TWO HOLY WOMEN
I met throughout my life few women who I keep in my soul like holy icons. Not many years from now nobody will remain to remember of them. And then they will die a second time and for ever. If they have a spot of luck, will live for a while by this book I dedicate with love and respect. they will live some time more through this book, I dedicate to them with love and respect.
I L I N C A
Ilinca remained more in my heart then in memory. Memories about her are rather feelings, longings, breezes, sadness but images or events. She was my mother. Although she died when I was only ten years old, she lives in my soul by other 60 passed since then.
Country girl, chased by poverty, she came from Mehedinti hills to Bucharest for learning a trade. She became an apprentice in tailoring, sewing until got ill, but also while suffering. I don't know how she met my father, how married, how they lived. I only know that she loved me and suffered for me.
I see both of them, at home, that hadn't shop, sewing and singing all day. This is the dearest image of my parents. In he evenings I watched from bed their dancing shadows on walls at light of gas lamp, that we hadn't electricity in the two little rooms rented just in Bariera Vergului.
When didn't sing, mother told stories to me and to my aunt, Dada, as she called her. Or she read stories and poems by Cosbuc. (But then I didn't know it). As if I hear her singing “The young Rodica”, “It came an old man from thicket”, or learning me beautiful poems, like this one: “Outside it snows quietly / And in stove fire burns, / But we, staying beside mother, / Since long have forgotten the game. / But who to sleep / When mother said of Jesus / With her hot and sweet voice: / How Jesus Christ was born / In the poor manger, / How oxen blew upon him / To make him heat /... (I don't remember two verse) / And angels in heaven sang / With apple flowers in hand.” And many others, which, with pain in soul, I realize that I no longer remember.
This love for fantastic and poetry, which she put in my heart didn't leave me even now. When I could read, I learned many poems, only for my joy. I know it seems weird, especially especially nowadays, that a country girl to love poetry. But so were our Romanian peasants: lovers of beauty, of nature and of homeland. I discovered this myself when shortly after my mother died, her sister, Dada, took me to her, at country, for about two years, and I loved that village and its villagers.
Daddy, handsome man, with eyes after any woman! He made a pretty unhappy life to Ilinca. I don't recount details, nor do I know them, but only from what my aunt told me when I grew up. The second certain recollection is is from time of disease-cancer-when my dad took me to the hospital: up to the gate of the Hospital (Floreasca) came with us also a woman, who was left to wait for us down. He bought some grapes. My mother gave them to me and I enjoyed to eat! And here's a picture of war: An iron fence, behind it a hospital, I don't know which, I was too small. A man with bandaged neck, getting out his hands through iron bars, caresses my hair, I recoiled. Didn't know him. Is dad, mom tells me. He had been wounded in the neck on the front and they had sent him at home.
I hadn't turned seven years when they gave me to school. By then it was given a sort of tests of intelligence and distributed students depending on results. I keep in mind how proud my mom was when I was allocated to class. I remember also how sad she was when I came up with mark four to calligraphy. She did not quarreled me, not told me one word, but wept. I was so embarrassed, seemed to me so bad, I have worked with such determination to write beautiful, that from then on I never got another mark on calligraphy in addition to 10. Maybe if I would have rebuked, would not have had such an effect on me, that I didn't care a rap for calligraphy! I quiet don't think I knew what is that and if it has any impact the way you write.
When mom died, I was in Bărboi, at country. Sister of mother came to Bucharest and didn't take me with her. I think my dad said to her to let me there. letting me there. She, The aunt, knowing not to read, so she gave me the letter to read it. "Since now, you are her mother," father wrote to her, announcing the death of the mother. And so it was. Took care of me, on behalf of mother, until shr was extinguished in her. And I complied with the above phrase, in my father's letter, with holiness.
Only after many years I thought of her suffering, of mother which may not grow her child, which is forced to leave him in the will of fate, at only ten years. She can not even see him and embrace him before death. In childhood I gave attention only to my pain, of a baby alone on the world, that without mother you are as alone. When I had also a child, I realized that the tragedy and suffering of the mother are infinitely greater than those of the child.
