In between listening to rock bands on vinyl records, learning English from Cartoon Network and watching music on MTV, I used to spend a lot of time in the countryside. Yes, I went to school and other stuff too, worry not, but…
My Summer/Winter/Easter holidays and most weekends were spent in a village by the river. There was no other place to be than there. If I start speaking about how things were I think I can go on for hours. If I start talking about my countryside adventures I might not stop too soon.
When I put it all together I realise that for a long time I looked at it as if it were Heaven on Earth because I was happy there, and the last day of holiday was my worst nightmare. Things changed with time but the memories are still there. So are my childhood friends who still make fun of me for always walking barefoot.
There was a time when climbing a tree was a piece of cake, when my main activities were fishing, picking mushrooms, playing football and building fires. When the best sweet thing you could eat was the homemade jam, the best companions were the other kids visiting their grandparents and riding a horse-dragged carriage was the highlight of the day. There were also times when you didn’t want to get out of bed until the fire was burning nicely, when Christmas meant rummy and backgammon with the tree lights in the background, when Easter came with our own bunnies and fluffy yellow chicks and Autumn weekends brought grape juice, fresh apples and the smell of smoke.
But there were also the storms breaking down trees, the mice playing football under the floors late at night, the fleas the cats would bring in the house back when flea-repellent didn’t exist, the black roaches and spiders crawling in the dark, the ant bites, wasps, snow storms and floods. Yes, the floods. Probably that changed that place the most. It was fun when you were little and the waters were still mild, but the last time it happened it seems the water was poisoned with all the bitter things in the World.
I could go on talking about the fact that there was no indoor plumbing, the water came from the spring, the gas came from a gas tank, and when you couldn’t find one to buy all the food would be cooked on a wood-burning stove. And it tasted amazing! And so did the (unwashed) fruits and berries from the garden: raspberries, strawberries, cherries, blackcurrants, sour cherries, plums, pears, apples, grapes.
It was a pleasure to go there again, especially around the Summer Solstice, Midsummer for many, Sânziene for us, the magic night when the sky opens and one can see into Heaven, when magic fairies dance in the forests and drive young men crazy, when girls dream of their sweethearts and the abundance of the crop can be foretold. It was a shock and a delight to see the old dusty street all lit up, when I remembered it covered in darkness that you had to learn it by heart in order to get home safe at night. It was sad to see the fields all covered in weeds from all the seeds the wild waters brought years ago, but among all the thorns and the thistles the wild flowers were still there in bloom, beautiful and colourful as they have always been and always will be! And the silence of the nights with the songs of the Blackbirds and the crickets, the misty mornings spirited by cuckoos, roosters and the neighbour’s really loud geese. I grew up here!