Ever been to Portugal? Portugal is the underappreciated country in Europe, living in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbors. You hear about Portugal and think, “Huh, that would be cool to go to Portugal,” but then ultimately you book your trip to Italy or France, and you promptly forget that you had even a passing interest in Portugal.
People, perhaps your friends, get back from their journeys to Portugal, raving.
“Oh, you have to go!” they say enthusiastically, “Portugal is the greatest thing ever!” and you think Sure, maybe someday, but not someday soon. You go on with your life and your vacations to England or Germany, but Portugal—to be honest—is not even on your radar.
You get a postcard from your best friend. She finally went to Portugal herself. Her card reads:
“Loving it here. Still very very exhausted from long flight and time change, but worth it. Unfortunately, airline lost my luggage (I had to buy all new clothes!). Oh, well. Everything here is the same, but different. Feel like my senses are heightened. I am noticing the flowers, the trees, the vibrant paint colors. The countryside is breathtaking. Beautiful. The people are so nice and helpful, even though I can’t understand a word they’re saying. I got lost and this lady walked with me to help me find my hotel again. Life moves at a different pace here, even the simple act of getting a cup of coffee is an all-day ritual for these people. I think I may move here permanently.”
Then you notice her signature, she didn’t sign off with “Miss you,” or “Love,” or even “See you soon—”; no. She signed the card with an exuberant, “Join me!”
Portugal? Why would anyone go there when there are other more exciting places?
Motherhood is Portugal. You wake up one day, and you are a mother. It is all the great things you heard about, and more (it is also all the bad things you feared, and more). But there is no going back. Your passport is permanently stamped Mother for all the world to see. Messy hair. Dark circles under eyes. Wrinkled khakis (again). Mother, mother, mother.
Unlike your friend with the postcard (amateur), you have photos to show. Lots of photos. Here is baby smiling, here is baby sleeping, here is baby in his green hat, isn’t baby so cute? You don’t really need to show everyone the photos, because they can see the actual baby. He is sitting on your lap.
You never put him down.
Portugal is exactly the same. You visit and then it is all you can talk about and you can’t believe that people have not been there yet. Not gone to Portugal? the idea seems absurd.
Everyone else is speaking Italian, but you don’t: you only speak Portuguese now.