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On rainy days when it was too wet to go out and play, baka and I would sit together by the small kitchen window- outlined by lace curtains, crochet of course. So Balkan-ish.
The two of us frozen in time…
Ours is a typical peasant house, red tiled roof, slightly crooked… some twenty-one years old. Three times my age. Cobblestone yard. An outhouse. A water pump. A wash line for drying yellow dresses and white sheets and a miniature, angry mongrel that fancies himself a German Sheppard.
Doilies in white and red yarn lounge on all available spaces. Ripe apples line atop every surface, like decaying soldiers – rustic potpourri it was. Ham and salami hanging in the pantry, jars of homemade jam – carrot, blackberry. Pomegranate. Poppy seed rolls in the oven, a plastic vase on the table, a proud single rose that’s red.
On a wooden board baka chops up tiny pieces of garlic and cubes of prosciutto. Salty, but I smile at her plump face anyway. Baka is round and her brown eyes twinkle mischievously.
Sometimes, I can see stars inside the dark spots, and am convinced baka is a forest nymph possessing magical powers. How else would she always know when I got myself in trouble or when I lied? Like the time I stole blush red baby apples over the neighbor’s fence? Or when I sprinkled water from the attic window on the old men’s balding heads.
She smiles at me now as if she can read my mind and places thick, crusty peasant bread by my side, on a dishcloth.
I extend my face outside into the rain… baka slaps my bottom. She laughs. I laugh too except my bottom stings like a sunburn from a Balkan summer. Her face jiggles, her lips part to show a space between her front teeth… No wonder she looks cheerful all the time.
Except when she is crying under the walnut tree, for her three dead children – talking to herself or maybe those ancestors she speaks of all the time.
We eat silently, listening to the melody that is rainfall, inhaling the air scented with green plums and baka’s red roses and cut grass that’s dew-bathed and soft like a baby rabbit’s fur.
I chew and chew and taste the cruel bite of garlic on my tongue.