A pang of sadness stabs among the smiles this year. This was the last time my daughter would be dressing up for Carnival with her S. Martinho primary school. Next year, she will in the ‘big school’ and they do not, my son thankfully states, parade. I have lost count of the occasions I have played spectator to my kids while they perform the Portuguese birthright of a good party. I always, like many other parents, look forward to the spectacle and feel a connection with tradition through carnival.
My dear Ruby loves the event as it is a theatrical present to perform, but Benjamin my son has never liked being marched through streets broad and narrow on display in a costume all too often comprising of a plastic bin liner. His distrust of Carnival has been compounded by being sick one year en-route in Caldas da Rainha. He is adamant the culprit was an old gent giving out even older biscuits to all the kids. I do have some empathy with his contrary carnival contention as all too often the not inconsiderable heat of a February day, the distance involved and the embarrassment can be wearing on the kids. Clothed in cardboard and black plastic and made up to represent a hypodermic needle or a SLR camera is something I thankfully, did not encounter in my childhood.
But there is something resonate and warm about Carnival. And in sleepy S. Martinho on the Silver Coast some magic and winter warmth can be felt. Around eleven of the morning, the sea front shines with smiling faces as the bystanding grand parents, mums and dads wave and search the procession for the faces familiar of sons, daughters and grand children all taking part. The kids amble and wave in response, music is in the air as the hectoring teachers shepherd and steer the throng along. The destination is a rather impressive, large beachside, transparent, curved roofed construction with stage and bar.
After a short snack and sip, some of the youngest kids enter the building and begin to play and dance with friends and relations and the towns old folk, dressed in more traditional party attire take part at their own pace and in their own way. This is a community at ease with itself, and surrounded by many of my friends I allow myself a happy, reflective moment.
Filled with a heat of satisfaction I walk around and finally locate my wife. Sometime after I answer Ruby’s request to buy her an iced tea. We then sit together, arms intertwined, in each other’s sight, saying little, on a low fence soaking in the weak but welcome amber sun which shines on the beachside park. We study on-looking friends watching the children at play. All is peace, all is tranquil and all is ours. Portugal really is the best place to be a kid or to be a parent.