I am so excited to share my journey home to the Azores with you. I hope you will enjoy all you see and read. Where to begin???
So we we're boarding the plane (Sunday) in Oakland C.A., and an 86 yr old woman grabs my Emilie, hugs her kisses her and tells her " a tu e muito linden" (you are very pretty). Emilie just stares and says, "thank you." My sister Toni comments, "get use to it," and that is true of the rest of the trip, people just grabbed, hugged, and kissed us . We were well loved. By the end of the week I joined them, embracing and kissing everyone. It is wonderful to fully show all you feel for someone.
The plane ride over (11 hrs) was not like any plane I have ever been on, the moment the seatbelt lights were off, folks were up in little clusters all over the plane meeting and greeting. It was a Festa (pronounced -feshta) on the plane.
We arrived Monday on the island of Terceira. We went to my Tia Fatima's (my grandfather's sister-in-law, and my grandmother's cousin) B&B. She is wonderful! So joyful and warm, and dependent on Jesus... oh she is beautiful! We all soaked up a bit of Terceira, and got a good night sleep before heading over to our island Flores.
We arrived in Flores Tuesday afternoon. Anticipation, tears, wonder, and excitement was worn on each of our faces as we looked out the plane window. Our eyes and hearts not wanting to miss a moment of our beloved island ( I did however glance at my grandma, seeing her home she hadn't been to for 33 yrs- beautiful!).
We stepped off the plane and on to our terra (land). I bent down and kissed it! We were then greeted by joyful and tearful family members- Ti Frank, Tia Marianna (grandmother's brother and sister she hasn't seen for 33yrs). We were greeted by other family members too. It was so overwhelming and beautiful- moments you want to hold onto forever.
We drove to our village, Faja Grande. My mouth was wide open as we passed hills covered with hydrangea walls, waterfalls, and the Atlantic ocean against hydrangea fields. I commented that "I wanted to dance in the fields of hydrangeas." It was too much to take in!
We arrived at my Tia Marianna and Tia Everesta's house (the joined houses my grandmother and her siblings grew up in). We embraced Tia Everesta ( and immediately Emilie and Tia Everesta were taken with each other).
What fun to be in my grandmothers childhood home, to walk, live, sleep and eat for a week in the home where my grandma was born, crawled, first walked, talked, and grew in.
Mid afternoon we decided (Toni, Steve, Emilie and I) to take a walk down to the ocean. It was about 1/4 mile walk through town from the house . We passed the Teodosio market, and there met Tia Fatima's son and daughter in law Jose and Linda.
We continued on and met up with a relative Victoria who invited us to her home. On the way we met another relative Jose Cardoso (btw- Jose is pronounced- ju zeh). Next we arrived at Victoria's house and met her husband Jose Lawrence (my grandfather's nephew). Seeing him was overwhelming, because with exception to his eyes, from head to toe, he looks identical to my grandfather.
We embraced and visited with them. He cried and commented that, "he had never met family that when they met they felt as if they had always known each other." Being with him reminded me of my grandfather in his younger years. We later went with their family to Terce (rosary). As we arrived in the center of town we were overwhelmed by all the people who approached us, embraced and kissed us, and told us they were our family members. I especially enjoyed meeting my grandfather's nephew and god son Antonio Nasciemento, and cousins Leonardo, Eliza, Victor and more. I have always kidded that I was related to everyone in Faja Grande, it turns out that I am!
It was all so overwhelming and wonderful! The most wonderful thing was that God met a need for me, and that was my need to belong. Because of my dad's drug use followed by mental illness, his existence has been ignored in our family (I do understand that the loss of a son and only brother is painful for my family), and because my dad has denied me as his daughter, these two things have made it hard for me to feel I belong. This week, however, family members only remembered my dad as a 6yr old boy. With delight, they all said (in Portuguese of course) "Your Jose Antonio Teodosio' s daughter." I can't recall ever hearing that before. There was a point that I stood tall and said, "yes, I am."
I know that I have already written so much (and I haven't even gotten to day 3 yet), but I want to share how God has met that need for me in another way here. Michael's dad is Dennis, he is a wonderful, godly, generous, handsome man with great integrity. In recent years here in our mountain community, many people have said to me, "your Dennis Jones' daughter." I think the Dennis and Denise confuses them. So, I would correct them saying, "I am his daughter- in- law." Eventually though I realized how good it was of God to have named me after Dennis in the first place, and that that wasn't by chance, but by God's plan. Now when people say " Your Dennis Jones' daughter" I stand tall, smile, and say, "yes I am." God is a very good God! He thinks of everything! And, He tells me I am His own in such tangible ways.
We finally made it down to the water 5 hours, one alley (hiding from the main road), and 2 more cousins later!