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Grandma Helena's house

January 21, 2019

Oh, that apple tree! It was so tall! I always climbed to the very top, giving my Grandma Helena a scare every time! She tried to get me down because I was really high up there, but I only laughed and told her not to worry and that I was safe. This apple tree bore the sweetest, juicy, yellow apples with red streaks that we called januvky because their season was around the day of St John, or was it after? That is in June. We couldn't stop eating them - after we'd finished one, we gobbled up another one and another one until we were stuffed.


The house we used to spend our summers at was the new house, built by my uncles and my dad for their elderly parents when their older house was giving up its long service. The upper floor was only for guests and for us when we came over. Grandma rarely went up there. She had two rooms on the ground floor - the first window on the left was a bedroom with an old wardrobe and a bed. Not much else. The second window was a kitchen with a white, square table in the middle, a bed under the window, light blue kitchen cabinets with cups and plates and other dishes, a sink and a stove that we called shparhet (I guess the closest word is German sparherd and the look of that stove is the same). Ours was white and Grandma used wood to make fire for cooking and heating the room. But not in winter, of course. She spent winters with us in our apartment in town. Winters were often long and gloomy in the village with nothing to do outside. 


My favorite view was of her sitting next to the front door facing the driveway. As our car was approaching, I saw her there, sitting on a tiny stool, cleaning beans or doing some other small job. I don't recall her ever idling. And our black and white cat Murko, whom we found as a tiny little kitten, was always nearby, in between her legs, asking to be caressed.


The apple tree is long gone. So is Grandma. And after Murko, no more cats found their way to the house. To honor her memory and to express our unending love for her and what she passed onto us, me and my mom framed old photographs and put them on the wall in the hallway on the first floor. And there they will stay forever - my Grandma and Grandpa, in their Sunday clothes, posing for the photographer, their son who lived at the other end of Slovakia; my dad and his brothers when they were not even ten years old, posing with a goat, barefoot and mischievous; my dad's Grandma, standing on the field, dressed in a dark plaid skirt and blouse (clothes that you can only see at folk festivals now), taking a break, leaning on her hoe, looking straight ahead; my Grandma when she was very, very young, but married already, holding flowers in her hand, beaming with happiness, posing with her friend near some trees...


So much is gone and can never come back. At times like this I really wish it was possible to travel in time so that I could live with my ancestors in their time in order to truly understand them and then to make that knowledge last.


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