Monday, November 23, 2020

You’ll live! I promise you.

The year was 1998. That’s when I moved to the United States. Due to some visa restrictions that are irrelevant here, I was not allowed to leave the country until my Green Card was issued. I had no idea how long that’d be. I applied for it the same year, but the INS doesn’t tell you anything about anything. You apply for something, and they will notify you. One day. It can be tomorrow (it never is, really), or in 10 years. You’re at their mercy.


I could leave the country, really, but that might have meant I might never be allowed to come back. Newly married and starting my job and my life in the US, I didn’t want to risk not ever coming back. So, I stayed. And for two years (this is how long it was till the INS finally granted my Green Card), I was not allowed to leave the country.


I was 23 at the time and 1998 was a tough year for me. For the first time in my life, I was away from the only people I had ever called “family” for all the important occasions: my birthdays, theirs, deaths, and all the holidays. We had no Skype, no Zoom, no Facetime. I had a discount phone plan with MCI (landline; remember them? With the sun on the “i”?!) that cut my cost-per-minute by 10-20% or some such number. I was making minimum wage and could not afford to talk for more than 10-15 minutes once a month or so.  The normal going rate was something like $2.50 for Romania.


Those two years were my practice time, where I learned how to survive and have a more-or-less normal life knowing I would maybe never be with my family for many, if not all, of the most important occasions. I admit, as a 23-year-old, that was something to get used to. By 2000 I got into the groove of it. It was what we did. And we lived. The distance and the absence did not kill us.


Nowadays, the desperation of people not being with their families for Thanksgiving this year puzzles me. Yes, I know it hurts. I know it’s not what we “normally” do. Like I said: I have been there. But why risk our health and that of those we love for a get-together?! That part, I don’t understand. Sure, there are still millions out there who don’t believe this pandemic is real, but even those millions that believe in it (although it’s science and not Santa Claus, really) are willing to risk it all for 24 hours of eating turkey with an audience. I just don’t get it.

Today, we have so many ways of communicating and practically feel like we’re right there, in each other’s homes, that I would think it would be a no-brainer being safe and not sorry later. Or better safe than sick. I know the remote options for communication work because today I meet with my family weekly for free for about a couple of hours every Sunday. We catch up on the week and gossip about the rest of the family. It’s great.

We still don’t celebrate, for the most part, holidays together. That is “our normal” and that has become our routine. We managed to find and make other traditions over the years around the holidays and we cherish them just as much as the old ones before we decided to live in different countries. We don’t mourn what we don’t have anymore (we have not done that in 20 years now), and we’re grateful for the times when we can travel and see each other. Those times, regardless of when in the year they occur, are holidays within themselves. We’re ever so thankful for technology and each other regardless of how many courses we all eat together from the same kitchen (Thanksgiving does not apply for my own family, but you get the idea). We have survived this distance. We have built other bridges to communicate and find other times to communicate in. And if we could, like so many millions of other immigrant families, I am sure we all can.


I wish strength and optimism to those who decide to stay home and make memories in a new (and hopefully not-to-be-repeated-again) way. Better days will come. They must. I wish everyone else who decides to travel and get together this season much care, precaution, and much luck.


Regardless of your choice, Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Historical Amnesia. How America Lost Its Way

What I wish that my family's 42 (and my 15) years of living in an authoritarian regime can teach America today

“ Ignorance can make us foot soldiers for unworthy causes. “ - Tara Westover, “Educated”

I was in college in Romania, studying to get my English major, when this American professor from Texas came to speak with us. One of the students asked him what is the biggest difference between Romania and America, and he said: “Well, you guys are many years behind America in many ways but you are not focusing your efforts into being more advanced than you are. Instead, you think your strength is in speaking about how glorious your past was. You always speak about your history and your past. But in America, let me tell you, the average American who walks down the street and enjoys their juicy burger at McDonald's and shoots their rockets into space doesn’t give a crap about history or how glorious or not that was.” I am sure I was not the only one in the audience who cringed a little and found his statement so cheapening coming from a representative of a nation most of us revered. Now, 20 some years later, I cringe still.

Nowadays, I cringe because I see the sad, the painful, the sometimes irreversible effects of so many years, decades of average Americans not giving a crap about their country’s and the world’s history. Americans find more interest in a cheap reality show displaying daily from the White House, from an accidental bug landing on a VP’s head on national television than spending the same amount of time and energy learning about history and worrying about where their present history is taking them. But that is another topic for another blog.

If you’re born in a small country like Romania, a country that has been the victim of many historical accidents and horrors, you are not only following history. It’s ingrained in your DNA. You breathe it, you eat it for breakfast and for every meal. It’s your duty since birth to preserve it, carry it on and ensure you won’t repeat it. It’s a requirement and an unwritten order to sheer survival.

For the first 15 years of my life, I was brought up in the worst years of Communist Romania, the dying years. For those who think Communism and Socialism are the same thing, they are not. I know, you don’t follow history, but I’ll say just this for your education: the difference between Communism and Socialism is that between China and France. It’s that between Cuba and Canada or Sweden. Not. The. Same. Thing. It was not only a Communist regime, but one of the worst authoritarian regimes in the history of the world. Communism is rarely if ever non-authoritarian. I learned to grow up guarded, with no trust in anyone who was not myself, not even in my parents and grandparents. I grew up in fear, and in lacking. We lacked food, running water (although the plumbing was there), soap , toilet paper, decency, dignity, and above all freedom. Not only freedom to read what we wanted and speak what we wanted, but freedom to think.

During that time I was coming of age and I started asking questions. I never understood how one person with just a handful of people just as evil as himself could control the millions of Romanians in the country. How a country that calls themselves “democratic” (which means “demos+kratos” = the power of the people) can become so swiftly “autocratic” (the power of one). How one person can impose such a rule of fear when the rule was crushing the very humanity and human dignity that I felt we should all have and respect in one another. I never understood, until the days of the Revolution of December 1989, why people cannot just kick this person and his handful of acolytes out and start fresh with a new era, when pretty much everyone in the street knew his regime was wrong and crushing. I had the same questions then about why Hitler, who was allegedly elected in free elections, could not be stopped by his own people before he ruined half of the world and a whole nation in particular. I could not understand how authoritarianism can be instated when most people should see it coming like a freight train.

Today’s America, the past several years, mostly, has shown me just how this can happen. Little by little, every day, every piece of news that comes across the wires shows me (and should show all of us, as a nation) how this happens. To me, it’s written on the wall in plain, simple English. Second-grade level plain English.  

This is what this blog is about. I will tell you things that have become the new normal for this country and are things that I lived only during my Communist years in Romania. I command you, American folks, to really shut the world off for a minute, shut off Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram and really, really think about these things. Decide whether you want your country to head into the direction that so many other authoritarian regimes lead many other countries in this world. Imagine you are multiplied into millions of people that want the same thing. Would you want yourself to be a victim of such a ruling? Just think. Then act. 

