Huge Problem – The HOUSE – 36


( Continuation – Read “Back Underground” first )

Then it stroke me.

I clang to the rail and just stood there in disbelief. How in the world didn’t I think of that?

“What’s wrong?” The young man was still admiring his piece of art imprinted on the chewing gum.

“We are screwed.” I never used that word before, but it just came out of my mouth.

Phillip gazed in my face, still happy about his newest accomplishment. “I don’t understand.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around of what we’ve done without taking any precautions. “I’m sure these guys, whoever they are, have cameras all over the basement and they know we are here. They will report us to the police.”

That was a surprise to my neighbor, as well. I could see him getting nervous, and he bit his lips. Then he made a sign to move forward. But I didn’t want to go upstairs. I wanted to go back.

I passed by him and rushed down the stairs to the poolroom. Maybe I was wrong and the owners didn’t have cameras. But I needed to see and prepare myself for what to expect.

If I wouldn’t have been that stressed out, I could have sworn I heard the door we’ve tried to open, hitting the wall. But because of my erratic state of mind at that moment, I couldn’t guarantee that was what happened. The door was closed.

Phillip was one step behind me.

Then my heart fell into my stomach. There were at least four cameras on the ceiling, one in each corner. How brainless was I to put us in such a mess?

All my life I stayed out of trouble. I taught my son to be a man of good character, to tell the truth, to respect other people’s property and the laws, and here I was becoming a criminal.

Our clothes were still dripping water on the floor and I was cold, so cold.

Phillip placed his hands on his hips and started pacing up and down.

“What now?”

( To be continued )


No, Thank You -1-

chinaI WAS SITTING in the sun outside the house yesterday when this neighbor came by for a chat. I invited her to sit on the chair next to me and asked her where she was from. She told me she and her mother were born here, and that her grandparents came from China. I told her I visited China a few yeas ago. Her eyes lit up. She had never been there. Then I told her my story, and when I finished it, she was still speechless on the edge of the chair. “This is so amazing,” she whispered after a while. “And so encouraging.” While watching as she was departing, I knew I had to write it down. My friends, you are the first recipients to read it. With some of you I traveled to China and made memories for a lifetime. Here I’m writing my story the way I experienced it. Because of a few good reasons, I will not be very specific about particular dates, locations and names. I know you’ll understand. Get your coffee and come on board.


I knew that would happen, but I thought this time it would not be so obvious. The moment I took a sit on the bench, my burgundy lather jacket squeaked. Hopefully the AC would be loud enough to cover my every move, I thought. Because with every move I made, the lather voiced my presence in the sanctuary.
The worship team finished their rehearsal and I sat there praying. A few dear friends filled the pew where I was and only moments before the service, the church was full. I loved my church. That was the second family for me and my children since we’ve immigrated to the US from Romania. After a few years in America, my children spread to different locations and now I was here by myself, but not lonely. I had so many good friends at NewportMesa.
After the worship time and the announcements, I was waiting for the sermon when one member of the mission board came forward with some news.
“We are taking a team to China this year,” he said “and maybe you want to be part of it.”
The second half of that statement sounded so funny to me that I started to laugh. I covered my mouth and tilted my head so people would not see me laughing at such a serious matter. Going to China on a mission wasn’t something to laugh about.
I had lived under the communist regime for 30 years and China was the last place on earth I had a desire to go.
“Bon voyage, and no, thank you, ” I said in my mind. This thought was pretty rude, and I hoped I would get away with it. God knew our sufferings and danger under the same political system as China.
I barely finished my answer when I felt these words impressed on my heart, “You go.”
There was no way that God would corner me like that, I thought and dismissed them.
Meanwhile, the person on the platform was giving out specific numbers about the date when the team would leave, and when the first chunk of money had to come in in order to secure a spot.
Haha! There were about $6,400 for each person and most of those money were to buy Bibles for the Chinese churches. My job that time couldn’t support such expenses and we people were supposed to raise up their own support. “Lord, this is on You if You want me to go. You provide.”
I left it there because I had enough experience living a life of faith in Jesus to push it my way.

You could have seen I wasn’t excited to go on a mission trip to China, but I didn’t want others to be discouraged by my ideas. As I had to share about this plan with my family and my close friends, I kept my doubts between me and the Lord. So, I started to pray. My heart softened, and one day I talked to my employer that the following year I needed two weeks off for my trip.

Sandy, a lady I was pretty close to was visiting with our landlord often. She came to me one day and said, “When I heard that you are going to China, I decided to go as well. You inspired me.” I felt embarrassed to be kept in such regard on no merit and I told her the truth about Who made me decide to go. Anyway, a few weeks had passed by and I have sent no letters to people to sponsor me, while the other 11 or so members of the team were focused and devoted to raise every single penny. Which I was not.

