The rule was that the must story be told before the checks were distributed. In this way, the squabbling grand children and the aging nieces and nephews might be inspired by the legacy of their stern, stubborn Avó.
Way back when, before fishing villages became playgrounds for the idle rich, back when this country was brought to its knees by the Great Depression, before Avó was a Grandmother and was simply Cecília, the no-nonsense lady behind the counter of the local bakery, people were going to bed hungry. This hunger wasn’t the sort you kids might feel today where its just a question of waiting for the microwave to ding, rather, it was a bone gnawingly empty grind day after day.
The Mayor and Town Elders decided something must be done. They approached two businesses in the town; the bakery and the fisherman and asked them to offer the starving local residents some bread, some fish in exchange for whatever the town could pay. The man Avó was married to at the time, the no good Fausto (spit, spit) a sad excuse for a grandfather, slammed his formidable fist on the table and told his wife that they were not running a charity.
Yet, at the end of each day, both the register and the shelves were strangely empty, a fact that continued to infuriate Fausto. On the very day that Fausto marched to the hardware store to buy thick penny nails, even while he was hammering them into the dry wood of the front door with the intention of shutting his business down, who should stroll by, but the Mayor, who invited Fausto for a ride on his motor boat — still a novelty in these parts.
Avó confessed with a wink and giggle that she never did properly mourn her husband’s strange and tragic disappearance. Nor did she keep a record of how many loaves of bread, cookies and wedding cakes she gave away during those hard years. Eventually, the war started and money began to flow again.
With the crisis behind them, the grateful town gave Avó the keys to all the empty houses lining the rocky shoreline. She was not pleased. The houses were dirty. The roofs leaked. Windows needed replacing. And where would the money to fix them up come from?
Stubborn, hard working to a fault, Avó was not about to let mere brick and mortar defeat her. She scrubbed and polished and hammered and bartered this for that until the houses could be lived in again. And when her time was up, she distributed what she thought was a modest inheritance among her relations.
Alert to the cue, the family now stood up as one, raised their glass of Ginjinha and sang out in gratitude “To Avó”. Then they collected their ample cut of the growing estate and headed home to spend it.