Like 1945 when a weakened Romania after the world war needed to fill a void with some ideal and just like the 1930’s when Germany needed a new ideal to believe in (I know, this is not as juicy as a McDonald's burger, it’s history, but bear with me), we are at crossroads in America today. We are in turmoil and we need to fill a void. But with what we’re filling it, what direction we choose from here on out will not only change what we have today, but will pen the destiny of this country, and of the world, not for years, but for generations to come. Unfortunately, in moments like these, the guy with the loudest rhetoric is not the good guy.  Maybe it’s not too late for America to choose the right way. But what I see seems far too gone. “Maybe” sounds optimistic.

I do need to add this one disclaimer: this is not, by any means, democratic (or "liberal") propaganda. I believe that some democrats have their blame in this, too. What follows is my truth, the one I have lived myself, proven by history. I am no one’s tool or messenger. I am sharing what I have seen and experienced myself and what my parents and grandparents experienced before me. And I will add that I am incredibly grateful that despite it all today, I am not afraid for my life when I write and post these thoughts on an open blog. At least not yet. 

So, here is my list of things that you and I live with today that I only lived once before, during my life in Authoritarian Communist Romania, arguably the darkest time of my life:

  • Votes are a total waste and a cheap fake show of fake democracy. They can be sold, thrown into the garbage and completely disregarded. Even when intelligence shows they were stolen, those instated in power are allowed to proceed with the fake results because the one person says so. What is the point? – you might ask. The voting process is always allowed to proceed even in an authoritarian regime to keep the appearance of a democracy. But the inner workings of it all are gutted of fairness.
  • There is no person higher than the one in charge in the president’s mansion, whatever you call that. No person nor law above their head.
  • All foreign powers are evil and want us harm. Those who destabilize the country are foreign powers and not his own forces and personnel. Divisive propaganda to ensure absolute power is installed: “Trust us, not them” becomes the battle cry.
  • Every country in the world is our enemy except those that have an authoritarian regime in power.
  • The country leader puts his own family members and close friends in power positions even when everyone in the country understands that they are all grossly under- or non-qualified. Such concepts like “conflict of interest” are derided and perceived as destabilizing.
  • The country leader lavishes in gold while the country lives paycheck to paycheck. Food stamps, homelessness are foreign concepts to the man in charge and he wishes to destroy any mere mention of them as a personal shame to his own regime, instead of acknowledging them as a fact and asking how he can help. He displays complete and utter lack of empathy which is poisonous for a “service” job as that of a democratic president.
  • He favorizes the wealthy and the few to the detriment of the many and the poor.
  • The regime dehumanizes people, whether they are innocent or proven guilty. People are  put in camps, or cages – units of sheer terror. In these camps, they break families up and sort people by sex (men separated from women) instead of trying them and following human-right principles of the law as agreed upon by all countries of the democratic world.
  • The country leader demands people and the military to participate in lavish and expensive parades to celebrate himself, complete with tanks and the military to display his power, not the country’s achievements (very different concepts!).
  • Intellectuals (yeah, those people we should listen to because they read history) flee the country as a last resort, seeing the helplessness of turning any of it around.
  • Mediocrity and corruption is advanced: people who can be bought and not people who can apply the existing law of the land are promoted.
  • The existing law of the land must change to fit his needs, and instead of letting the people (those in Congress elected by the people) change it, he changes it with the power of his one signature.
  • Political discourse is dead. The only thing that exists, the only reality is the power of him and a very small group of close allies in key positions. The deviousness that only blind greed for power can muster ensures that every institution, little by little, responds to his beck-and-call.
  • You’re afraid to speak your mind if that means speaking anti-him/ them. You can make all the fun you want and feel “free” to denigrate his opposers, to denigrate anyone who is “out of the norm” for what they believe the norm is, like people who worship differently, or people with disabilities, or people who are different for one reason or another, or make choices not popular to the regime’s choices. You still feel like you have freedom of speech, when in fact, you don’t. You have freedom of abusing those who dare stand against them or be different. Freedom of abuse is not freedom of speech.
  • Police controls your thoughts and not your actions.
  • He politicizes (hides behind his party) the Department of Homeland Security, the Supreme Court along with issues that chip away at freedom and the country’s autonomy, like the Russian interference in elections, Covid etc. Those are blows against the country and not a political statement of any party. They should, in a healthy democracy, be dealt with accordingly and not along party lines.
  • He militarizes local defense: replaces local police with military forces.
  • He promotes war, dissension over healthy discussion and diplomacy, even or especially in his own country. “Divide and conquer” is the motto of his every action. The more we feel fearful and scared and not act, the easier and faster his reach advances.
  • He forbids the press from attending meetings, press conferences, and makes threats that he will close TV stations and newspapers who don’t agree with his ideas. Trust me, in the beginning these are empty threats. I lived to know they will be eventually carried out.
  • Freedom of press is the first rule of a true democracy. It’s in the Constitution. He does everything to undermine or discredit that. And I know this is an effort of thinking for some: but by press I do not mean Facebook, Twitter, or even Apple News. I mean find the writing of those reporters who risk their lives to tell the truth.
  • Doors are closed to the press, to the people, during big decision-making meetings.
  • He forbids people from testifying when subpoenaed in matters of the country, or matters that regard his truthfulness and record.
  • He pardons convicted criminals for the simple reason that they are his friends.
  • He swiftly and diligently turns people against each other. He establishes a culture of every-man-for-themselves-trust-no-one-everyone-wants-to-steal-lie-and-turn-you-in-get-your-guns-and-prepare-to-fight. I am here to tell you from experience that this is not democracy, folks! This is not freedom!  You’ll be left not only without freedom but without humanity. And dignity. Without respect.
  • He builds literal walls to separate people. The Germans walled in the Jews in Warsaw and then walled out the free Berlin from the communist one.
  • Truth tellers are silenced and ordered to be quiet, on account of not betraying secrets of state, but in truth, these are secrets of personal issues that would only incriminate the president and his clique. Another big, huge lie they love to tell is “this is for the good of the country”. Who can rebut that?! In fact, it’s only for the good of their abusing the power.
  • He promotes an active agenda to shut out all other countries to allegedly focus on our own. This gives a false sense of patriotism. People are not islands. And again, history (I know! The big H word!) has proven that we’re always stronger together and no nation can exist in a void. You isolate because you’re hiding something awful. Anyone with a toddler will tell you that silence from a bedroom always means trouble.
  • One of the last steps is the idea to introduce ‘patriotic education’ in schools to allegedly teach the history and truth of the country. This is the first step into making his own propaganda a mandatory subject in schools, planting it in the young minds that will later lead his way. Trust me, I learned that propaganda in all my formative years in school and my mother was forced under the penalty of death to teach it. It never taught me the “history of the country”. It only taught me he is the one and only and the almighty.
  • They sow the belief that science is bad. Truth is: science makes you think. Thinking is bad in an authoritarian regime. Thinking undermines power.
  • The purpose of speeches and news conferences that he leads are not to share news, but to spread propaganda. Everything they do, every move, every visit, every gesture is diabolically, minutely calculated to ensure that people know who the boss is and who has the supreme power. The only viable (for them) politics they perform is that of intimidation and ensuring people see them as the supreme force. Narcissism and not empathy is their main trait of character for such a leader. 
  • Nowhere since communism have I felt that my life has no value, no meaning at all. Authoritarianism makes you feel that the simple whim of one person, a simple tantrum can make or break the fate of the entire population of the country. That no decision I make, or anyone else for that matter, will change in any way what happens to my life, to my livelihood and my well-being.
  • Demonizing everyone who is not him: the media, the political opponents, the activists who want to create awareness – everyone but himself and the family is perceived as evil and a threat.
  • America has a more complicated web of litigiousness that the old-school dictators did not have to worry about. In America, he must cover all traces of all wrong doings by demanding everyone in touch with his person and family to sign non-disclosure agreements. For now. Sudden imprisonment for alleged crimes against himself will follow. The threats of that have been already planted.
  • Some people that do talk and show proof of their accounts are never backed up, their testimonies not confirmed and then you start doubting the media who reports the facts, when, really the manipulation from the source is the problem. 
  • They create chaos so people cannot tell fiction from fact.
  • And I could go on … but I stop here and thanks for making it this far.

