When Laughter Graced The Table

As I write this, my dear cousins have just landed back in Dallas. It almost seems as if the past week was merely a beautiful dream and I refuse to wake up. Sometime life can truly surpass our wildest imaginations and present us with the most beautiful realities and memories. That is the beauty of treasured friends and family who come to visit, whether it is for a day, an afternoon, a weekend, or a week, if you live in the moment and embrace it all, then you will have given yourself the best gift of all.

When my cousins arrived last week, they graced the Frobbit House mid morning, breathing in the spectacular view of the Shire in the clarity of daylight. Their adventure was just beginning, so it was fitting that their last evening in Portugal was spent on the rooftop at sunset, overlooking the Shire and watching the lights come on over the valley. I don’t thing a Hollywood director could have orchestrated the scene better with special effects compared to the beauty of the valley last night. The Shire delivered, and we had a true fellowship around the table, which was blessed with Portuguese delicacies. I wanted to give them a send off that would have them looking forward to their next visit!

Each language and culture has certain words that are untranslatable in any other language, and yet are at the heart of the culture.

  • In German you have words like fernweh often translated as wanderlust, but it is so much more than that. It encompases a certain restlessness, yearning to travel, and leave home but alway with the intention of returning.
  • In Filipino we have balikbayan, which literally translates into return to the hometown or homeland. Again, the translation is limited because it doesn’t reflect the pride and joy of returning to your roots no matter how long you have been gone. It is the honouring of your heritage, and admission of a longing to be back home where it all began.
  • The spanish speaking world has añoranza, which is another one of words that cannot be accurately translated with all the emotion it conveys. It is a yearning, a longing, for a person, place, or point in time in the present, past or future. The German equivalent perhaps comes closest to it with sehnsucht. In both languages, the concept transcends missing someone or something.
  • Portuguese has two words / phrases that make no sense to anyone who has not lived here (or Brazil) before and experienced the culture first hand – saudade and matar saudades. The concept and philosophy of saudade comes close to the spanish añoranza, but also carries an element of solitude, nostalgia, melancholy, regret and to some extent lamentation. It is the heart and soul of the Fado music, Whenever I am asked to explain Fado to anyone (i.e. non-Portuguese), I simply say is it the Portuguese Blues. This may sound blasphemic to the Portuguese, but the Blues are the only musical equivalent I can accept. Unlike añoranza, however, saudade is centered entirely on people, or to be more precise, their presence.

A friend recently told me that we should get together soon and matar saudades. My initial reaction was to wonder who and what we were going to kill and why. This person doesn’t a violent bone in her body, which led me to believe that I was missing the point completely somehow. I didn’t dare ask anything further and decided to find out on my own whether or not I had to gear up for some peculiar hunting expedition. It turned out to be the most beautiful linguistic quest I have ever been on!

Fundamentally, matar saudades boils down to catching up and stop missing the person, but it doesn’t stop there. It means bringing an end to the absence of presence. This is exactly what spending time with my family meant to me. Matar saudades was the whole sentiment of the time we spent together. catching up on each other’s lives, reliving childhood memories, family history, and even daring to make plans for the future. It was invigorating and moving all at the same time, and the laughter that graced the table is imprinted in my soul. I am truly blessed.

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