Of sunshine, rum and dandelion chains. Memories come.
Some days there is a golden light that happens in the evenings. It comes thru the trees, from the west into my house. The thoughts of Prague are just on the edge of my mind then, except this west coast light is too blue to be convincing enough. It’s too blue because it is reflected by millions of viridian trees and the cold Pacific instead of millions of gilded statues and warmed cobblestones. Memories of my childhood are coloured gold and warmed by those stones.
Until that black day, all I can remember is sunshine. Until that black day there were mostly two of us…my cousin and I…the two of us playing with dolls, running thru the fields below the cabin, climbing into the hay stacks getting supper itchy, bringing baby pheasants home for babi to have to pen with the chickens and, after a stern warning not to do that again, dumping grandpa’s matches out on the nearest table to use the matchboxes for May beetles. Great, big, giant May beetles. When we lost interest he just let the beetles go and put his matches back.
One spring I chained a dandelion chain around the whole cabin. One autumn I hid under babi’s heavy feather quilt because there was a huge storm and babi said feather quilts protected children from storms. One summer I toppled off the swing that grandpa built for me and broke my left humerus just below my shoulder. Boy was I annoyed…no swimming that summer. One summer I got a blue swimsuit with a thin red and white stripe down the sides and a world globe piggy bank for my birthday. My mom had been to Italy on holiday and brought these treasures for me.
Babi kept a small treasure box for me full of single earrings, broken necklaces, pins, bits of shiny ribbon, gold brocade, gloves, silk flowers. She called them “tzingerdlatka” roughly translated as sparkly-shineys. I couldn’t get enough of this toy. Grandpa would to pay me a few small coins for handfuls of linden, St John’s wort and mullein blossoms for his tea. I felt so rich. Grandpa would sharpen my coloured pencils with his pocket knife till they had the sharpest point possible. I loved the sharpness of those pencils. Aunt Vera washed her face with the morning dew to stay beautiful. I knew that’s what did it. She also used to let me muck about with her oil paints. I thought I was such a great artist to use those oils.
Each year, just before Christmas Eve some carp were bought and stored live in the bath tub. We children loved to look in and poke at the fish even though we knew we shouldn’t. Then the carp would be turned into Christmas supper and we got to play with the “spirits” of the fish, (actually the swim bladders, but just fine as balloons). The door to the living room would be closed all day until after supper. Then there was a knock on the front door and St Nicholas would be there with the devil beside him to ask us if we were good. Somehow we always were because then the living room door was opened to the most spectacular tree lit up with real candles, with presents, chocolates and oranges underneath and I always got a tiny spoon of fragrant Czech rum in my tea as a treat.
There was no TV, only nature and culture and folklore. It was Bohemia in the truest way imaginable. It lasted eight glorious years.
Written in response to Jane Ann’s backstory blog challenge