In fact, I find it hard to write now about mom. And nor I thought, namely,to her, for a long time, but she is always present in my subconscious. By fifth grade, to the country, they gave us eternal composition about mother. Then I knew what to write. Don't remember what I wrote, but the teacher was very impressed and mourned. I was ashamed that I have put my soul on the tray, it has not seemed appropriate to me, that's immodest, and I never did it ever since. I never showed more feelings and emotions, no matter how deep, beautiful, clean they were. I was ashamed, as if I had walked into the empty skin in the sight of the world. I am shy to caress my child, to show my love in front of her , though sometimes hardly I would want to embrace her, how I was doing in her childhood. Although I don't show it, I am sure she feels my love. I am ashamed to go to her and cuddle to the chest so, pure and simply, though often I imagine that I do it.
So bring I in memory my mother, by reflection, as in a mirror, of reactions and feelings of those who have met her.
I still remember three dreams that I had in my childhood.
In the first a snake had bitten me of the wrist. I was worried sick, but it appeared the mother and said, "Squeeze, to get out the venom".
In the following I find somewhere my mother and am very happy: "they told me that you died, that's why I didn't looked after you for so long. But I never knew that they have lied".
In the last, I go go elsewhere looking for her. I find her embodied into a tree on the side of the road and I curl up happy at its root. (This Dream may be at basis of a drawing and a clay plaque where it appears a tree which, instead of fruit, bear children on branches).
She was only 36 years old when he died.
Perhaps her icon I had in my soul whenever I did some work with the Virgin, or the Mother. But they were given the same fate: they cannot finish ever.
R I N A
Actually she was called Floare. Not Floarea, not Florica. Only Floare (flower).But everyone caleed her Rina. Dada Rina. Since our daughter started to speak, we called her Mamaie (grandma).
She was the sister of my mother, to whom has taken place in my life.
She was the second child out of the four orphans of war (first): two boys - the oldest and the smaller -and two girls between. She was the only one who did not go to school because she had to take care of others while their mother worked with others on the lands of others. But that does not mean that she was not clever. She knew many stories and found always a proverb according to any situations. Many years after her death, I've also them. Now I've forgotten them.
She never had anything of hers, even life, which has dedicated to the others. At almost 60 years, has sold for more than nothing and weft the old House and weft at home and moved with me, in Bucharest, when I was about 20. Until then the she came only in the winter, with the pig and hens cut, in order to have what to eat over winter, as she had done while my mother lived.
She was never married. She told that she loved someone in her youth, but he died of tuberculosis at the Tismana monastery. Stood next to him and cared for him until the end. And no longer married, although had asked her as wife one or two, I don't know for sure how many. That was not working and was very ugly. But chose to take care of her mother, who was only two years in age. War came, the youngest brother, Marin, fell ill with tuberculosis and he on the front, and died alone in a nursing home, somewhere in Transylvania or in Târgu Jiu, soon.
I was a child of 4 to 5 years, in those years of war, but I remember how run to shelters in the pits of Ouatu, when the alarm began: I with mom ahead, she after us, with food bag,for we never know how long it may take. If it was night, we edged in the cellar, me underneath, over me-mother, over her-Rina, which was putting over all three the bed laundry! In the event that bomb fell nearby, be not hurt by debris, if the house crumbled on us!
But she, as a person, I don't remember but older,while I have in mind mom only young.
In the two years I spent at her, at country, she cared and grew me up how could it better. She worked, as usual, especially during sowing and harvest, for her neighbors, and took care of her own little piece of land, grew a piglet, few hens. At autumn she hang from garret beams bunches of grapes, corn cobs, put quince at the window and filled the chest with flour. Here, in the attic, she had a gramophone, without sheets, and a book in which all the dead in the first world war were placed, about as the Bible thick, where I've found written also her father, my grandfather.
