Amelia was two years old when my parents took me to my grandparents for the first time in the village. I was a few months old. Amelia’s mother was my grandma’s best friend. They were next-door neighbors and part of the same church. I knew they carried their burdens together for a lifetime.
It was a little unusual that grandma’s best friend was getting pregnant at an old age. She was a mother for a young little girl and also a grandmother for her oldest children’s offspring.
Amelia and I grew up together, since I was staying with my grandparents pretty often before going to school. Then, I spent most of my vacations in the countryside, and I was very happy.
There were those early mornings during the summer time when Amelia and I woke up right after the daybreak. We waited for each other in the corn garden, on the path that separated ours from theirs. My dog followed us to the end of the patch, where my uncle and Amelia’s father had built a fence. My uncle put a gate in the fence towards the large fields of the communist agricultural cooperative. The system owned the cattle, the horses and all the livestock they had taken from the villagers.
That was our destination, the field.
Amelia carried a small tin bucket. I carried nothing, but had my aunt’s large apron tied around my waist. That area wasn’t a safe place for two little girls to hang out because of the dangerous shepherds’ dogs that roamed up and down. They were trained to kill. Anyway, we had a mission and my dog was with us. The grass was full of dew mushrooms early in the morning, before the sun was getting strong to wither the fragile vegetables. The mushrooms were the size of a quarter, maybe a little bigger, grown like this during the night, when the ground was cold and moist. There was nobody else looking for them there, but us.
Our hands worked fast while my dog watched the premisses. We didn’t dare to go too far from the gate. The shepherds’ dogs were there in our sight ready to come and attack us. I picked the mushrooms and placed them in my aunt’s apron I was holding with one hand. Amelia and I were talking and even laughing, but we both were alert. Sometimes we had enough time to fill the tin bucket and load a good measure of mushrooms in my apron. Other times, we just had to run to the gate. My dog was keeping away the dangerous dogs until we got safe behind the fence. Then, he had to run for his life and get through the gate just in time for us to secure it behind him.
I never told my grandma what was going on beyond our fence in the back of the corn garden. She would never let me go there again.
The field around our life can be a dangerous place.
That’s why we need a friend, a dog and a gate in the fence.