·       Americans, from their ivory towers, cannot understand that this is not a Democrat vs Republican affair any longer. As mentioned before: there is no such thing left in America as political discourse. There is no more "let's respectfully disagree." The only thing left to argue about in today's America is this, as I see it: do we want to remain a democracy and continue to work on our problems of which we have many, many wounds and bleeding scars that must be tended to and healed, and finally strive to be the leader of democracy, peace and fairness in the world or do we allow one person, one family, one clique of opportunists to turn us all into their enablers, take us centuries behind in history, and to a place where we will eventually be starved, in extreme poverty and with no independence of thought, with no humanity and dignity to speak of, or worse? This is not political discourse. This is survival. Are Americans too ignorant, too wrapped-up in their everyday smallness of social media and love of reality TV to see the clear, legible writing on the walls and do something about it?! 

One fact I have witnessed over the almost 23 years of being in America is that they took so much out of schools that they turned America into stupid, science-deaf people with no critical thinking.

During communism I didn’t understand how this poisonous group of people led by an evil-minded criminal became powerful and the sole ruler of a country, crushing millions of individuals under their shoe. But the Revolution taught me that only the voice of people, standing together, united, with no arms other than their fists and voice boxes could overturn it.

America has not lived nor are they, as a collective, interested in learning about the tragedy of the Holocaust and of an authoritarian communist regime and might find it impossible to relate. But if that’s not bad enough, they also have a herd amnesia to their own history too. They can’t and won’t remember their own genocide of the Native Americans and the crimes of centuries against African Americans. By not learning, by not knowing, by not paying attention, America is bound for a tragedy. America is already living the early dawn of that tragedy.

I guess somewhere between chasing those rockets and eating those burgers America lost its way and its identity, if it ever truly had one, given that they didn’t resolve their own conflicts, but deepened them. I wished it then, listening to the man from Texas at my university, and I wish it now more than ever: America should finally, at least now, in what seems to be the final hour of a bleeding, wounded democracy, wake up and give a crap about history. The one they can learn from and the one they are building for their future generations. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

My Heart Is Bleeding

People occasionally ask me, or ask generally in groups I am part of, “how is everyone?”. And today more than ever I am grateful for people like that who stop to ask. I am finding out more and more each day that it’s harder and harder to think of others, which is quite the opposite of what the world needs now. If anything, we need more compassion, more togetherness, less vile-ness and definitely, infinitely more respect. So, if you’re reading this: how are you?! Drop me a note, comment on this link – whatever you feel comfortable with … How are you?

To answer those who have asked: we are doing fine. Our hearts are bleeding and our minds are wound up with concern and worry and fright of what tomorrow might bring or how today might morph into something worse, but we are, generally speaking, in the scheme of things, fine. We have been grateful that we and our immediate families are healthy, protected from harm and those of us who work have kept their jobs. These are not small blessings.

But my heart is bleeding, a little more each day. I just cannot believe that all the evil of the world has decided to all come out at the same time all in one year. Every day I am more and more stunned by how everything, and everyone is falling apart. I knew the world needed “a  moment”, needed an inspiration, needed a hero, and a purpose, but  I never dreamed that that moment would be all evil, all dirty, all dark and inhumane, all hopeless, a big whirlpool of vitriol, poison, and desperation.

Tonight is one of those nights where I cannot stop my blood pressure from climbing because my heart is bleeding for everything around me … These are only a handful of things that I can think of right now that make my heart bleed. Every day. 

My heart’s been bleeding for the soul of the American nation, for the loss of the values they hold dear. For how our troubled past is following us into our present. A past that I thought we left behind for good.

My heart has been bleeding for the loss of humanity and respect in our country, at every level but especially at the leadership level. There are days when I see no end to it. My heart’s been bleeding for the injustices I witness every day, whether viewing them on TV, or reading about them, or hearing them retold by my friends. My heart’s been bleeding for all the innocent people being killed and gassed in our streets; my heart’s been bleeding for the death of the belief that “every person is innocent before proved guilty”, the policy of firing a gun to everything that stands in one’s way before better judgement is applied. My heart has been bleeding for the useless violence in our world. Every day.

My heart’s been bleeding for those who die or suffer life-long complications from Covid19. My heart’s been bleeding for not being able to see my family. Not being able to know when seeing my family will eventually be possible. When this exile will end.

My heart’s bleeding for all those who have kids to feed and lost their jobs to the Covid19 depression. My heart’s bleeding for every business owner closing their business, their dream, because they can’t pay the bills anymore.

My heart’s been bleeding for all those who take a knee.

My heart’s bleeding for all those killed in fires caused by a raging climate. My heart’s bleeding for all those who try to teach us to be better and get laughed in the face, dismissed.

My heart’s been bleeding for those stuck at the border, trapped in cages like animals, with no respect to their humanity. When all they wanted was to be free …

My heart’s been bleeding for all the babies dragged away from their parents …

My heart’s bleeding for all those who don’t read anything except for Facebook and Twitter … Especially those who also have the power to change things for good.

