I just realized that we didn’t have heat in the kitchen for the first 13 years of my life. No, I’m not kidding. It never crossed my mind that from October to May when the cold was sharp in that part of Europe, we – mom, dad and I, and later my sister, managed life like that. I remember having a nice terra-cotta stove in our only room, which my dad “tata” used to enhance its function to perfection. I also remember being too warm in that room and begging mom to let me wear short sleeves.
“Who in the world would wear short sleeves in December?”
So, I was closely supervised to keep my sweater on to avoid catching a cold.
We didn’t have much.
My parents were workers in a factory, but there were two things that we never missed: food and dry clothes. I longed for nice dresses since wearing a nice dress would get you first in line in the kindergarten’s restroom. The rule was that the one girl on the only toilet was the one to judge and decide which girl was next. All the girls were lined up around the one on the “throne” and the “queen” picked the one with the nicest outfit. I always wanted a dress in squires or in polka dots, they were in high demand in our young community,but mama had me in sport pants all the time.They were cheap and resistant to dirt since doing the laundry on winter time was always a toil.
My father would bring buckets of water from the fountain in the street and mom would warm them up on the cooking light in a huge kettle. This task would take a long time. The laundry operation could start only after that. Drying the clothes outside was another challenge, it was almost impossible during the rain season.
But we managed.
I can’t forget the Sunday mornings when my parents were off of work.
I was still in my bed under the window reading a book or drawing, and the fire was on in the terra-cotta. The fragrance of the chamomile and mint tea on the stove and of ripe quinces displayed on the top of the wardrobe perfumed the room. Mom and dad were making breakfast, and the folk music on the radio station in the kitchen interfered sweetly with my parents’ voices.
Those were days of peace for me.
But my parents lived in the fear of the evil system and they tried to protect me for as long as they could.
I was young and I knew.