The taste of memories: growing up in a small town

If Verne is the city boy, that makes me the country girl. Although I was born in Lisbon, my parents soon moved back to Ponte de Sor, a nice little town nestled in the countryside. Being brought up in such a small and rural place had a profound impact on me. You grow up free, without borders. You go out on the streets to play with your friends, alone, no parents. You ride your bicycle, you play in the construction fields, you jump the rope, you scratch your knees (and elbows, and chin, and…), you fight and make peace, and only the sunset calls you back home. That taste of freedom lingers to this day.

Back then there were no mobiles, emails or messaging. Yet my friends and I would punctually meet every day after school at the same corner, feet on the pedals, hands off the brakes, imagination standing ready. The town held only a few streets, yet there was always something new to discover.

In wintertime, the air itself had a taste. A comforting mixture of cold and burning wood. During the summer, the heat was more than just temperature, it got under your skin and became your shadow for the day. You longed for afternoons spent in the semi darkness of your room, reading a book.

My grandparents had a small piece of land to cultivate, and whenever my parents and I would visit them, we would come back with potatoes, onions, eggs, apples, lettuces, on top of infinite kisses and hugs. We lived on a small townhouse, so I grew up with my parents longing for a similar place for us. I remember we used to gather around the living room table, drawing how the house would be like, where we would plant the vineyard, the orchards, the strawberry fields… It took many years to make it happen, and I had already moved away from home when it did. But I enjoy it no less, as I go there every chance I get. Last month, under the excuse of harvesting, we gathered the family around grapes, wine and memories.

But living in such a small place is not always idyllic. I had a very happy infancy, so it’s easy to look back and only remember the good moments. But the feeling of isolation, of being away from the world sometimes bordered claustrophobia. I remember writing a letter to my favorite author, lamenting this isolation and letting her know how much books helped. As I grew up, my imagination focused on the two things I wanted most: a driver’s license and the time to leave for college. Two tickets for exploring the rest of the world.

Eighteen years after, I don’t like driving but have had the unique opportunity to travel the world. Yet my brain, when left alone, travels back home to my little town. As much as I enjoy city life, the countryside is part of me, and I couldn’t imagine growing up in any other place.

 

Jules *

101 thoughts on “The taste of memories: growing up in a small town

    1. Thank you Helene! I am so glad you liked it.
      Talking about precious photos, I loved the ones on your blog! They made me wanna go back to SEA and explore it all over again… and again… and again 🙂

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  1. Nice writing, it resonates with me. I as well grew up in a small village in the countryside of Germany and I am longing back for that tranquility and natural environment. I am missing this in Singapore and I am still hunting for places which are similar to those, which I enjoyed in my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Joachim. I totally understand your feeling: whenever I’m away from “home”, I’m always looking for those places that bring me back to my familiar grounds. It’s easier when you can just get in your car and go there, but most of the times these are also “mental places” that you can find around you. Good luck for your hunt!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulosa, a foto de apresentação do post! Bonitas, as fotos dos insectos e das flores campesinas, as da faina das vindimas, as do galo e do cão…

    Gostei de ler essas memórias de uma infância feliz nesse pequeno Mundo que continua a ser o teu refúgio, mas que não calou a inquietação de querer abraçar o Mundo cá fora.

    Parabéns pela partilha.

    Um beijinho. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jules you write a beautiful story. Your memories will be with you forever in your heart and in your photos. My husband was a country boy but eventually moved to a city. At our wedding, our best friend made a speech and said “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy”. Like my husband it will always be a part of you.

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    1. Thank you so much Anne! I’ve been very lucky to have been brought up in such a place. Among other things made me appreciate the simple things of life, like a frog or a flower. So glad you liked it!

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  4. Eloquently put and in its simplicity but also claustrophobia you immediately made me think back on my experiences growing up in a small town. Maybe one day I will write a post response to your writing 🙂 Great blog btw 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much 🙂 ❤ the blog is new but I will be working on adding more content – I do not get a lot of feedback on it yet so you are the first to say such kind words!
        I love your blog overall and I will for sure explore each and every corner 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. LOVE the imagery in your writing, especially this part: “In wintertime, the air itself had a taste. A comforting mixture of cold and burning wood. During the summer, the heat was more than just temperature, it got under your skin and became your shadow for the day.” So lovely….

