It's funny how often I've heard my older brother Jim say jokingly to my wife, Iolanda, "Mi casa es su casa". Many know that this is a common expression in Spanish that means, "My home is your home". What makes this saying so fun to hear is that I know he says it to my wife with two motives in mind. The first is that Jim knows that though Iolanda speaks Portuguese as a first language, many fluent Spanish speakers take one look at her and due to her Latina appearance, assume she speaks Spanish. I've witnessed this on occasion when even total strangers speak Spanish to her. Her reply is always a polite reply in English, "I'm sorry I don't speak Spanish I speak Portuguese". This helps explain why my brother speaks in Spanish to my wife; he knows very well that it will get a laugh from her (probably not surprising for those who know Jim)! The second reason he says to her, and the reason I believe he has said it often to her, is to sincerely return to her the same caring and warmth that my wife has always extended to him.
Though it may be a Spanish expression, I believe it's a principle by which my wife lives her life. One common way I've witnessed my wife make our home a place where all can feel at home is by inviting you over for dinner. I remember the first time I experienced this quality in my wife, we were recently married and my wife invited my brothers over for a Brazilian lunch. She was excited to provide for them a small experience from Brazil though more importantly; she was excited to make her new family feel welcome in our home. As newlyweds typically experience, we didn't have quite enough utensils to set our table, we didn't have enough groceries in the pantry, and to top it off, we were living in a pretty tight space. Somehow though, between tracking down the needed groceries, getting cookware we needed at the local thrift store, and making do with what we had she was able to put together an authentic Brazilian lunch experience for my brothers. What I love most about that experience was that she wasn't embarrassed or worried by any of the things that embarrassed or worried me. She simply wanted to share what she had, no matter how humble or simple, with those she cared for. The meal was delicious and to top off that memorable day, my brothers, who are all comedians by the way, provided entertainment by sharing those funny, albeit embarrassing, stories that siblings share growing up together (many of which came up later from my concerned wife).
Through my marriage, similar experiences like this have come up many times with many different wonderful people because of my wife. I've watched her, though swamped with responsibilities, still reach out to newly made friends, co-workers, and family when I thought she should have waited for a better time. Thankfully, she has taught me that there is never a better time that right now to open your doors and your arms to those around you.
On one other occasion, one that warms my heart as I reflect on that memory was during Christmas time a few years ago. My wife had been working in retail and as those who work retail know, the holidays meant longer hours at work and less time at home. I also was under considerable stress to deliver some large furniture and cabinet projects due before Christmas. Those days and weeks leading up to Christmas that year were strained and stressful.
As Christmas day neared, I anxiously looked forward to having a day off together with her and the kids. I was surprised when she came home from work on Christmas Eve and announced that we needed to clean the house because she had invited a friend over to have a Christmas lunch with us. My heart sunk a little and I knew that what lay ahead wasn't the rest I was hoping for. We mustered up the courage we had and spent the evening cleaning up the house and preparing food for our guest's visit the next day.
Despite my initial disappointment, I quickly learned from my wife that the person she had invited was going through a particularly trying time in her life and didn't have the support of family near her for Christmas. The next day during our Christmas lunch, I came to realize the opportunity my wife had given to our children and myself to reach out and be a friend in a very meaningful way. Thankfully, her mind and her heart were tuned into more than just rest from the stress and pressures of day-to-day life. We had a wonderful experience and as a family, we learned an invaluable lesson through her example.
I've wondered many times how my dear wife has developed those endearing qualities that emanate from her so naturally. Much I think can be attributed to her humble start in life of growing up in a family of twelve in Brazil. Personally, I like to think that she developed most of her spiritual qualities before she came to this earth and that a loving God placed her here specifically because the world would need courageous and loving people like her to champion His causes and make the world a better place. She is my angel, my best friend, and the brightest light in my life. Today on her birthday, I celebrate her life and her efforts! I love you, Lola!