My heart’s been bleeding for the loss of our critical thinking. And of compassion.

My heart’s been bleeding after driving around in several counties this weekend and seeing 80% (my humble estimation, it could very well be more) of the electoral signs having the wrong person’s name on them. It’s not the wrong person because it’s wrong to me. I seldom, if ever, make an absolute truth statement, but this is an absolute truth statement: it is the wrong person, if you have one ounce of decency and humanity left in your body. 80%. My heart and eyes are bleeding ….

My heart is still bleeding for losing John McCain. My heart bleeds for losing RBG.

And tonight, I add my beautiful Armenian friends to this list of horrible tragedies that make my soul bleed and my heart stop … I have worked with the folks from our Armenian office for close to ten years now. They are beautiful, smart like I have never met before, selfless, and fragile people. The thought of losing coworkers or their families to their mandatory draft to fight the recent war against Azerbaijan there makes me scream … Some of these people are close friends, part of a larger family I hold dear to my soul. My heart bleeds for them tonight, too … Regardless of which side you're on, the civilians of a country, the ones who ultimately suffer more because they didn't invite the evil in, are always the wrong ones to pay the cost of it. And that makes my heart bleed ... 

I don’t ask “what else can go wrong this year”, because I know: a lot can still go very, very wrong. This moment, I don’t ask for much. I just watch everything helplessly and pray that humanity will find its way …

I was in an online seminar recently and they reminded me of something that I think about tonight, as I write this: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” (Gandhi)

Tonight, I think of this. And I pray that I one day, in my lifetime, I see this become truth …



Sunday, September 20, 2020

In Cautarea Toamnelor de Altadata

De ziua mamei ...  

“A fost odata ca niciodata …” incepea, probabil, povestea pe care o citea sora mea la ora aceea tarzie de seara; una din cele cateva povesti pe care le citea, si poate recitea, zilnic din culegerea “Povesti cu zane” – o carte care o pasiona la cei 4-5 ani cati avea in seara care imi revine in minte acum, rascolind prin amintiri …  

Maia, mama mamei, statea intr-un fotoliu vechi si lucra la ceva “de mana” ca sa termine vreo haina noua pe care o avea de predat vreunui client. Mama statea pe pat cu mine si sora mea, in aceeasi camera, in sufrageria maiei, si impletea niste hanorace de lana pentru noi doua, fetele. Mama ne impletise doua hanorace pentru toamna, din lana naturala, aspra, care iti dadea mancarime la piele (dar asa stiai ca e “lana adevarata”, zicea mama). Hanoracele acelea mi-au ramas (si cred ca si sorei mele) in minte intiparite ca si cum ar fi in fata ochilor mei si astazi: materialul cu care le impletea mama avea culoarea naturala a lanei, un fel de bej deschis. La imbinari, mama folosea crosetul sa uneasca partile componente ale hanoracului si croseta cu un fir rosu aprins care dadea hanoracelor un fler de modern si sofisticat, mi se parea mie. Hanoracele nu erau impletite intr-un model prea complicat, dar si el era la fel de interesant: un model “de sah”, ziceam noi, in patratele, ca o plansa de sah, un patrat pe fata si unul pe dos. Ca sa nu ne certam, cele doua pulovere erau identice. Singura diferenta era marimea, unul mai mic si unul, pentru mine, mai mare. 

Eu stateam langa mama care imi explica nu numai cum impletise pana atunci hanoracele dar ma si invata si pe mine sa impletesc. Intai ma invata cum sa fac un ghem dintr-un scul de lana. Apoi imi punea andrelele in mana si ma invata diferite metode de a impleti diferite modele.

“Un ochi pe fata si unul pe dos.”

“Mama, dar cand impletesc randul urmator, cum am sa stiu pe care ochi sa il fac pe fata si pe care pe dos?”

“Lana iti spune, draga! Uita-te la lana si vezi daca vine din spatele andrelei sau din fata. Daca vine din spate, il faci pe fata, daca vine din fata, il faci pe dos.”

“Dar cum se face bobul de orez?” – intrebam eu, pentru ca trebuia sa invat pentru scoala cum se face. 

“Ei, la bobul de orez faci invers decat la unul pe fata si unul pe dos. Pe cel pe care trebuie sa il iei pe fata, il iei de fapt pe dos …”   Mama are un dar deosebit de a explica lucrurile extrem de clar. 

Toate patru fetele se adunau din cand in cand la cate o claca, mai ales in serile reci ale toamnelor sau iernilor din Romania.

Maia, care era croitoreasa de profesie, avea mereu ceva de lucru: o rochie pentru vreo doamna, un deux-pieces pentru mama, “sa il poarte la servici”, niste pantaloni pentru “Gheorghe Ion” care era destinatia vaga a oricarui obiect de imbracaminte pe care il facea sa il vanda cui avea bani sa il cumpere.

Mama avea si ea mereu cate un lucru de mana cu ea: ori ceva de impletit, cum erau hanoracele, ori ceva de crosetat. Tin minte un set de mileuri pe care le croseta si mi se parea absolut imposibil de invatat asa o aptitudine de ciudata si de grea. Mai tarziu, cand eram deja adulte noi doua, s-a invatat singura sa coase goblene si a umplut o casa cu capodopere o vreme indelungata … De la ea am invatat si eu sa fac goblen, sa impletesc si sa crosetez, si in ziua de azi am cate vreun “proiect” inceput care isi asteapta incheierea  prin cate o camera … 

Sora mea nu era prea interesata de lucrurile manuale dar completa cvartetul fetelor cu vreo carte in care se pierdea cu ore in sir. Serile acestea aveau aroma de placinta de mere si temperatura radiatorului pe care cu siguranta il aveam deschis. Eram adunate toate patru, trei generatii de fete, intr-o camera mica, plina de mobilier vechi care mirosea a timp trecut si intelepciune si ne comunicam durerile, placerile, parerile, invatand una de la alta si avand ceva de aratat, un lucru “gata” la sfarsitul sederii la claca. Invatam nu numai despre lucruri casnice, sau retete pentru tot felul de mancaruri, dar invatam si despre stramosi, rude departate, drame ascunse, povesti de dragoste reale, de durere si de boala care se intamplau sau se intamplasera inainte de venirea noastra pe lume. La urma urmei invatam despre cine eram si incotro ne indreptam ... 