-to be continued-

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She Wins


“Strangers are bad people,” she emphasizes lifting her finger in the air. We walk down the hill and she is holding to the stroller I push. Nonchalant, her two-year-old brother is eating potato chips.

I listen to her as she continues.

“Strangers come near you smiling and when they are close, they grab you by the hand and smash your face.”

“Wow!” The description is pretty vivid. At her seven years old, it looked like she took a class or something about strangers.

She stops on the lawn by the little theatre and performs a few karate movements.

“When the strangers get you, you can’t do this.”

“Why?” I ask with fear in my voice.

She is not bothered that only half of her audience gets goose bumps. I mean, I. The other half is munching on a banana.

“Because they punch you in the chin. Right here,” and she holds her chin with her hand pushing it forward. “See?”

“Who told you this?” I dare to ask.

“Daniel. He is my friend.”

“From school?”

She is nodding her head and then she slows down.

“One time Daniel pinched me.” She shows me her arm where the pinching took place.

“Why did he do that?”

“I don’t know. He yelled at me, < What’s wrong with you? >”

I could see she was sad. ” What did you say?”

“I told him nothing was wrong with me. Then I went and talked to the teacher. Her name is Mrs. Phee.”

She looks at me to see the effect of her teacher’s name on my face.

“Mrs. Phee?” I ask pretty astonished.

“It’s not what you think, Buni.”

She wins.

When we turn back and pass by the theatre again, she remembers something.

“Strangers want to kill you, Daniel said.”

A plane takes off from the small airport a few miles away from us and we switch our attention into the sky.

Meanwhile, the banana feast in the stroller is over.


More Than the Color Grey

zara--wool-coat-product-1-17282416-1-576620617-normalMy mom got me an orange coat that fall.

I was 12 or 13 and the city still had the old kind of stores with the wooden floor smelling of petroleum. We didn’t go often at a clothing store, because buying a thick coat was a great investment for a family of workers in that part of the world. Mom always used to get me one that was one or two sizes bigger, to ensure it would be good for the next couple of years. As a child, I didn’t care. Wearing the coat with folded sleeves was all right. Nobody made a fuss of it.  But now I was already tall and mama was confident enough to buy me one my size. “She would not keep growing like she used to,” mom told dad.

When I entered the store, I could see all the coats on hangers and suspended up high on a string in the back of the counter. The orange one caught my eye. “I want that one.” Mom took a deep breath. “Are you sure they would let you wear it to school? It looks too modern. ”

“They” were the communist leaders in my school.

The same question weighed on my soul for a moment, but I dismissed it. “I’m sure they will,” I assured mom. “Actually, they might not even see it, since I don’t wear it in the classroom, but on the street.”

The clerk managed to get the coat and handed it to me. “It’s a daring color,” he admitted.

I tried it and a warm feeling comforted my heart.

Mama paid for it and let me wear it on our way home. “Here she comes the princess,” I though while catching a glorious glimpse of myself in every single shop-window we were passing by.

I was happy. Life was more than the color grey.

(And no, “they” didn’t catch me, and I wore it for the next three years.)




Mornings Up In the Plum Tree

Privind inapoi pe acelasi drumAugust. The month when I was still on vacation at my grandparents, running through the corn field and climbing the trees with my friends.

My grandparents had a large garden in the back of their house. They also had owned a few patches of land scattered around their village. But by the time I came into the world, the communists took the land from them. So, they were left with only this piece of property.

Most of it was planted with corn for the cows.

Plum trees surrounded the land and I was in charge to pick the plums that were falling on the ground, and feed them to the pigs. Grandma Buna used to make plum jam and stewed fruit for winter, but she knew that most of the harvest had to go to my grandpa’s plum brandy.

Early in the morning, when my grandpa milked the cows and grandma was busy by the stove in the summer kitchen, I liked to sneak out of the house and get in the garden. I was still in my pajamas  and wearing the new slippers grandma Buna made for me from an old pair of shoes. The dew was cold and wet, and I knew my friends walked barefoot, but I was a city girl and could’n stand the moist on my soles.

There was my favorite tree in the garden, one plum tree with low branches I could climb easily. Half the way to the top, it was this thick branch that grew horizontally. I would sit on it and eat plums.

Wearing his shabby hat, the next door neighbor Bace Sandor was walking his field and examining the crops. Two plots away, Nana Maria was feeding her chickens, and on the far right the pasture was filled with cows from the communist units.

I could see everything from my secret spot, while nobody could see me.

I wanted to be a detective.

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A Gate in the Fence

download (2)I had a friend from childhood. I said “I had” because from that fall when she went to finish her school in the city, we lost the connection.

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.