After a long wait of nearly six years, conditions had been created for a return to Portugal without risking being accused of escaping the army. In that summer of 1974 it was decided we would take the trip and fly to Lisbon. With us the new baby that we would introduce to great grandparents, Joseph and Pat in London and Bua in Lisbon. Great-grandfather quickly gave the baby a nick name. He became “Barbershop” as he sang himself to sleep.
It would also be the opportunity for grandparents João and Pamela in Lisbon to meet their first grandchild John.
Besides all this, a return to a country that was still celebrating and where everything seemed to be possible. The revolution was on its way and nobody would stop it! Mistakes were made and consequences were laid on those who most probably were innocent. But the fear of things going back was there, as were the demands for nationalizations of all types of production. Like all other revolutions things tended to go to extremes. Many people that had businesses were seen as supporters of the recent regime. It was obviously not so.
We were met by my father at the airport, who said- This cannot go back!!!!
But before that landing, the pilot gave us the grand view, which is standard when coming from the north and landing from the south. The plane turns over Lisbon and gives the passenger the opportunity to see this beautiful city across the Tejo’s majestic estuary, the long Caparica coastline to the south and then across the whole city for a landing practically spot on it.
For the first time there was no fear from passport agents, instead a smiling welcome. Benvindos! Suddenly a uniform was something positive. Things had indeed changed. The emotion of this return was strong and I am not capable of putting into words the extension of these feelings.
When I arrived in Sundsvall in 1973 it is safe to say that I didn’t know anyone. It is also true that nobody knew me! I felt when walking down the main street Storgatan that people looked at me and wondered who this new stranger was.
Mona’s relatives knew nothing of me. As we had got married in Stockholm one year previously it was felt that a christening would make some amends. The new family consisted very much of my mother in law’s relatives. Aime had then five older brothers still alive. They all had names ending in the letter E. The one that hadn’t was Allan and he was dead. Another peculiarity was that they all had only one child, except for Allan who had two.
Obviously the choice for the christening fell on Alnö. This is the island where all the family related to. Mona’s grandparents had worked in the sawmills like so many other men of that Sundsvall’s generation. Here everybody was at home Cedervalls and Hillmans.
The church of Alnö was built very near the medieval one. From it, the christening font was moved, and this would be used for the service that was to be directed by the old priest Mr. Bertil Wågström.
There was the small matter of getting Godparents for the occasion. The choice was simple. Best friends Åsa and Quim. I asked Quim, not very hopeful that he would say yes, considering travelling distances involved. He said yes and the date was set to the 16th December and the toddler would be given the name John Olof.
This event in the church was followed by coffee and cake and if nothing else gave everyone the possibility to get a glimpse of this new import somewhere from the south with the unpronounceable name. How would it go?
I ended my latest text by describing what I saw were my main issues for the next few months. Would my plans develop after my thoughts, on those cold and windy days in Sundsvall, as the year of 1973 drew to a close?
I was going to become a father. It was an exciting thought but at the same time scary. Were we as parents prepared for such a responsibility? I think Mona saw it this way: We had some back up in the shape of her parents Olle and Aime Hillman. They welcomed a grandchild and could help us with the logistical bits.
In our flat in Skönsberg we had what we needed to await the arrival of our first child. If it was a boy the family tradition should be followed. From my great-grandfather and down the name for the first born was João. Now this was tricky because it was a difficult name both to spell and to pronounce for anyone outside a Portuguese speaking country. We settled for the nearest and most international alternative. If it was a male he would be called John. He would have British nationality so an English name would be appropriate.
The parents waited! Maxwell the cat waited! But nothing happened when we were expecting it to happen. The baby just wasn’t in the mood to come out! Eventually they decided to start labour. After a second attempt the Sundsvall’s hospital prepared to help deliver the baby. It was a long drawn process occurring just two floors underneath where I sit on my working days. I was of course present. I had not participated on the labour courses provided. I hairy blond baby did eventually come out. It was a boy and he had a name.
The mixed feelings as I made my way home to our flat walking with my ears and legs frozen by the bitter wind along the Heffners Road were those of an immense pride and at the same time concern for the future of this little human being. The date was the 30th November.
Grandpa and Patricia went off to the Finanças and returned in triumph with the important papers they needed. We walked towards the center of Lisbon and Grandpa showed us places where he had lived and where our dad John had stayed as a child and had enjoyed.
Grandpa discovered that Mr. Joaquim was still standing behind the counter in the small shop on top of the Monte Olivete Street. We went in to the botanical gardens on the opposite side and looked at butterflies and learned about their lives under the supervision of Grandpa. After that we took a well-deserved rest before continuing to the Baixa where Grandpa and Patricia bought shoes for the visit to Amadora.
In Baixa we ate large sandwiches and carried on, towards the Tejo River.
The river was thick with fish and not even Grandpa could explain what they were doing there. But it was a strange sight on all accounts. The evening was rounded up at the Alameda with a show to commemorate the century of the Republic, with artists from Brazil, Cape Verde and fado singers from Portugal. Last of all appeared the legendary Carlos do Carmo whose career and life had been followed by Grandpa through the years. We did not get to bed until one in the morning!
We are really getting lazy in the mornings now. It is all because of the late nights… Naturally this does not apply to Grandpa, who got up, put on his new suit and was picked up by a car that took him and Patricia to Amadora. There he was received by a whole bunch of politicians wanting to show him the parks of Amadora and at the same time eager to collect information about the Aquapark in Sundsvall! They ate for a long time and received the town’s medals. While they were gone we played cards and solved crosswords (a Liv specialty), it got really late before we caught the bus to Belem! We could then visit Jerónimos, The Culture Centre and the Monument to the sea voyagers as we looked up to see the airplanes landing one after another, on their path, right above our heads. After a long walk we sat down for a meal just beneath the 25th April suspension bridge. Butterflies at the Jardim Botanico.