Childhood goodbye


It’s really not a good year this one… too much change and none good, too much loss. Too much growing up too.

I feel today i’ve lost my last connection to childhood. My auntie, my grandma’s aunt passed away peacefully in her sleep during the night.

Two weeks ago i found this year’s perfect birthday card for her, she was going to turn 94 at the end of August. She loved getting them and generally getting letters from me. She always told me when we spoke she was proud of me and that i was a good granddaughter and that my grandma and granddad would say the same. Nobody else remembered telling me that as often as she did..

She didn’t have an easy life but she lived to see her granddaughter grow up and play with her 3 great-grandchildren. We’ve lived apart for many years now but i grew up with her, she was more like my second grandma than my aunt.

My childhood memories are all tied to my grandparents and by that i mean my grandad, my gran and her sister, my aunt, Tusi Loluti. There was also their brother, uncle Didor. He had his own family but i do remember him, always well dressed and groomed and my auntie and grandma always told me what a good dancer he was 🙂 I have very few memories of daily life from that time with my parents because in fact it was my grandparents who raised me. We all lived together in a house, the 3 of them, my parents and i. My parents both worked, especially dad really long hours, so my days were spent around my grandparents, the garden and especially the kitchen. The kitchen was in an attached building, outside at the back of the garden.

We had a plum tree at the back of the garden, a few vines, rose bushes and a big apricot tree. I remember the old wood and coal stove in the kitchen with the big and tiny pots on top and the smells of cooking. My auntie used to heat up her lunch before going to work in one of these tiny pots, of which we still have a few at home and i remember sitting next to her and she always shared her food with me, always tasted better from those tiny pots 🙂

I remember Christmas time approaching with the 2 of them spending hours in the kitchen baking the most amazing stuff. My mum still has the old small notebook with yellowed pages with the receipes of lifetimes, most of which only have lists of ingredients, no instructions. Because they all knew how to make them. I copied one year all the ones i could remember for myself. Each of them had their own specialty, the share of receipes they knew best.

And i remember my auntie keeping the house ultra tidy. We had the sitting room where you would only sit when guest came, with everything in its place 🙂 And the old painted white cupboard where they kept the plates with the nicely arranged hills of neatly cut and stacked cakes 🙂 And i remember them both alternatively telling me off and telling me to go to sleep in my bed and not keep waking up and asking for another glass of water, my trick to try and stay up just a bit longer.

I remember the juicy apricots every couple of years when the tree nearly broke with their weight and the massive tin bowl where they would be kept and taken to the kitchen to make amazing jam. Still my favourite today! And i was allowed to do some stirring standing on a small wooden chair.

I remember their washing and the smell of starch in the plastic buckets where my grandad’s shirts where being starched and helping to collect the frozen shirts off the lines outside in winter and their stiffness. The smell of the starch as we brought them back in to thaw in the kitchen.

And  i remember both their voices 🙂 My grandad’s too but mostly them, my grandad was not very chatty and he was always fetching things, fixing thing, going to cue up to buy things while they sorted the household.

They are the best and happiest memories of my life.

My mum has a cousin, my auntie’s daughter. They too grew up together in the same house i did years later. She married an Englishman and moved to the UK before i was born but it would b years before my auntie moved to join them, it was only after my cousin was born.

I know leaving a communist country for the West was a very hard process, but i don’t remember much of that… She moved to the UK, we had to leave the house behind as it was going to be torn down by the communists and ended up living in a block of flats. I was about 11 when we moved but it’s not what i associate with childhood. Childhood was the house, the garden, the kitchen, the grandparents.  My auntie and family moved to the US after a short while and they have been there since.

Soon after both my grandparents passed away, none of them got to see me finish school.

But even if far away my auntie was still there, to ask about recipes, to remember the house, the garden, my grandparents by.

I wish i had seen her again these last few years  not just spoken to her. She and my grand used different words, a mix of languages,a different tone than my parents or i. I wish she was still around to tell me to be more tidy and put things where they belong 🙂

I don’t know what i think about life and passing… I’d like to think she is now with her sister and my grandpa and she can tell them about me finishing school, going to uni, about where i live and work, about baking their recipes.. about how i miss making apricot jam with them.