Porto Novo & Portland

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and Ede and Hank were in Porto Novo having lunch.

“I spoke to my mother last night. She asked me if I would be spending Christmas in Portland with her.”

“What’s Christmas like in Portland?”

“Very festive. You have the Revels Show with singing, dancing, juggling, and poetry as well as a bit of whimsy and drama. There’s the Christmas Bazaar, the largest in America, the Festival of Lights. The Grotto’s grounds, which are decorated with lights and nativity scenes. There are about 150 choral performances too. The largest holiday light display can be seen in the comfort of your car. This display is hosted by the Portland International Raceway. It’s open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are so many things to do during the holidays. You have the Mt. Hood Railroad’s Train to Christmas Town, the Christmas Fantasy Trail, the Portland Bazaar, the Holiday Ale Festival which I’ve never been to for obvious reasons, the Hawthorne Holiday Stroll, the Providence Festival of Trees, the Christmas Ship Parade, the Pittock Mansion Holiday Display and Christmas at the Old Church.”

“Wow, it sounds like there is much to do and see at Christmas in Portland.”

“Yes and there are more.”

“Are you going to Portland for Christmas?”

“Yes. I don’t want to disappoint my mother and it would be nice seeing her.”

Ede tried to hide her disappointment. “I think she would be very happy to have you there for Christmas.”

“Ede, what are your plans for Christmas?”

“Well, my mother is coming to Cotonou to spend Christmas. She will drive down on Christmas Eve morning.”

“Do you think she and your grandmother would object if I invited you to come to Portland with me?”

Ede’s eyes widened. “You want me to spend Christmas with you and your mother?”

“Yes. Would you like that?”

She smiled. “Of course, I would.”

He smiled. “I’m relieved to hear that. I’ll ask your grandmother when I drop you home this evening.”

“And you can ask my mother when you see her.”

“I’m going to see your mother?”

“Of course. We can’t come to Porto Novo and not visit her. She would be very upset with me. Besides, she’s dying to meet you.”

“You told her about me?”

“Yes, I did.”

“What did you tell her about me?”

“That you’re an American hunk.”

He stared at her, aghast. “You told her that?”

Ede laughed. “Yes, I did. I also told her that you’re a pastor and I shared one of your sermons with her. She was very impressed.”

“And she doesn’t have a problem with us dating?”

“No, she doesn’t.”


“What about your family? Will they have a problem with us dating?”

“My mother won’t. She knows about you and is anxious to meet you. I told her that I was hoping to bring you home for the holidays. She will be thrilled that you can go.”

“And the rest of the family?”

“I’m not sure how they will feel about our relationship but it doesn’t matter to me. As long as we have God’s blessing, that’s all that counts, right?”

“Yes.” They finished their dessert and then left for Porto Novo. They visited the Brazilian-style Great Mosque, the Musée Da Silva with its collection of the history and culture of Benin, the Museum of Ethnography with its large collection of Yoruba masks, King Toffa’s Palace, a historic landmark mansion describing the characteristics of the African royalty and currently a home to a museum.

After they were done sightseeing, they went to Ede’s old home where they were welcomed warmly by her mother who invited them to stay for dinner.

“Ede has told me so much about you that I feel like I know you,” Mrs. Sossou said to Hank.

Hank glanced at Ede and smiled. “She also told me that she shared one of my sermons with you.”

“Yes, she did. I enjoyed it very much. One of Saturday, I would like to visit Harvest and hear you preach in person.”

“I would like that very much.”

“Are you the only Adventist in your family?”

“No, most of my family on my mother’s side are. The rest are Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals and Anglicans. My father became an Adventist before he married my mother.”

“I’m the only Adventist in my family. Everyone else is Catholic. When I married Ede’s father, I was a Catholic and after he died, I became an Adventist.”

“I’ve been attending Harvest every week,” Ede told her. “And Hank is giving me Bible studies.”

“Good.” They chatted more until it was time to have dinner. Hank said a prayer and then, they tucked into Tofu Benin with Tomato-Peanut Sauce served over brown basmati rice. For dessert, they had vegan Lemon Olive Oil Cake. Afterwards, they retired to the living-room. “Mrs. Sossou, I was wondering if it would be all right with you if Ede were to spend Christmas in Portland with my family and me?”

“Although you don’t need my permission because Ede is a grown woman, you have my blessing. It would be a nice change for Ede. She’s never traveled anywhere in her life.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Sossou.”

“Thanks, Mama.”

“Make sure you take something for Hank’s mother.”

“I will.”

It was near eight when they decided that it was time to leave. “Mrs. Sossou, thank you for a very pleasant evening and dinner. I loved your spicy Tofu dish and the cake.”

Mrs. Sossou smiled. “Thank you. Ede told me that you teach cooking classes at the community center.”

“Yes, I do.”

“I think all men should know how to cook.”

“I agree,” Hank replied.

“Ede’s a very good cook too.”

“Yes, I know,” he said. “I had the pleasure of having dinner with her and Mrs. Amadou.”

“Well, Hank, it was a pleasure meeting you.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you too, Mrs. Sossou.

“I’d like you and Ede to come and visit me again soon.”

“We will.”

“Goodbye, Mama,” Ede said as she and her mother hugged.

“Have a safe trip to Portland and a Merry Christmas. I’ll see you in the New Year.”

They bade her farewell and left. Before heading back to Cotonou, they went for a walk on Obama Beach. The ocean view was beautiful. “Did you ever swim here?” Hank asked.

Ede shook her head. “No, it’s dangerous for swimming because of strong currents.”

“I live close to a beach. You’re welcome to come there anytime to swim or to just go for a walk or sit and watch the ocean.”

Ede smiled up at him. “I’d like that.”

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“I’m glad we came to Porto Novo. I had a great time.”

“Me too. My mother likes you.”

“And I like her. She looks a lot like your grandmother.”

“Yes, she does.”

“Is your mother an only child like you?”

“No. She has two brothers and a sister. They are all living in England.”

“I’m happy that she and your grandmother will be spending Christmas together.”

“Me too.”

“Are you excited about going to Portland?”

“I’m excited and nervous.”

He reached for her hand. It felt so soft and small in his. “There’s no need to be nervous, Ede,” he said. “I’ll be there.”

She smiled, her heart beating fast because he was holding her hand. It felt nice. His fingers felt gentle and strong. “Thanks for inviting me, Hank.”

“I had to, Ede. I can’t imagine not spending Christmas with you.”

“Can we build a snowman?”

He smiled. “Yes. And we can put a hat and scarf on him.”

She laughed. “That sounds good and after we’re done building him, you and I can have a snowball fight.”

He chuckled. “You’re on.”

Ede’s eyes danced. She was really looking forward to spending Christmas with him and seeing snow in real life. They headed back to the car, holding hands.

Sources: Christmas Portland Guide; Must Visit Place; Trip.com; Vegetarian Times

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