From: ef (
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 10:35:37 PST

>This is my favorite posting, I can almost see these people now, passing the
>phone from hand to hand, a sort of ritual object, and the recurring
>question, when are you coming back, the prayer. Do I smell garlic?

there was not all that much garlic going on. only on holidays.

mostly, a lot of bread. whenever i would go to visit, i would bring
bread. in case there wasn't any. also, when i would bring bread, i
would bring some stuff to go on the bread, margerine, some salami or
sometimes cheese, and then i would bring some cookies maybe, for the
children. and coffee, i would always bring some coffee.

and when i would do that, i would have to find the cheapest salami,
the biggest tub of margarine, the biggest bag of cookies. because
there were so many people to feed. i had had no experience with
having so many people to feed, i had to learn all that. to try to be
frugal like that, to go for quantity. it was a neccessary thing. and
then, sometimes, zsuzsa would also come upstairs, or perhaps a few of
her kids, and i would know that they too had nothing to eat. so then
i would send a kids off to get some more bread, margarine, salami,
cookies, coffee.

and whenever there was a bit of money, maybe a bit of meat. maybe
some soup, but really meat was for holidays. you know, like christmas.

of course i am invited for christmas. there we are sitting around,
drinking coffee when grandfather arrives with an elderly hen under
his arm. it has rustyred feathers and a ragged leathery comb slung
over one eye. it looks sad. and resigned, kinda like the oldlady i
see on the street. she with the hat over one eye. maybe grandfather
has decided to put her out of her misery and cast a spell. you know,
like gypsies do, haha.

well, the oldladyhen is about to meet its demise, so being the
sensitive sort that i am, i gotta get out of here. i might want to
save it or something and thus spoil the festivities. i gather up the
junior mihaly, and off we go to get a surprise. junior-mihaly and i
have become conspirators. our conspiracy consists of being able to
tell eachother stuff and not having it go further.

so what we are about to get is some christmas lights. cause
mihaly-the-father has somehow acquired a sorta chrismas tree that now
flaunts its sparse and hairy limbs in the corner.

off we go, juniormihaly and i. he is clumping along in the boots i
had brought him, real motorcycle boots, i say. the boots are a bit
big so they make him walk funny, a kinda clump-and-swagger. a skinny
little kid, swaggering along in big black boots. he loves the boots.
he has now been wearing them for ten days solid. one night, when i
had come late to visit, i saw him asleep on the couch. he had the
boots on his feet.

so off we go to find a store that has lights. we want blinking
lights, the real thing. with the hope, mine, secret, that the
oldladyhen will be dead and acook by the time we get back. hey, why
don't we go check your email at the netcafe first, says juniormihaly.
i am loath to tell him i'd already done so, before i came. cause i
know how much he likes coming with me to do that. he gets to peck
around on a keyboard and look up websites about kungfu moviestars.
which gives him mucho bragging rights with his friends. and me, i get
to bug him about learning to read-and-write. i say, find the g, and
then i say find the o and another o. very good, i say, do you see
what i mean.

there is of course no email to check but netcafe only costs 50 cents
an hour and j-mihaly has learned another letter. well worth it.

blinking christmas lights. we see a store that sells blinking
christmas lights. so we stand in line and buy some. 50,000 lei, they
cost. that's five loaves of bread, i am thinking. around here, i am
always thinking in loaves of bread.

jmihalys eyes are shining. combination of jeanclaude van damme pics
and bringing home a surprise. talk about status. lately he had been
falling behind cause a friend of his got a a keychain laser pointer.

back home, we string up the lights on the tree. it now also has three
chocolatebars hanging on it. the chocolatebars were brought by the
halfblind old man who lives in a house up the street. he brought them
as presents for the children because his own grandchild had died. so
melinda strung them up with thread and hung them in the tree. we now
have a veritable plethora of christmas decorations.

in order to plug in the lights, we have to unplug the tv. there is
only one plug. so we unplug the tv and turn on the lights. we all sit
around waiting. but they are not blinking, katika wails, they are
broken. shit, i say, we got ripped off. but no, all of a sudden a
light blinks. then another. then they all blink like crazy. katika

the smell of garlic and cooking chicken wafts in. grandfather has
cooked the dinner and it is ready. all the children are chased into
to kitchen to eat. then, ceremoniously, i am brought the guest plate.
the best part of the chicken. which consists of all the innards,
liver, gizzards, heart. and something else besides, that looks like a
reddishbrown omelet. uh oh, i think, fried blood, that is. the whole
thing swimming in oil. with a big slab of bread on the side.

the red thing, i say. i don't think i can eat that. i feel bad when i
say this cause i read somewhere that that is considered the biggest
delicacy, reserved for honoured guests. i feel honoured but kinda
nauseous. i don't think i can eat the redthing. i am okay with all
the other innards but not the redthing.

oh no, they say. everyone runs around, clearing off the table. i feel
terrible,now they think they have insulted me. nono, i say, bring
back the plate, i love chicken innards, my mom used to give me the
chicken innards too, i say. just take off the redthing, that's all, i
say, but bring back the rest, please.

a collective sigh of relief. the plate comes back. now, i say, why am
i eating alone. surely you are not going to leave me all alone to
eat, surely you're not eating in the kitchen with the kids. let's all
eat together, i say, i hate eating alone.

so then everyone comes trooping back, plates in hand. adults around
the table, children on the floor all around.

it's christmas, lights ablink, chocolatebars aswing, we toast the
elderly chicken and devour it, suck the bones dry and sop up the
grease with the bread.


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