My Father's Home

It’s midnight, and sleep will not come to me. My parents are frantically searching for my father’s green card. My father, a carpenter, has a habit of hiding important documents in random spots in our garage and then forgetting where he placed them. He swears he remembers putting his green card in an empty paint can. He just doesn’t remember which one. At about 2 a.m., after much pleading to St. Anthony, the document is found. We are ready to leave.

We are headed to Tras-os-Montes, a remote corner of Portugal, nestled between the Geres Mountains and the sun-baked fields of Galicia. I visit a village called Doñoes, a place where the fall potato harvest is the year’s high point and hot showers are rare, thanks to the lilliputian capacity of the water heaters.

Every three years, my father takes my family back to Portugal, which he left in 1980. As I pack, the usual resentment arises. “Why should I waste half my summer in the boonies of the Iberian Peninsula?” I think to myself-only for a minute, though, because there is no time to waste: drive to New York, stand in line, fight with the clerk about our overweight bags. “And don’t forget to hold your sister’s hand!” exclaims my mother as she walks away into the bathroom. Finally, the plane takes off, and the madness that is JFK Airport shrinks into the distance.

I know we are landing when I hear the chatter of Portuguese women, grasping their rosary...

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About the Author

Antonio Reis, a graduate of Masuk High School in Monroe, Connecticut, will attend Wesleyan University in the fall. This piece is adapted from the personal essay Reis submitted with his college applications.