Pe langa legatura de sange pe care o stiam ca exista formam acum o legatura si mai adanca, a unor experiente impartasite, a unor sfaturi date fara conditie si fara motiv. In final, aceasta apropriere ne lega si unea mai puternic. Era un mediu intim si restrans, in care totul era permis, si desi nimeni nu folosea atunci cuvinte ca “dragoste” sau “iubire”, toate stiam, din instinct, ca dragostea dintre noi era subinteleasa si neconditionata si plutea in aerul inchis al camerei de la una la alta, nestingherita. Firul invizibil de dragoste care ne unea de la nastere se ingrosa in acele seri si avea a persista in vietile si constiinta noastra pana in ziua de azi, si mai departe …

Frunzele se fugaresc pe drum in cercuri nebune si clopoteii agatati de streasina suna in bataia vantului insistent. Lumina soarelui a palit si varfurile copacilor se unduiesc in culori deocamdata timide, de galben si rosu. Vecinii si-au scos gavanoasele de crizanteme pe scarile din fata caselor. Acestea sunt primele semne ca e septembrie. Primele semne ca e toamna. Primele semne ca e ziua mamei. E din nou vremea puloverelor si a hanoracelor. Acum imi revin navalnic amintirile de altadata, cand eram toate sub acelasi acoperis, cu mama in centru, legand vechea generatie a bunicii de generatia noastra, ca un pod suspendat, organic, real si puternic, invatandu-ne aptitudini casnice care ne pregateau pentru “casa noastra” si definind, chiar daca nu isi dadea atunci seama, cine eram si cine vom fi in viata de mai tarziu.

Azi, de ziua ei, nu cred ca exista ceva pe lume pe care sa il doresc mai mult decat sa fiu in aceeasi camera cu ea si sa ne spunem pasurile si sa ma invete despre lucruri manuale, retete, sa ne facem amandoua unghiile in acelasi timp, si sa o ascult cum impartaseste cu drag detalii despre viata in genere, despre cine este ea si cine sunt cei dinaintea ei, si … despre viata care a fost odata … ca niciodata …

La multi ani sanatosi si buni, mama, cu multa dragoste, de departe … 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Staycation 2020: All about Escaping from Home and Reality

As I am sitting on my back screened-in porch, ceiling fan blowing on me in the dripping wetness of still a summery forest in The South, listening to cicadas, frogs, and an occasional mourning dove, I cannot help but send many thanks to the universe for all this, and more. I am so grateful to be here, to be whole, to have a job and security and a roof over my head. The world we live in today makes all these sound like luxuries and having this in my back yard and the time to write about it make me feel nothing if not an opportunistic and ungrateful spoiled brat.

I am sitting here, recounting our staycation this year which passed as the last week closed and August 2020 with it. We were both tired and weary of work, news, sadness, no end in sight, disappointment, drained of one internet page after the other bleeding with bad news. Every. Single. Day. From. Every. Realm. Of the planet and of humanity.

We knew we needed a break, but we were feeling guilty for even dreaming about one, and working from home translates into working-all-the-time, because what is there to do?! Thus, we kept putting vacation off till the next opportunity to “go back to normal” would present itself. Only this year does not teach you anything if it doesn’t teach you that “normal” might never come, and instead you must learn to adapt to the inconspicuous “now”. So, guilty, and hesitant, we called it a day and asked for a week vacation which ended, as I mentioned, this weekend.

Because both of us are considered high-risk patients should we get Covid19, we don’t feel quite safe to stay overnight in hotels, or even to go to restaurants yet. So, grateful for our central North Carolina location that has you either in the mountains or on the beach in a matter of hours, we planned to stay home, eat home, sleep and shower at home and visit as many places as we can reach in 5 or so days, by taking a day-long road trip.  If you need a distraction from the every day and want to see our adventures in pictures, here they come:

Our itinerary:

Great Bend Park, Burlington, NCThe Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NCAround town in Apex, Cary, Pittsboro, NCWashington, NCVollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Wilson, NC - Chinqua Penn Walking Trail with friends, Reidsville, NCThe Old Mill of Guildford, Oak Ridge, NCDinner with friends in Greensboro, NC

Day 1: Great Bend Park, Burlington, NC

I am not sure what I liked most about this: the drive there from our home or the park itself.

To get to the park you drive through the historic downtown of Graham, NC where The Courthouse reigns imposing over the busy weekend passers-by that are rushing to get their coffee and to-go orders from busy downtown restaurants, further on through the Glencoe Historic Mill District, where history seemed to have stood still for tens of years at least, everything as quiet as a graveyard.

The Great Bend Park is a small affair, on the banks of the Haw River, so mysterious and picture-worthy nonetheless. There are many trails, but they’re not too long, so we explored a couple in the hot afternoon. Once you get to the river, an enormous waterfall (looks man-made, as if for a dam) greets you in all its roaring beauty, splashing on river rocks and carrying in its current massive old trees. Butterflies line the trails here, colorful and fragile, begging you not to step on them, while dragonflies chase each other and make love in a sea of colorful blooms.

The rapids in Great Bend Park - Burlington, NC

Dragonflies in love - Great Bend Park - Burlington, NC

Day 2: The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Some might say we are nuts to drive three and a half hours for a place that we have seen before and for an exhibit that was only OK. I’ll say this was our longest drive and we knew this going in, and, in the end, we both agreed that it was all worth it. Just getting out of town and leaving it all behind (the further we went, the more we felt like we were truly leaving reality behind), this feeling alone, is worth every mile. Asheville greeted us with a wishy-washy rain that hadn’t quite made up its mind whether it’ll mean it or not. After about half an hour of annoying drizzle, it decided to hold it, and let us have a great outdoor time. We skipped The House and we went straight to the gardens which swallowed us in color, scent and a busy sea of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and many bugs we could not even identify.

For a pandemic weekday, the place was pretty busy. I’ll have to say that, even being mostly outside, the fact that we were watching whether everyone that crossed our path  would respect their physical space and not infringe on everyone else’s, or had a mask or not, or trying to keep ourselves further than 6 feet from everyone else took a lot of energy and possibly a lot out of the simple comfort of just being there and enjoying every second of it.  

After we walked through the gardens, we drove the beautiful Biltmore grounds to access two of the sites of the Downton Abbey exhibit. This was my second time seeing the exhibition, and I have to say: I preferred it when it was displayed in New York City. With that, I still consider it a must for the true Downtown afficionado.

We packed lunch and we ate fast food on the way back, for our meals. I wished we had time for a true picnic, but the driving was long so we had to cut time from somewhere, and in this case, it was from lunch/ dinner time.

Biltmore House - Asheville, NC

One of my favorite spots at Biltmore is the water garden, abundant with water lilies and lotus flowers

Not a very busy winery area, on the Biltmore grounds

Day 3: Around town in Apex, Cary, Pittsboro, NC

After the whole day of driving, outside of waiting in long lines in the sun of Asheville, we needed a break. We needed a day of no-alarm waking us up and catching up on some around-our-home errands and such. We also wanted to check out a new outdoor mall, touted by one of the area magazines as “The Best Outdoor Mall in North Carolina” – it was not all that, but it did have a lot of shopping to offer, along with some decent restaurants. We ordered some food to go from one of them at the end of our very short shopping spree: we didn’t realize that some retail stores now close at 6PM because they have reduced hours due to the pandemic.

