Post 57: On The Road To Romania
In the dark, we left the two lane highway and turned onto a narrow, paved road. We wound through a gloomy forest and then drove into a little village. It was Badosi. He pulled through a gate in the middle of a fence and parked. A one story house sat on the right and appeared to be covered in stucco. In the light of the bright moon, I saw shadows of a small barn set back a ways and an outhouse between the house and barn. Leaves on a wire mesh grew above the walkway into the house as thousands of stars blinked through them.
“Mama!” Dr. G cried out as we walked into the house.
A very short, sturdy, but not fat, woman in a long dress and wearing a babushka greeted him with a big hug and tears in her eyes. They started speaking in Romanian as she kept looking at me.
“This is Beeal, my friend,” then whispered to me, “I forget to tell her you coming.” He smiled like it was no big deal.
Mama G shook my hand and led us to a table wedged against a wall. Soon, several neighbors arrived and crowded around the small table as pickled vegetables, cheese and bread appeared, along with beer and other drinks. Everyone talked at once as I sat back and enjoyed the homecoming, even if I didn’t understand a word they were saying.
The neighbors seemed as surprised to see Dr. G as had his mother. Later I asked him if she knew he was coming. “Oh sure, I send her letter,” he said. But after five days with him, I wondered if he did.
The house had electricity and indoor plumbing was installed. Right inside the door, on the back porch, which was the main entrance as no one used the front door, was a bathtub containing some vegetables and other food items. A toilet, obviously not available for use, sat in the corner surrounded by tools, and a large sink held household odds and ends.
“I pay all this money for indoor plumbing for her. She have first indoor toilet and plumbing in village, but nobody here know how to maintain it and it freeze,” Dr. G told me. “Besides, my mother no like it anyway, she like the two wells in the yard, one for her geese, the other for drinking water she carry into house with a bucket. She likes outhouse best.”
After the neighbors left, I needed to use the outhouse, so I walked underneath the bright moon light and peered inside looking for toilet paper, something I was learning to do first. It was dark inside so I used my hands to sweep the plank, floor and corners. There was no TP.
Dr. G was at the car so I asked him if there was some in the house. He told me to wait a minute, then hustled down the drive into the dark neighborhood. Ten minutes later he came whistling back with at least six rolls balanced in his arms.
“Here Beeal, will this be enough?” I thought it was enough for several weeks! The next morning, I discovered Mama G wasn’t out of toilet paper, I just wasn’t able to see it in the dark. Neat squares of paper, cut from pages of old newspapers and magazines, were poked on a nail conveniently located between two wall studs.
The interior layout of the home reminded me of Chicago Bungalows. The kitchen was across the rear of the house. Then up a step was a door which led into the living room and two bedrooms. Dr. G showed me the couch I was to sleep on and I found an outlet for my CPAP machine; there were few outlets and lamps in the room. The darkened room was filled with dated upholstered furniture, which appeared to be rarely used. I thought most of Mama G.’s life took place in her kitchen. During the two nights we spent there, I only went into the living room to sleep. The rest of the time was spent in the kitchen or outside where she always seemed to be.
The following morning, I heard voices and stepped out into a bright, crisp sunny fall day. Dr. G and his mother were standing outside the door talking and I realized the leaves overhead were grape vines, laden with beautiful, light green grapes. From the house to the driveway and for half the length of the house was a heavy wire trellis holding the grapes.
“Here Beeal, have some, these very good,” said Dr. G as he reached over his head and picked a clump.
They were delicious. I was starved and ate more. The house I thought was stucco-sided was actually made with adobe bricks, covered with a lighter mix of adobe mud, a standard construction method for rural Romanian homes, especially those built before World War II. Through the gate I saw similar homes across the road, most behind some type of fence, all small. The village appeared to be several gravel streets deep and maybe a mile long besides the main road curving past.
Next week: Conversing With Mama G