Baião de Dois – Rice with Beans and Cheese
Typical Food of Ceará – Northeast Brazil
My sons were eleven and thirteen years of age when a medical examination revealed that my severe back pain was the result of a herniated disk – peril of a sedentary working life coupled with lack of physical exercise, according to my doctor. The treatment prescribed by the neurosurgeon I consulted seemed worse than the pain that caused me to walk with a limp. Complete bed rest for fifteen days. Flat on my back with a pillow under my knees. I could only get up to use the toilet. He allowed me up to five days to make arrangements at work and at home for my hibernation.
At the time, I had two assistants working with me in the Import Department at Ceará Importers.* One of them, fluent in English, had recently joined us. During my absence from the office, I agreed to work by phone, as needed, throughout the work-day.
One of the medications the doctor prescribed required daily injections. My next-door neighbor gave me the name and apartment number of a retired nurse living in our condominium. We agreed to a time that would work for both of us – my sons had to be at home to let her in.
Getting help with washing our laundry and cooking was another concern. The laundry proved easy. A family-owned lavanderia, operating within the condominium complex, provided washing and ironing services at an affordable rate. I arranged for pick-up and delivery during the time my sons would be home from school.
The cooking was another matter. Ordering meals for the three of us for fifteen days would burst my budget. My sons agreed to do the cooking. They already knew how to prepare breakfast. The main meal, for lunch and dinner, became their challenge. Cooking began when they got home from school around one o’clock. With my thirteen-year-old in charge, they followed my step-by-step instructions for preparation of the ingredients and cooking time. When in doubt and in order to determine if the food was fully-cooked, they brought the pot for me to see.
During those days immobilized, I realized the need to teach my sons to cook. On Sundays, following my recovery, I started teaching my older son to cook. Sunday cooking lessons with my younger son began when he turned thirteen. Today, my younger son is a better cook than I am and a “cook man” like my father.
Each one of us learned a lot during those fifteen days. Though fearful about not being able to walk again and my loss of income – my work contract did not include paid sick leave – I had to be strong for them. In spite of their own fears, my sons were there for me all the way. No acting up. No complaints. We grew stronger and more united as a family unit. What more could a working solo mom ask of her sons?