My father would usually work again after dinner, late into the evening, after he got the big machine he used to make his instruments. It stood like a small car in one half of the basement, which was more like a first floor, because the house was built into the steep hillside. The other half was a room we played in and a place where he had his wine fermenting. I loved the smell of grape must, the sweet-sour foam, bubbling away in the cabinet.
When he came upstairs, I would come out to the kitchen, where he was eating his supper. He smelled like sweat and metal. His face stubbly by now. and his clothes grimy with dust and perspiration.
Usually, he ate kolbasz. He made it himself because we had no Hungarian sausage maker or butcher in this town. he ate it with fresh bread and a glass of red wine, he had made from the grapes that he grew on the first hillside terrace above the house.
It was my favorite snack. I would sit on his lap, and with the knife in one hand, and kolbasz in the other, he would cut the knife toward his thumb, then put the cut piece, along with the knife onto a little piece of bread, or he ate it from the knife still in his hand. He put the tiny bread and kolbasz pieces together and formed them in a line on the white and grey Formica top. He called them “katona falat” Little soldiers. He said a rhyme that went with the lining up of the pieces, he might have sang it if he had a good singing voice, but he didn’t.
Many months later, it felt like years to me, we, as in three, went to pick him up. My father was clean and pressed. My mother was glamorous from her long rest away at the convalescent spa. Her done-up black hair with perfect waves, her long red fingernails, ( which I’d only seen in magazines or the poster in the window for fire and ice.) High heels with a navy dress with a matching short jacket. I’d never seen her so fancy.
Finally, they opened the gates to let him out. He ran to us screaming, “My Ossi!, my Ossi! and he jumped at me and held on to me for a long, long time. So my world was coming back to where it was before, to the familiar.
I was glad to be home, but I was even happier to back to the bush, to the wild vacant land next to our house. I was glad to be back to what I knew, the places where I could go to hide and make-believe. I had missed my secret places, my tree huts, my bush houses, my little house under the outside stairs, which I’d decorated and made cozy with rags and junk I found. It was my very own house. I had many places, and I was rich in my town of homes. The old apricot was the Tarzan tree, it was bent all the way over so it was easy to live in and swing from the rope that dangled from the middle. The hillside was so steep, I could climb the trunk, then walk over the middle, like a gang-plank, and jump off the top and only be a little further up the slope. The pear tree was bent over too, but the other way, which made an extraordinary pirate ship, the leaves and upper branches hiding the decks below. Further down closer to the street, stood the apple tree, it had a cozy little seat sling, the branches made it that way. I could sit there and see the street. I was hidden. Occasionally, I would throw rotten apples at someone who deserved it.
She never let go of the fact he ran to me first. Just another unfortunate incident for her to go crackers over.
She thinks the story is cute. She loves to tell it. I think I’d be ashamed to tell stories like this. A few people don’t like it, and look at me funny, but most of them laugh, they think it’s cute too.
“Well, I told Ossi she was going to get a spanking, so she answers to me, “I’ll go get a stick for you to spank me with. A nice green, young one that will sting”
Titter, titter, titter…..
There is a reason I say this. The green saplings do sting, they burn actually, and sometimes they cut me and make me bleed. It’s not the trees fault. This way hurts a lot more in the beginning, but the pain goes away after awhile. The cuts scab over and fade. And the stinging fades away too.
The other way is much worse, a strong flat hand delivering one jarring smack after another, until my bones shift to get away. This pain doesn’t fade as easily or as fast. This pain aches and aches for a long time. This pain stays with me, and doesn’t let me sleep. This way crushes me. His hands are strong from working in the shipyards. He’s young. My bones haven’t been keeping up. They can’t ease back into place before the next time.
So you see, I’m the smart one. I’m the one who knows what is real. I’m the one who knows the best way to do things. That’s why the sapling stick may seem to you a much worse punishment. But it really isn’t.
When we got broken, when our family got broken apart, I was sent away to the neighbors on Nile street. They lived across for the river house and over a little bit. Next to the man who had all the precious things in his house, that were borrowed when the Queen visited, knives and forks and things. They were friends of ours, so they weren’t strangers. I knew them, but they were so different from us. Their lives were chaotic in a romping kind of way. The parents were gone most of the time, so the older twin girls fed us.
People get so familiar on the outside when you get to know them. Their dressing habits, personality, their conversations. But get inside their homes and it’s like getting inside their minds and their bodies and sometimes their souls. Both houses looking similar on the outside, yet so drastically different on the interior. Then, next to the collector was the little grocery on the corner owned by the Dutch couple. They were so nice to us. She had long grey hair and it was plaited and wound around her ears with a perfect parting at the top of her head.
My brother was sent to an orphanage. There was only one in our town. It was across the street from the hospital. there were a couple of the flat merry-go-rounds in the side yard. I liked those little ones, it was easy to get a rolling start for yourself and just sit in the middle and spin. When I visited my brother, I would let him have the inside. It was lonely and strange to be seperated from him. I couldn’t watch over him nor protect him. But they had many eyes in the orphanage watching the children, so he stayed alive there.
I don’t have many friends. This fact hurt for a long time. I wanted so badly to find the bunch where I could be a banana. Nothing fit right, but now I’m ok with it. Now I know it’s probably for the best. Now I know that being part of a group might have changed me into something else. The group speak. I might have become lost in the group.
Now I’m content. Not happy, content.
Once in a while, I’m overwhelmed with a type of joy I don’t think many people experience. It’s a type of euphoria. Today I felt that. It feels like becoming a transparent crystal sparkling thing, that becomes part of every crystalline sparkling thing. It’s not jumping up and down joy. It’s not laughing till you cry joy (that’s a story for another time)
It is a deep stillness, where all noise, clatter and static fall away. It’s like being alone in a field after a lighting storm, where the air is still clean and charged with a bit of electricity. It’s a feeling that everything is perfectly in tune and every piece is where it should be.
So, I don’t mind being alone (even if there are lots of people around) I realize now I can’t make people like me, Hell! most of the time they don’t even notice me! It pisses me off that sumbitch wasp saw me though, and chased me and stung me. I really don’t much care for that group!