Her house, situated on the hill, had only two rooms. One was whitewashed, with earth stove also given with lime, a table, a bed, om each side. Summer here smelled of wormwood and winter of quince. The first room,called ogeac, entered by one from outside, on the high porch, with wood staircase, was incomplete. It served as kitchen, pantry and winter bedding for hens which in summer time slept in the tree near the house. Here there were two nests, in which we found fresh eggs at any time. It had hearth with trivets, chain and lid, in which bread was baked on walnut leaves, with a horn, which swept the attic. We ate at a roundtable, on three feet. in the midst of which the golden polenta ( mamaliga) reigned, beautifully colored tureens and wooden spoons, sitting on small chairs, and they also on three legs. I think that then I ate the most tasty and healthy food, prepared in earth pots, baked in lid or broiled on ember. I loved to sit on the porch and look in valley at the homes and backyards of those who lived below us, down the valley, to the gardens with cabbage, and then downer to the valley, to a beautiful little stream almost dry, with large rafts on the sides, you heard it swishing from home, and then up, on the next hill, full with vineyards, cherries, walnuts, and upper, on the ridge, the forest Gogoşu forest big and haunted, as people thought, and from there, upper, to clean sky, on which in the night meandered among big stars, unimaginably beautiful and majestic, Calea Robilor (the path of slaves) / The Milky Way.
The court was large, in the slope, covered with knot weed. She had a patch of court also behind the house, where grew a few sweet mulberries, a mellow pear trees, and countless acacias dafini / laurels, as they are called there.
As if I see Dada Rina as she was coming at dusk, with the link of brushwood on the head, put over the oblanic - a circle of rags well stamped -, or overloaded on shoulders, small, thin, but full of energy.
She was taking care to dress me clean, decent, for holidays she made something new for dressing, and when my boots didn't fit anymore, she made for me also a pair of opinci / peasant sandals. I think she worked also on the money, but I don't remember dad to have sent something, or perhaps I do not know.
She has taught me the respect for others and for self, learned me not be ashamed with my condition of poor child. From her I learned that if I you do one thing, do it so that I can be proud of it; not to be afraid to say the truth, even when I am wrong; to love people and listen both their joys and pains, to help out, at least with a good word, if I do not have with what else. And if I am not able to do a good for someone, nor evil to do it, because to do not harm depends only on me.
She didn't said me all advices with the words, she mostly learned me through her own example, by her dedication, through her meekness and sacrifice. There, on that wonderful land I learned to love nature: trees, flowers, birds, pathways through the woods, fountains, animals, carts with oxen, sky, all that God has left on Earth for the joy of our eyes and souls. I never returned there since childhood, I had not to who, but neither had the courage to face it alone changes which, to be sure, intervened and, on a surer mode, not for the better. I wanted to keep everything as it appeared in my eyes and how it was imprinted in the soul of a child.
Because didn't know to write, she has learned me to write letters in her place.
"What to write? Say what you want to write. "If you know to write, you have to know also what she replied! ". "I would know what you say there."
"I do not know how to start"
"Well, you start, how are started all the letters:" Our Dear, we want our small rows to find you the happiest moments of your life. Learn about us that we are healthy, what we wish also for you from the good God. "
Where from did she know this stuff, I have no idea. Until I grew up through the fifth grade, I was sure that only thus must begin a civilized and respectful letter.
Life there, at country, with that primordial beauty of nature, with the peasants full of decency, an integral part of this beauty, of which I remember with love and nostalgia, it was like a fairy tale, like a dream, like a spectacle. "Well, start and you, how to start all our letters: "Dear, we want our small rows to find you the happiest moments of your life. Learn about us that we are healthy, well what you want and you. from the good God. "
After they had finished their tasks through the courts, women came out at the gates, anyone with what had to work, the fork, some ie /blouse to be embroidered, hemp or wool combing, or beans to be sorted, any job that could be done seated. Already gathered three to four neighboring women, came also their "oameni / men" as they called their spouses, they made cigarettes from tobacco grown in the gardens behind the houses and were working and storytelling, passing the time pleasantly and usefully at the same time. Each gate had on both sides one wooden bench, and in front, over the ditch on the roadside, a nice little bridge, with railings painted with lime. All this arrangement lied in the shade and shelter of large trees, shunning not only of sunshine but also of rain.
When passed on the way Mr. teacher Cepoi, or the priest, or some unknown, but city dressed up, all, even the older ones, were standing. "Mother Anică, why people get up when Mr master passes, what, can't they give bineţe / greeting from down? - I was wondering, with the city's child dismay. "He is man with book, must be respected" I she replied. "But you don't know this passing now, why get up and say hello to him?" "What if I don't know who's, the mouth hurts not if I give him greeting, and then, don't you see how is he dressed, he may be someone big where he comes from." So I understood why my aunt turned me to say "sărumâna / kiss hand" to everyone who passed on the street!