One of the many things that will set this vacation apart from any other is the lesson that you can no longer take for granted small, simple things that were a given before. For example, store closings, or their limited hours, or one-way walking marked in a store (which seems to be more of a bottleneck than helping), or the freedom to speak with and understand someone in a really loud place when you both wear masks and cannot hear one another and cannot read lips, either. To say nothing about the constant watching of everyone, the constant disinfection, and paranoia when someone without a mask breathes in your space. Ah … we hope this too shall pass. Soon …

A new to me store that I discovered at the Park West Village outdoor mall in Cary, NC

Day 4: Washington, NC

On our fourth day, we made it to my absolute favorite trip of this week’s vacation! Let me tell you how I discovered this little gem of a town: completely by accident, and thanks to playing around on Apple maps, looking for the closest place to our home that is closest to The Ocean.

All renowned places I knew about that are on the beach or on Eastern rivers were way too far away, so I moved my search more inland, and started looking for a town on a canal or estuary or some such water-y landscape. I simply poked around with an Apple map in front of me and looked for towns, small cities, anywhere where I could find a named place on a water that connected it with the ocean to see how long the drive would be. And I came across Washington, NC – less than 2 and a half hours from our house. I had never heard of it. I’ve lived in North Carolina for almost 15 years now (in two stretches) and I never heard anyone ever speak of this town. I figured, it’d be a small, fishing town, sleepy as all that, with no chain hotels or restaurants, maybe a blinking stoplight and a gas station.

Well, what a huge surprise we were in for once we got there! Doing some more research before we left, I found out that it’s not quite that  small of a town after all, at 9000+ residents which makes it twice as populous as our current hometown. It is situated on the Pamlico river, which makes a beautiful (and rare) estuary before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered “a gem of the inner banks” of North Carolina and truly, this time this was not an advertising gimmick. It is beautiful and if you live in NC, I encourage you to see it, when you can and as always, stay safe.

The minute we got out of our car downtown, to walk a short distance to the Down on Main restaurant where we had ordered lunch to go, we were hit in the face by the fishy, muddy smell of the Pamlico river. We knew we were close to “water”. The whole downtown was under a massive renovation – all sidewalks and streets were dug out and some areas were getting new cement poured in. Not many passers-by were in the streets, and the fact that there were no warning signs that streets might be closed told us that they either did not expect lots of people to be driving the streets (pandemic, I suppose?!) or that they would be done in a short time. Despite the limited number of people walking about, the town seemed vibrant and busy underneath the apparent quiet: all stores and restaurants were open, old, pre-war buildings were being renovated or upgraded or open for business, traffic seemed pretty steady on the non-dug-out streets.

We had our lunch in the shade, on our camping chairs in Festival Park, overlooking the Pamlico river and its personal boats and right next door to the North Carolina Estuarium which was closed due to the pandemic. After lunch, we walked the half mile of the waterfront walkway and then walked through the Downtown, as much as we could because construction did prevent us from seeing Main and Market Streets which seemed to have most of the more interesting destinations, like art galleries, boutiques, and art stores.

It was a scorcher that day. But it was North Carolina, in a water town, in the summer – what else could we have expected? The town, clean and well-taken care of, exudes history and ghost stories. We would love to go back, in better, more relaxed times, when we can spend a few nights and learn about its history, go on a walking tour of the Historic District, and even take a sunset cruise on the Pamlico. Lots of people talk about visiting Wilmington, NC a lot around here, but I found Washington to be just as interesting, if not more, to some degree: last time I visited Wilmington, I was shocked at how deserted and derelict and lifeless it looked. Washington was at the opposite end of that.

After Washington, we headed East to Goose Creek State Park. We saw deer in the torrid heat, in the middle of the day as we drove around looking for the most popular trail of this park: the Pamlico Boardwalk Trail. This is a quarter of a mile or so wooden boardwalk over a marshy terrain. It is the most savage, wild, intimidating terrain I have ever walked: you feel like at any minute a snake might jump out of the water or fall on your head from the trees. The warnings to watch for cottonmouths did not help. The cattails, small plants that looked like water clovers, lots of blooms, as well as water-loving reeds, willows and trees dressed in Spanish moss made up the rest of the vegetation, while minnows, frogs, millions, it seemed, of dragonflies, some of them the size of birds, and their friends, the butterflies, roamed about. We did apparently encounter a ribbon snake, but we didn’t know this till we got home and he showed up in a picture of a pink bloom. All in all, this experience was breathtaking and singular in its beauty and wilderness for us. It looked like we reached the end of the world after the planet was wiped out of its beauty and now, millions of years later, everything else was trying to come back to life, fresh, young, and vibrant.

Boat on the Pamlico - Washington, NC

Washington, NC abounds in buildings just like this one - where you can smell the ocean and the age ... 

The very well-maintained water walkway in Washington, NC

Vegetation, dragonflies, and a ribbon snake in Goose Creek State Park, NC

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Wilson, NC

En route back from Washington, NC, we stopped at this North Carolina oddity, the Whirligig Park in the small town of Wilson, somewhat of an Eastern suburb of Raleigh. In fact, my husband seems to be intrigued by these devices, we have owned one so far for our yard, and he just bought his second one in Asheville, on this very vacation. I would recommend a visit to this park as a testimony to human ingenuity and artistic endeavor.

Day 5: Chinqua Penn Walking Trail with friends, Reidsville, NC

The very following day, we headed up North, to Reidsville, NC, where we met an old friend (old because I have known her for almost 20 years now) for a picnic and a hike of the Chinqua Penn Walking Trail. We all brought lunch and we again sat on our camping chairs in the shade, caught up a bit since we had not seen each other for about a year now and times have surely changed since. Not sure if we saw two or three people while we spent three hours or so there. I am grateful for days like these, where we can stop and smell the roses a bit and get caught up on life and escape our isolation, meet with close friends in the safety of nature.

Trails and wild life around Cinqua Penn Plantation - Reidsville, NC

The Old Mill of Guilford, Oak Ridge, NC

On the way back from Chinqua Penn, we stopped by The Old Mill of Guildford next door to my old stomping grounds of Summerfield, NC where I used to live many, many moons ago. Some parts of the existing working mill date as far back as 1767. Some, newer, are as recent as the 1950’s. The mill is one of the oldest continuous gristmills in the United States. I remember living in Greensboro and our phone book, back in the day when there were such things, always having this mill on the cover. One of the things I love and cherish living in NC is the history of it. Like a slice through layered soil, you can go back centuries and try to understand …

Day 6 and 7: Errands in Durham and Apex, NC and dinner with friends in Greensboro, NC

We closed our week in a more relaxed manner, by finishing up some more errands that we just never get around to (like finding Eastern European or Greek-style caviar spread) and having dinner with friends we have not seen since last year! Again, we picked up some delicious to-go food and ate it on their patio, distanced, but as together as these times allow us.

