Little Life Stories

9. David and his Steluța

My grandmother didn’t have an easy life, she grew up in Ečka. When she was 11 years old, her 21 years old sister died, leaving behind a daughter. Their mother never recovered, all she did was go to the cemetery. For as long as she lived, she never showed her face again, she wore a headkerchief that covered most of her face, leaving only her eyes, nose and mouth uncovered. She wore all black. 

She never recovered. For her daughter, they only took out of the church two black flags. The custom here is that for a young person, they take out 6, 8 or 10 flags. She was given two black flags. Her mother wanted her to have all the flags and so the priest didn’t come to the funeral. Her husband, my great-grandfather, went to the priest and told him that they would keep all the customs, except for the flags. If my Sanziana can’t have all the flags, then I don’t want those two either, said the mother. 

And then the priest pretended to be on a trip. This was around ’59. The cantors held the funeral service, they sang. They say that the priest came to his senses and started towards the cemetery, and an old woman came out and told him not to go, because they had arrived at the grave and Lucretia, Cheța, as my great-grandmother was called, was there. And the priest went back. My geat-grandmother was 63 years old at the time and she only forgave the priest when she died. She went to his cross in the cemetery, she kissed it and told him she forgave him.

They told me about what happened in our family so that I would know, and I wouldn’t rely on what I heard from others. So that I would know who my relatives were, what they went through, that’s why my grandmother told me, because she had experienced it. Her move to Uzdin when she got married, the change in costume, the homesickness. Ecka wasn’t far, just 30 km, but in those days, it took a day to get there. It was hard for grandmother to come to another village. The reason: her brother didn’t want to give her a plot of land so she could stay in her village. I won’t give it to her! I won’t!

And her father, when he married her off, he gave her enough money for 2 plots of land. And the question was why hadn’t they given her land in the village? Because in those days, girls were not taken out of the village so easily, unless they were disobedient and couldn’t be handled. But she ended up having a good life. She didn’t use to have an appetite, and my grandmother’s brother, Iosif, told her: This is what I wish for you when you get married. May God grant you such a big family, that by the time the steam reaches the beams of the house, there will be nothing left on the plates, so that you don’t have to worry about having an appetite.

I have many of her memories, maybe someday they’ll come in handy, they’re kind of like advice to me. And that’s how we were brought up. 

My aunt, on the other hand, my mother’s sister, she went to America. It doesn’t appeal to me, I don’t want to trade my life for dollars. Maybe my aunt has always been sick with envy, who knows. Parents will love you in the way you love them, you can’t change that. And they will show you love in the same way you show them. Grandma always said, I wish I could put my heart in the palm of my hand and show you that I love you both the same. Grandma and Grandpa always cried that Aunt Tita wasn’t with us. But she never saw the pain in their eyes. It seems like this winter she’s coming back for good. In old age you always need someone to care for you and give you a helping hand. I pray to God to give us strength, for we’re all very different. 

Grandma has stayed for me, she’s not dead, she’s always with me. I cried when she passed, not like grandson, but like a granddaughter. I really mourned her. I also go to the cemetery to see her, but always alone. I too wanted to find Steluța to say hello. In the end it was David who led us and showed us his grandmother’s grave.

I have many stories to tell, some are hard to talk about, I don’t even have the words. You have to know where you are from and who you are and who you are related to, even if it’s the poorest of the poorest, don’t turn your head away if it’s your family. Stop and talk to them, for it’s not the wealth that makes the man. She treasured everyone and in turn was treasured by everyone. A lot of people came to her funeral. That said something about her.

Photo credit: Răzvan Popa

English translation: Cristina Chira