. . .
I walked under the net of stars. Its one of my first memories. I walked from one peak of the hill to the other passing the bonfire in the valley. I walked from the arms of my mother, to the arms of my grandmother. I hardly remember doing this, but I remember the warm feeling of reaching my grandmother and the chilling experience of walking by the fire in the valley alone. I know that the fire was hot, but I felt cold walking by it as I didn’t have the safety of my mum or my grandmother, Buni. The stars made me feel smaller than I had ever felt before, but the prospect of walking by myself made me feel strong and independent. Reaching Buni made me feel proud, and loved. I don’t remember the experience well, but I remember how I felt. What I felt. Why I felt what I did.
We were at camp at the time. I remember we gathered in the big amphitheater for arts activities. They put out supplies to make face masks. I made a mask and disguised myself as a black cat, but I quickly got bored. Soon, I glued jewels to my own face and spread glitter on my eyebrows. Paired with the plastic tiara and the red-yellow paper necklace, I looked rather extravagant. Buni still keeps a picture of me dressed like this on her bedside table. She said that she talks to my picture everyday. I was comforted by her love.
. . .
I walked under the canopy of clouds. They were low that day; I felt like I could almost touch the soft gray-white façade of the clouds. I looked down into a puddle and saw my own grinning face and the rest of the vast sky, vast universe, reflected. I stepped into the puddle with my pink Barbie water shoes, breaking the tranquility of the moment. The rain water seeped into my shoes easily, but I didn’t mind because that is the point of water shoes, to wear them in water; that’s the logic I had at the time at least. I forgot where we are walking to, but it was okay because I was with Buni. She kept me safe but let me wear water shoes out on the sidewalk. As we walked, she explained the water cycle to me. How water is taken up into the atmosphere and comes back down as rain. I could tell that she was tiered because she explained the whole process in Romanian, too worn out to think of any words in English. I get the same way when I am tiered, even now.
We arrive at the park, and I remembered why we came. We came to collect leaves for an art project. The weather was not pleasurable, but it made our fieldtrip seem more adventurous. I picked all of the biggest leaves, but she picked the most colourful and beautiful. She told me a saying that roughly translates to, “Less is more.” I learned then that beauty is simple. Beauty is in everything, if you just choose to see it. My grandmother was beautiful.
. . .
I walk under the low door stoop and up the stairs. Buni lives on the fifth floor of a walk up. At the bottom of the stairs, I turn on the timed light in the hallway. To conserve energy, the hall light only stays on for a few minutes. It shut off at the third floor and I walk in the pitch dark the rest of the way. The air smells like concrete, and the hall feels smooth but bare; not even a window lines the walls, no light breaks the darkness. The railing is metallic and cold.
On the fifth floor I am greeted by the smell of fried potatoes and the embrace of Buni. I am also greeted by her new husband, but I don’t pay much attention to him. My family and I spend the weekend with Buni. Friday we eat dinner. We haven’t all seen each other in a long time, but everything seems to come naturally.
Saturday morning, she makes a special chocolate sauce to go over my porridge and I eat it with pleasure, though I’ve long grown out of those eating habits. We go to visit her garden in the afternoon and Larissa comes over for dinner. We go to a traditional orthodox church on Sunday and I have to cover my arms and legs despite the heat wave. Sunday afternoon, we go to Uncue Gicu’s house and talk. He is a clever man, but he’s not fast enough for Buni. I remember her retorts pinged of the popcorn-ed walls and hitting him right in the head, sending him into a daze. We got to drink from the fancy glasses that had coloured bottoms and the swirled shades of red mesmerize me. The porcelain dog seemed to keep an eye on me the whole night.
Monday morning, we had to leave. I didn’t want to, but we had to. We had to go home to our lives in Canada. I had to go back to school and my parents back to work. I tried not to cry leaving Buni’s house, but I did anyways. She cried too, once I started to cry, or maybe she cried first. It was all a haze. It was hard to say goodbye, so instead we said see you later.
When I was young I learned that love is what keeps a family together. Once I grew older I saw the beauty in having a family to trust in. Now I see that family is about difficult truths as well.