After putting 1230+ miles on our car, we called it a week and our longest staycation ever. We gathered home on Sunday night tired and full to the brim with newness. Our retinas have been cleansed and we can now hopefully see clearer what's ahead. Whatever life may throw at us, we hope that we will continue to be able to adapt and create new memories in an ever-renewing universe that keeps re-inventing itself, sometimes more painful, always anew and never boring. 

My husband said after this whirlwind of a week that we behaved like we grabbed an issue of Our State magazine and we made a point to see all the spots featured in all its articles. I could not agree more. Surely, I would have loved to sample more of the yummy food, and to actually stop to learn more about the history, but we can both at least say “we, too, have been there” now – at the very least it will make for easy planning next time we will be able to … stay a while.

Would any vacation be truly complete without a kitty in it?! This is Millie, the cat at The Old Mill of Guilford, greeting us on the porch. Click the picture to view the entire album of this whirlwind week. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Most Real Sister

“The greatest gift our parents gave us was each other.“ (somewhere on the web ...)

Last night, I dreamed that I was adopted. It was one of those dreams that felt so realistic. There was this woman who wanted money from my dad and she told me she was my real mother if he doesn’t pay. I confronted my parents (who paid her but she told me the horrid news anyway), and they could not lie. They didn’t confirm, but they didn’t deny it, either. So, I guess it was settled: I was adopted. 

Then, I came to you, sorela, and I said “Hey, now I have three sisters. My ‘real’ mother has two other daughters, so I have you and I have them.” And you said: “Yeah, but I am the real one.” And the dream unraveled ... 

And you were right. Even if this would ever be true (we know it’s not, of course), you will forever be my one, true, real sister. 

While writing this, I realize that although we’re so far apart in space, you are still so close to me: I am wearing two necklaces: one, a wood one with earth crystals that you gave to me to heal my energy and give me strength and focus, allegedly. The other one, a silver one, that grandpa bubu gave to me at the same time he gave you the same necklace. I was maybe 7 and you were 4. He always bought us matching stuff. Remember the watches he got us to put on our chain?! I am drinking coffee from the mug you gave me that says “Your love and your understanding are a gift in my life but there are times when you know that all I need is a hug.” You’re everywhere and always with me. Every day. Every breath. 

Rummaging through my memories this morning, I thought of all the times we were together through our lives: every new pore, every new hair, every new cell on our adult bodies grew on our kids’ bodies with us side-by-side ... We were together for our playtime, and every dinner, every holiday, birthday, funeral and christening ... All the major events and the little ones, like when we went to the mountains for the first time. Or maybe that was a major one? We were together for mushroom and berry picking and for bandaging your wounds when they got infected or needed stitches. We were there when we fell in love for the first time and when we fought like mad cats over stupid little things ...  

We were together for the starry nights and the sunrises, for the walks on the beach and the hikes in the pastures. We were together in London and in New York City ... We were together for our weddings and the kids’ christenings. 

We shared our joys and our insecurities over all of the first 20 years of your life ... 

Life came in the way, as it has done this year, too, and we were not together for other major events after it cast us in two different corners of the world. But in some ways I feel like our bond got stronger and our love deeper. Our get-togethers are more meaningful now, and so concentrated in chats, emotions, catching up, making new memories to last us till our next visit . And this year we’re learning painfully that we can’t even plan that much craved, and much needed “next visit”... 

I love how you love me for all my bumps. I know I drive you nuts with all my nagging, but as I always tell you: it all comes from a place of love and from an insane fear that something bad will happen to you if you don’t listen to me. And then ... I don’t know where I’ll be, for I’d have no bearings, no identity without you right there, besides me ... 

Yes, indeed, you are my real sister. As real as these hands that I use to type this with. As real as my heart. May you always and forever be healthy, safe, loved, and always full of life. A life, an optimism, a calm, and a peace that God put all in you and, with all the blessings he has given me, skimped on me, all things that I need to keep going ... 

Happiest of birthdays. Miss you this year extra more super special than any other time. You’ve got my heart. Forever. 

Somewhere in time, at our special place, in the mountains. Dirty, probably starved, definitely happy. This picture speaks volumes, but to notice just one thing: in a snake-infested mountain top, miles away from anywhere, way before cells reached Romania, you are barefoot and free. Because you are fearless, while me - forever boring (I know!) cautious ... 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

De Ziua Tatei

Zilele de iulie in Iasi sunt in flacari. Inconjurat de asfaltul topit, te simti ca in gura unui cuptor inchis – arestat, fara scapare! Aerul nu se misca si amortirea lui iti ucide orice speranta ca focul in care iti este cuprins tot corpul va avea vreun sfarsit. Sudorile curg siroaie. Te topesti. Respiratia e tot mai grea, si singura mancare de care mai ai chef e doar cateva cuburi de gheata sa te racoresti. Seara, cand crezi ca dupa ce soarele se culca vei scapa un pic de tortura caldurii, apar tantarii – vampirii rapaci ai noptii. Si sudoarea nu se opreste si pe orice pui mana sau oriunde te intinzi se lipeste de tine si iti tine in continuare si mai cald.

Cand eram copii, petreceam lunile de vara la Pojorata, in inima Bucovinei. Tata a crescut acolo si mereu a privit meleagurile acelea ca pe un paradis pierdut al copilariei lui. Si-a dorit sa impartasim si noi tinutul acela de poveste, unde spinarile muntilor se apleaca umil asupra satelor adormite, unde brazii inca se mai ridica mandrii sub piscurile pietroase ale Raraului si Giumalaului, unde animale lenese isi plimba turmele prin pasuni verzi si pline de fragi si afine , si unde oamenii vorbesc poetic si ascund tragedii de neimaginat in spatele unor zambete melancolice si al unor ochi pierduti in visare.

Verile la munte erau opusul celor din Iasi: caldura toropea suportant doar in mijlocul zilei. Diminetile erau pline de roua si racoare. Serile erau reci si proaspete. Vantul fosnea printre brazi si linistea de mormant nu era tulburata decat de un tren ratacit sau de vreun satean care isi batea coasa. Tantari nu existau! O data cu venirea serii, stateam toti pe “gang” (cerdac) si luam ziua care se scurse la disecat – discutand orice mic detaliu despre oricine ne venise in cale, si planuind urmatoarea zi de munca sau de petrecere, daca era vreo sarbatoare.