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Loved your article, it brought back childhood memories and it makes me sad in some ways to know that my son will never have had this freedom we used to growing up in a big city but then I know that there are other things he will appreciate and miss. I also loved your photos, a lot!
    Vanessa

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Vanessa! You know, even if your son cannot have the same kind of freedom we had (for sure he will have plenty other things we never dreamed of!), storytelling about those days is a great way of keeping those moments alive, even if you are in a big city!

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  7. My wife is from São João da Madeira, outside Porto and we have family there still.

    I would love to move there someday and would rather not wait until we are both doddering old fools!

    Have to find someway of transferring the business. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brick! Thank you so much. I was just looking at your blog and you have an incredible story. Wish you all the best with your travels and let us know if you are in Portugal again and need some tips. Would be more than happy to share some thougts!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It’s much easier to write about the things you care the most. It is in the centre of Portugal, in a region called Alentejo. In my totally unbiased opinion (eheheh), one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal 🙂

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      1. My home town is actually in the northern Alentejo. Despite sharing the same name, it has a much different landscape than the south, more green and hilly. Let us know if you drop by and we’ll give you some tips!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful post. I grew up in a small orchard town nestled in the mountains with more trees than people. I love the city, but part of me will always be that kid with skinned knees, riding my bike through rows and rows of pear trees.

    xox

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    1. Hi Feisty! Thank you so much 🙂 You know, one of the things this post made me realize is that no matter where you grew up (Portugal, US, India, UK, …) these experiences all end up being very similar. And that feels good, almost like a ‘shared experience’ that increases our empathy with the rest of the world 🙂

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  9. This was beautiful! Brought me back to my own childhood – down to the cute little chicken. I love your photos as well. Looking forward to reading more!

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  10. You’ve touched upon a lot of reasons why we decided to make Portugal our home last year. We’ve traveled to many places and countries and lived in several states in the US and yet, when we visited Portugal in 2015, we felt like we’d finally found a place that was home. Maybe as a child growing up in a small village you yearned for bigger and modern cities but I can see, too, that you appreciated Portugal’s smallness as well – its safety and the freedom it gave you to explore the world with a friendly and welcoming place to return. 🙂 Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anita and Richard! Thank you so much for your comment and so glad you enjoy living here in Portugal! Your last sentence sums up beautifully my feelings about living here: a safe haven where you can return after exploring everything else out there. I was going through your blog, and it is inspiring! Love your story (thanks for taking the time to update the “About” section” :)) and your photos! Made me feel like putting the backpack on my shoulders again!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Funny how through this post I ended up “getting to know” so many people with similar experiences! We’ve never been to the Philippines, but it’s very high on our list. I’ll come back to you for some tips, if that’s ok 🙂

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  11. A refreshingly expressed post. Thank you. I’m a country girl born and raised too. And like you, it became ‘too small’ in my teen years, but I still seek out the countryside, villages and small towns and feel more at home there. My best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Cynthia! So good to feel understood 🙂 Nowadays I don’t think I would be able to live in such a small place, but it has definitely shaped the way I seek comfort. I’m more of a mid size city girl 🙂 I don’t think I would be happy living in a big city like NY for instance, but Ponte de Sor is also way too small for me! Best wishes for you to!

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  12. Your post really resonated with me; I might not have actually grown up in a small town but every summer we would stay in my mum’s tiny village far removed from “civilization” deep in La Mancha (Spain) and every now and again we would stay in my dad’s village near A Coruña. I truly understand that feeling of freedom but as much as I hold my villages dear to my heart, I don’t think I could actually live there full time. Sometimes, we build up such a romanticised idea of country life that we forget that it can also be bloody hard and challenging. That said, I always get morriña (or as you say in Portuguese, saudades) when I think of my villages; my roots.

    Saudações desde espanha! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Muchas gracias! I was peeking through your blog and I guess we’ll be using it to plan some trips to Valencia. We’ve actually been there once and loved it (the Calatrava park is amazing!) but looking at your blog made me realise that we skipped a lot of interesting things! I agree with you on the “romanticised idea” of the country side, and that’s why I don’t see myself living in such a small place nowadays. It is great for weekends get aways and some extended holidays, but too narrow for the daily life.

      Liked by 1 person

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