Funny memories can bring a smile to your face

  • A trip to Portugal ended with a funny interaction that still brings a smile to my face years after.

    A trip to Portugal ended with a funny interaction that still brings a smile to my face years after. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted9/7/2019 7:00 AM

There are many types of memories -- happy, comforting, sentimental, sad, childhood, and more. But the "funny" memory can cheer you up and bring a smile every time you recall it. Smiling is so important.

We all know that good memories are one of our best defenses for coping with grief.


Well, once upon a time, not that many years ago, my dear husband and I decided to vacation in Portugal.

Many friends had told us how lovely it is -- the food, the people, the towns along the coast. We got a wonderful historic hotel right on the big town square in Lisbon, with a view up to the great castle fort, high above the city which was in straight view from our hotel room.

We explored everything in Lisbon -- going to all the seafood restaurants in the evening, which were elegant and delicious. And every day we went up to the castle to have lunch and to view the harbor and the city from on high. There was a wonderful restaurant up there with gourmet local food, and a harbor view park with ancient olive trees. There were places to sit under the olive trees and just soak up the view and the atmosphere.

Then after Lisbon, we went down the coast to Stubel, a little coastal village south of Lisbon. We stayed at an old medieval castle that had been turned into a hotel. You actually walked through the castle gate and up a long internal stone ramp to get to the entrance to the castle hotel.

The inside walls of reception, lounge, and our room were completely covered with beautiful Portuguese tiles, lots of blue and yellow. Inside the castle, there were places to explore such as the stables, barracks, and the old dungeons under the castle, all very interesting -- but not sure about the dungeons!

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There was also a darling little private chapel for the original medieval family, also all tile covered. A huge blue and white mural running around the walls, a religious story board.

There was only one family in Portugal still making these authentic tiles and other pieces of traditional shell-shaped ceramics. We shopped of course and brought some home. Those are the types of artifacts that are so nice to have back home because they remind you of the place, the people, and the good times.

In Stubel every eve we went down into the village and had a wonderful fresh fish supper in a taverna on one of the little cobblestone side streets. And, of course, a glass of the famous Portuguese port, usually served at the end of the meal -- sweet, a dessert in itself.

We went back to Lisbon the night before our return home. The next day we got to the airport early, so we went to the duty-free shop and decided to buy some Portuguese port to take home. We selected a couple bottles and paid. And then went to a cafe to have a little snack before boarding.


Then we heard our name on the loudspeaker. They wanted us back to go back to the duty-free shop. So we went.

When we got there we found out they made a mistake in our purchase of the port. Instead of charging us $111 dollars, they had charged us $11,111 dollars!


So we said, "Just give us a refund."

They said, "We can't refund it today because it's the weekend, so we'll do it Monday."

We said, no deal, we want a refund today. They went off into their office to figure out what to do.

They came back with a big cloth bag of cash! They had decided to give us a cash refund of $11,000. We were horrified! Could not believe it. Of course we could not board a flight to the USA carrying a bag of $11,000 cash!

So we did not accept the cash. We settled for a signed letter stating they would credit our credit card on Monday. The upshot is that they did process the credit the next day and all turned out OK.

I still smile every time I think of this strange and funny experience, and I can visualize the smile on my dear Baheej's face when he was offered that bag of cash. And the neat thing -- when they brought out the letter of IOU, they gave us a gift of five bottles of high quality port which we brought home and enjoyed for two years after.

So there you go. A smile forever.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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