If You Give Birth in Transylvania


If you have the chance to give birth in a village in Transylvania, this is what to expect:

-many ladies in the village would pay you a visit in the first few weeks from the big event

-they would not come empty handed, but bring you elaborated meals. The menu would necessary include, a pot of fresh chicken soup with homemade noodles, mashed potatoes with fry chicken and a whole three-layer-chocolate cake.

-they would also bring baby clothes and place some money under your baby’s pillow

Keep in mind that every time when you take a walk with your baby in the stroller, neighbors, acquaintances and random people would stop you to see the baby and place cash (only bills, not change)  by his head as a sign of future prosperity.

Now you know what to do.



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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When Transylvania is a Real Story

12370890_10204433277232472_8657314036859941057_oI go to the postoffice. ” I need to send this to Romania,” I say. The guy there is pretty friendly, “Romania? The country where all the ’empires’ come.” I take a second to think. Well, if this fellow says so, I will go with that. He might know more history than I. “Of course, ” I agree. “Aren’t you afraid?” he continues. “Why?” I reply. “I’m proud.” He shakes his head and watches me over his glasses while he helps me. He doesn’t say the word “weird,” but I can feel it in the air. I thank him and leave. Then it hits me. Empires/vampires, they are not the same word.


-After a True Story-

downloadThere was a man and his wife living in a small house in a village in Transylvania. It was in the late 50’s when the communist Russia had put its own commander to lead Romania. The food was scarce and people working in factories had to stay in long lines to get it.

It was a little easier for the peasants who had a patch of land behind their house and a few chickens in the yard. But the bad news was that they had to give a portion of their harvest to the government, to the communists.

Maria, the woman in this story, was saving the eggs from her hens to go and sell them at the farmers’ market the following week. They needed to buy a new basket for their household, since the old one was too shabby. Every morning at breakfast John, her husband, was keeping asking her for a fried egg, but the wife was unmoved in collecting and saving the eggs.

“You’ll eat one next week,” she kept telling him getting ready to visit her sister.

Then she left.

The man hurried and pulled out the container full of eggs from under the daybed in the kitchen.

He started the fire in the stove and placed a big pan on top of it. Oiled it with sunflower oil and began to break egg after egg, filling the whole pan with eggs. When he counted them, there were 17.

The man friend them and pulled the pan on the side of the stove to keep it warm and went and cut a few slices of bread.

Then he ate and ate. He ate them all.

No need to say that by the time his wife came back home, he was in bed, sick to death. It took a few days to recover from the egg shock.

Next day the communist agents  knocked at the door to collect their share of eggs from Maria and John.

“We have no eggs.” Maria said making room for the uninvited guests to step inside.

The agents looked under the bed, searched the small pantry, went through the cabinets, but in vain.

“You lie, woman. Where are the eggs?”

Maria pulled out her hanky from her pocket and wiped her eyes.

“Our hens are lazy,” and she blew her nose.

The men looked at the bed where John was suffering.

“What’s wrong with him?” one asked.

“He is sick, my John. I hope none of you would catch it.”

The communists bursted outside and didn’t came back for a month.

When they entered the yard again to get the eggs, John was eating an apple.

A Christmas Story

I could hear the cow’s bell in the barn when grandma Buna opened the shelter’s gate to milk the cow. It was the only one left after the communists took the other ones. It wasn’t very hard for me to move the chair by the window even though I was only a few years old.I wanted to see outside. The frost on the small glass was thick, but I knew how to scratch it off with my fingers to see outside.
The fire in the big bread oven in the courtyard was on, and grandma Buna was keeping it blinking playfully with dry corn stalks to bake the breads. The sweet bread dough was raising in the house by the warm black stove. There wasn’t much to see from where I was, but I could sense that that day was special. My grandparents’ voices were soft, the silence was long, they knew how to communicate without words.
By the end of the day I was already tired watching the preparations for the celebration to come. Buna put on her new black apron and the new scarf. Even Bunu, who wasn’t fun of new outfits, had a new hat. I was in my little bed already, with my long hair well brushed and a red bow on my head.
Then the carols started. They began in the front of the house, with neighbors singing loud and passionate about baby Jesus. After a while, the spectacle was moving inside the house, in the front room where I was, and where Bunu had built smoked pork sausages on a plate. There were other dishes with pickles, sauerkraut, and grandma’s walnut and poppyseed sweet breads. That was how people in Transylvania honored their visitors. Each household had to plan months in advance on how to manage their small resources in order to have what they needed for Christmas.
The joy and the sadness were both present in the carols,and I could see tears welling up in my grandma’s eyes. The songs turned into prayers. The despair couldn’t get deep roots.
It was Christmas Eve.
The red plague had taken people’s dignity and freedom, but couldn’t steal their hope.
(My grandparents’ house was like this in the picture.)
Casa in Bihor