In the Winds of Change We Always Find Our Direction
ALL ROADS LEAD HOME!
We are driving down the bumpy road in the rental car that we have just picked up. Just as we drive past the last house of “Happy Town” / Boldogfalva, the bumps stop and our car’s wheels hit proper road. Grandma stops looking green and wild-eyed from all the bumps and turns, and we all cheer for our journey ahead. Our destination?The heart of the Carpathian Basin in Transylvania – the city of Csikszereda (pronounced: cheek-seh-reh-duh). The place of our home base for the next two months. It is also the birthplace of my mother, the place of my earthly roots. Something stirs deep in my heart.
The day started with the most spectacular sunshine, wiping away any remnants of the preceding day’s cloudy drizzle. After breakfast we found ourselves in the Garden of Paradise, my great uncle’s (Attila bátyja’s) home plot garden. In Hungarian, the word Paradise shares two meanings. One is paradise, and the other is tomatoes, both of which fuse in meaning to me, when I see and taste his tomatoes. Here is a delicate balance of ecology which you can see has been seeded and tilled intuitively, the results of which display rows of vegetables and fruits, interspersed with the vibrant colours of the rainbow that are represented by the flowers that bloom amongst them. I can only hazard a guess as to how many hours of loving care have been invested in this space of love from the moment the winter snows melted. It is not uncommon for people here to tend to their own vegetable and fruit gardens, but I am challenged throughout our entire visit to find one that equals to that of my great uncle’s.
As we walked through “Happy Town”, on our way to picking up our rental car, I got the feeling from the muddy and rocky village road that the EU is trying to preserve the rustic essence of the village (by not fixing them), as if it were insanely trying to protect some sort of regional trademark. Potholes are the norm and the entire drainage by the side of the road is dredged in uneven clumps, heaped halfway onto the already narrow sidewalk, filled with mud puddles we try to avoid. Having finalised the paperwork for the car and picked up some necessary supplies and gifts for the relis, we wave a final goodbye to the Happy Towners.
The drive is amazing, to say the least. We see meadows and fields and pastures of land, now lush green with purple, yellow, pink and red hues that are, in reality, beautiful blooming flowers. The sky is bright blue, and all the little villages we drive through with their small churches and red brick houses look as if they are straight out of a fairytale storybook. The sun shines brightly and lights up all the little creeks and rivers that reflect rainbow light, like a prism.
We drive through forests, more villages and more fields, until we come to the one “city” en-route, Székely-Udvarhely (Székely translates to “Szekler”, Udvarhely = place of yard/courtyard). It is now home to my grandfather’s only surviving sister. There used to be seven siblings on my grandfather’s side of the family. Now the only ones alive are my great uncle in Alsó-Boldogfalva/Happy Town, another great uncle who lives in our destination city of Csikszereda and my great aunt who lives here in Udvarhely. My grandfather had died before I was born, and we have a close connection with his sister, so naturally it is a priority to make a stop here.
We are greeted with open arms by my great aunt, Sárika néni, as she welcomes us inside, where her daughter and family are waiting for us. The single room we walk into serves as her kitchen, dining room, living room, sewing room and bedroom. While there are two other rooms in her house, it is not uncommon for people in Transylvania to live out of one room while keeping the other/s as either a display room or guest room. They call it the ‘Clean Room’. We embrace and enjoy catching up, but soon the ants in Grandma’s pants have her up in a ‘let’s get going’ frame of mind – this is supposed to be just a quick hello and see you soon visit – as we still have another 60km to Csikszereda.
To everybody’s delight, our goodbyes include a trip to the locally renowned bakery, specialising in local and traditional cakes. Grandma had sworn herself to a diet before we left Budapest, but now that thought goes out the window, as she sees her favourite cakes in the display cabinet. Needless to say, I think we all leave there with a couple of extra pounds in our bellies. Saying our real goodbye, we now hop in the car and wave to our family as we head out east, toward the Hargita Mountains that are part of the much larger Carpathian Ranges.
Just a few kilometres out of the city, is the small village of Keményfalva (translates to ‘Strong Town’) where my late grandfather was born, right out under the open sky and sun, one hot summer’s day in July, while my great-grandmother was working out in the field.
My mother knew my great-grandmother, and she always gets teary when she thinks of her or talks about her. I know she holds very deep emotions for her. Up until the age of 12, the time when my mother and her family left the ‘homeland’ behind, along with everyone and everything, to start a new life in Australia, she had spent every summer with her grandmother in Keményfalva, and her grandmother spent every winter with their family in Csikszereda.
My great-grandmother was a literal representation of the loving matriarchal ties on which sharing and giving societies were built. People forget this, living in the patriarchal societies in which we live today. This woman was the living embodiment of all the knowledge that is really important for a family to know, and love was the communication tool that she used, to share her gifts of knowledge, especially with my mother. As we stand on the porch of her home, which has now been transformed into a local cultural museum, the waves of energy of that love transfer from her to me. I can see just how deep a connection my mother and great-grandmother share. A living connection, not just memories, but of living life, one that lives today, in this very moment, in the expressions on my mother’s face and the tear of love she sheds for her. In this, I understand just how important a family’s space of love is.