in a commune, with her mother and father, mother and father of her mother, her father’s mother, three sisters-in-law, their husbands, their children, and each with their own family extensions. So, holidays, vacations, dinner tables, wherever they go it’s always like a convoy. Sharing, sharing, sharing.
Actually, this must be the feeling that I had not been used to. Sharing (Now I seem to hear many of my friends going, “Memo, you are being unfair to yourself”, but the type of sharing I am referring to is not that kind of sharing).
I never had to share anything with anyone. I did not have a sibling to share, nor did I have a sport where I could share (I always pursued individual sports). This may have given me the confidence to fight, survive and succeed individually, but it is a completely different experience than I have now encountered and learned about.
First of all, this particular setting means no one can grow up. Everyone has a mother and father, and they are always their parents’ little children. Even if you are 50 years old, you are still a child in the eyes of your parents. From this point of view, even though it seems that no one is listening to one another on those colorful and festive tables, where everyone is talking simultaneously, all problems become shared problems where common solutions are sought.
When one’s parents fall short, their aunts step in. Adjustments are sought and made when necessary. Cousins grow up together, the older ones lead the young, guiding them, supporting them when necessary, and of course, arguments never cease either.
In short, it is very nice to be a big family that loves each other, laughs, and has fun together.
And believe me, there is no app for this on your phone.
A few of my friends recommended a Netflix movie last weekend.
‘Enrico Piaggio – Vespa.’
To put it briefly, it is the story of an entrepreneur who works passionately, attaches importance and value to his employees, perceives things that are already there in a completely different manner, and always tries to move forward, no matter what obstacles arise.
The friends who had recommended this movie thought this man resembled me (I think because of his passion for his work and his resilience). I can’t disagree, but more importantly, I likened his love for his wife and the way he looked at her to the way I feel about my wife.