Eu si sora mea petreceam toata vacanta de vara aici, si parintii veneau in “vizite” doar in cateva weekenduri. Tata, nascut in iulie, incerca sa isi petreaca ziua de nastere aici si cand cadea intr-un weekend aproape intotdeauna si-o petrecea la munte. Pentru ca de obicei veneau de la servici, mama si tata ajungeau la noi vineri seara, cateodata foarte tarziu. Noi stateam cu urechile ciulite sa auzim masina tarandu-se incet pe ulita cu pietris incepand inca de pe la 12 ziua. Dupa ce descarcau masina, stateam toti la masa, oricat ar fi fost de tarziu, si tata spunea mereu acelasi lucru: “Bai, am condus, da?! Am condus pe o caldura ca imi venea sa mor! Am si eu voie sa beau un pahar de cognac?” Si radea ghidus, ca si cum cineva ar fi zis vreodata “nu”?! Raspunsul era mereu acelasi din partea mamei: “Da bea, draga!” Si isi punea tacticos un pahar de cognac pe jumate plin si il dadea peste cap intr-o inghititura.

A doua zi, de obicei sambata, abia asteptam planurile pe care ni le facea el. Cateodata mergeam la Mestecanis, cateodata la Campulung, cateodata la vreo manastire, dar intotdeauna tata isi facea timp sa mergem cu totii la cules de bureti. Asta era pentru el nu numai relaxare dar o pasiune si un dar pe care si-l facea singur in fiecare an. Eu nu am fost niciodata atletica, nici mom, dar sora mea si tata erau in fruntea clanului de culegatori! Mereu inaintea tuturor, si tata gasind mereu cele mai multe ciuperci. Noi stiam foarte bine de la rudele la care locuiam care sunt bureti buni si care nu. Lectia asta o invatasem singure. Cateodata il mai invatam si pe tata. Colindam padurile ore intregi, dupa micul dejun pana la o amiaza, asa pe la 4, cand ne coboram incet, lenes, sper casa, fiecare cu o plasuta de ciuperci, si intotdeauna tata avea cea mai mare recolta!

Desi culegeam bureti (si fragi si afine si zmeura) toata vara in sederea noastra la Pojorata, culesul de bureti cu tata era ca o bijuterie de pret, un mister, un balsam pentru un suflet plin de dorinta pe care il asteptam un an intreg! Era minunat sa il vad pe tata transformat din omul “de oras” pe care il stiam in cele 364 de zile a anului, intr-un adevarat om de munte, care nu se temea de animale salbatice, care urca pe rape abrupte fara sa cada si fara sa se teama, care ne vorbea despre istoria acelor locuri, care descoperea transee si metal din foste gloante si bombe prin padure si care ne vorbea despre cum muntii ne vor apara de comunisti, pentru ca acestia stiu ca daca te ascunzi in munti e greu sa te gaseasca si sa iti controleze mintea. Pentru el (si pentru noi) muntii au fost mereu simbolul libertatii supreme, si excursiile acestea in inima lor erau marturia celebrarii acestei liberati. Ne vorbea si despre balmus si despre cum se face branza, cum se cresc vacile si oile, si despre cum izvoarele sunt cele mai bune si cele mai curate cand sunt pline de broaste, pentru ca inseamna ca au apa buna (ne-otravita) de baut.

Asteptam ziua asta de mers prin padure cu tata un an intreg, si cand venea, de obicei in jurul zilei lui, era un cadou la fel de mult pentru noi cat si pentru el. O sansa de a ne retrage din viata noastra de zi cu zi, departe de Iasul care se topea de caldura si se framanta muribund sub povara tantarilor si a mirosului de canal, o sansa de a ne regasi in prospetimea si racoarea padurilor de brazi, si de a ne cunoaste mai bine; o sansa de a lasa natura, inima muntilor sa ne protejeze si sa ne imbete de splendorile ei neprefacute. O reintoarcere la vatra strabuna, la o simplitate si frumusete pure.

Ajunsi acasa, el se apuca de facut vreun foc pentru gratarul de cina. El era bucatarul principal si ceilalti se agitau in jurul lui si ii dadeau la mana, ca niste ucenici loiali, orice cerea el: “Lemne, adu-mi lemne! Zi-i lui mama ca mai trebuie sare! Adu-mi si mie niste apa rece! Da, rrrece!” Noi trebuia sa curatam buretii. De fapt, el si mom ii curatau si noi ii spalam – cea mai grea sarcina din cate exista! Oricine a spalat vreodata bureti stie ca un burete nu e niciodata curat, in oricate ape l-ai spala!

Cateodata, cineva din familia la care stateam turna cate o galeata cu apa rrrece de izvor pe tata sa ii spuna “La multi ani” - un obicei localnic ciudat si tata se supara (apa rece de izvor pe un corp incalzit de la urcarea muntilor in iulie iti poate ori inima, spunea el) si eu ii luam apararea. Dupa ce se usca langa focul de la gratar si in aerul racoros al serii, masa era cam gata si ne adunam cu totii, vreo 12-15 oameni, in “familie” la marele ospat.

Sedeam la o masa de lemn, lunga, cu doua banci de o parta si de alta ca si scaune care era intinsa afara, in fata casei, sub cerul liber. Stateam unii langa altii ca si cum am fi fost toti rude de sange, desi numai noi patru eram o familie – ceilalti erau oameni buni, cunostinte, care ne gazduiau de ani de zile, si care, pana la un final, au devenit mai apropiati ca rudele. Era o masa de taina, de o apropiere si de o prietenie adanca. Atunci nu stiam ca rar ne va oferi viata o legatura cu altii care putea fi mai puternica si mai sincera ca aceea.

Mancarea era intotdeauna delicioasa: buretii culesi de noi erau piesa centrala a ospatului, dar aveam de toate: carne cat cuprinde (nu exista masa cu tata fara vreo 5 feluri de carne), branzeturi, fragi cu smantana, mamaliga proaspata si taiata in cuburi cu ata, invaluind intreaga masa cu aburi apetisanti. Totul era simplu (nici un somon fume, sau caviar, sau fructe de mare), dar facut cu dragoste si cu gust. Of – amintiri … Oriunde am fi in lume, acestea inca raman. 

Astazi, de ziua tatei, mi-as dori, pentru el si pentru noi, sa mai avem parte de multe veri racoroase, sub umbra muntilor, de multe mese pline cu bureti si mujdei de usturoi si mamaliga, si de multe pahare de cognac (el) si de bere de casa (eu). Impreuna.

La multi ani, tata! Cu bine, sanatate si, poate, cu regasirea paradisului tau pierdut. Te iubesc.

Cca 1989 - tata, intotdeauna sprijinindu-se de mom, fericit la Pojorata, unde muntele coboara la tine ...