These meetings at the gates were called "Mysteries". Where are you going, mother Lie? " \"To mystery at Anica of Pâtă . For there, all the families had nicknames: Papanu, Bâzdoacă, Unana, Diana, I forgot, regretfully noted, that they were picturesque.(I cannot get where from this name came: Dilan-Dylan. There was a spring of Baldovin-Baldwin). My people were nicknamed of Platagea / Tomato. That children were shouting after me ' how much is your platagea? \", i.e., Tomato. They may have belonged to a family of gardeners, who knows.
But the most amazing “mysteries” were those in the evening. Then everyone gathered from the surrounding homes, came even those who had been working in the field or elsewhere, came girls ready for marriage, waiting the lads to cross the way, singing, taking on the shoulders, by three-four, stopping at each of the last supper (mystery) to speak to the people there, letting themselves to be admired by girls, by making great in front of others' parents. If there was moon, the women were bringing also the forks and purred, each storied what he did, what he saw, what he heard. After the news had finished, the stories started, usually with undead ghosts, with wolves, with iele / wicked fairies, strange events, that I was afraid were usually with undead, with Wolves, with nails, strange stories, I was afraid, but I liked to sit with my head on Rina's lap and listening to mother Lia recounting, without taking my eyes from a swelling on her neck, as big as a ball, which pulsated and hypnotized me.
There, to all mature and aging women, children said "mother", to the younger, dadă".
Sundays almost all went to church, then to the cemetery, and in the afternoon from hora / dance, which was done "on the line" between Church, school and village-hall. ("Line\" that is the road that ran from one end of village to the other, starting from Craiova and ending who knows where, along which countless villages aligned, two to three kilometers of each other.) After eating, we were listening if the double bass started to sing, for this was heard from home. (Likewise the mill, so that my aunt to know when to go to ground or not). I was calling Săftica, a girl from the neighborhood, and we went to hora, to gape about and to play along with the grownups . Probably that since then remained my love for folk dances, during high school I danced in its team, and in 1953, during the International Festival of Youth, along with several other hundreds or thousands, we danced on 23 August Stadium, to whose construction I participated, as "volunteer", along with all the students of the Iulia Hasdeu.
Nana does reminds her well. She died at 1977. Nana had 4 years, Rina was 74. But she grew her from day one. My God how she loved her! It was the joy which filled her soul and heart and it lit up the last four years of life.
"Ouch, I die of back ... Lord, you take me on, that I can not any more...” "she was whining in the house.
"Mamaia / grandma, don't die, that I want on potty!".... "Now you can go to die, that stay alone on potty"-conversation between her and Nana, as she told me it.
She died as she lived: not to antagonize with anyone, without waiting anything from anyone. She was the one who gave everything to others. She herself was the gift offered to the life, the people and God.
Only now I realize how much must she have been tormented by spondylosis, arthritis, rheumatism. Now when I am harassed, in my turn. She taught me to put the suction cup, left herself on my hand, full of courage, with injections, but even she urged me to make them. She was lucky, not even a bruise I never did to her! But only now I wonder how was she able to eat almost toothless! However, neither passed through my head the thought that I would be able to put her the prosthesis! Nor she said anything, and I will never ever forgive me that I didn't thought of it! How I will also not forgive myself for that on the evening of the night that she died, she wanted to drink a coffee and I didn't let her (being diabetic)!!' Next morning I had no longer to whom give coffee.
She was buried at Străulesti. After the funeral, I never got to her. I went to India. Perhaps her bones were scattered, because the tomb was only on seven years.
But from my soul I never removed her. In any elderly feeble lady I found her and I behave with her as if she would be Dada Rina, trying to offer her anything I can not anymore, unfortunately, to that who was my second mother.
I need to talk about the children from there in the midst of which I have not felt any moment a intruder, which I have accepted it as the one with which they grew since were little. 1918. I went with them on hills, with goats – all my childhood I regretted that I had not one as well, but I was happy to collect leaves for theirs – at cherries, mulberries, wax cherries, “coricove” apples, flowers, green lizards, slugs,birdies.
Everything I wrote here made me to understand better the sister of my mother and understand better myself. And then, if I do not write about those places, times, people who will can even remember about all over ten years? It's like a duty towards mother, and Rina, toward all those wonderful peasants. Lord rest them all up there in His heaven.
Translation by George Anca