The spring of my childhood meant Easter break, some work in the wet and refreshed fields, some long walks to the nearest grove, nine kilometres away, the little March amulet tradition and the privilege to get some new shoes or new clothes as an Easter present.
Easter was the major event in spring. People refreshed and cleaned their houses by painting the inside and outside walls of their houses as well as the fences surrounding the houses. I took part in these activities in our house. For some years my main task was to do the fence and the tree trunks, while my parents and the others were in charge of painting the house.
Painting the fence with calcimine took me about two days, while painting the tree trunks took me about four days as I needed to paint the trunks as such, about 60-80 cm from the ground and to draw a circle around them with the lime brush full of calcimine. I did the job carefully and I was glad that the circle drawn by myself is meant to protect the trees against potential rodents and insects.
When almost the village houses were ready, I perceived it as sort of celebration: the trees in bud, the grass germination and the entire village in bright white made me feel ready and prepared to enjoy the Easter break. There was a feeling, which is hard to explain, it was something that came straight to my heart with some joy that cheered me up. That was the moment when people felt somehow relieved after a long and tiring winter. We were all ready to make plans for the forthcoming months.
What I also remember well is the little March amulet day, which still happens on 1 March, when men and boys prepare March amulets to offer to their female colleagues, friends, neighbours and relatives. A March amulet is made out of two little tassels: a white one and a red one. Red means love for everything that is beautiful while white symbolises the pureness and health of the snowdrops, the first flowers that come out in spring.
For my family spring also meant the tradition of cooking nettles to help our bodies get “green” vitamins and iron. To feed eight people with nettles, in various formats – boiled, with rice or just mashed nettles – was not an easy job. We needed to pick out a large amount of plants and put them in small bundles. And to do that we needed to walk to the nearest grove, which was at about nine kilometres from our village. We also needed to be equipped with gloves, to avoid getting our hands hurt.
I must admit I hated this job and I also hated eating nettles, but today, I will probably see and enjoy such a dish with different eyes. Who knows?
The walk to the grove took us about three-four hours, so we were leaving our place in day spring. There was just a road crossing a misty and silent plain where the grove was just a strange shape swallowed by the darkness in the horizon line. If we were unlucky and it rained earlier, the road would have been full of mud. The trip as such was enjoyable, not because of the mud and nettles, but because of the opportunity to admire the grove in spring.
There was something powerful about the grove, its energy to get back to life with bright green on its branches, bird songs and a million of colours on the ground: snowdrops, lady’s delights and many other spring plants, including the nettles. There also was a fresh smell coming out from both the sappy trees and the grove ground, which our nostrils felt it every spring.
When we got enough nettles, we put them in bags, the bags in a carriage and we headed home. My brother and I pushed the carriage. I tried to forget about pushing the thing in the mud. I always looked around me to the poor signs of vegetation getting back to life.
The regular visits to the church before Easter were a controversial moment in my early life. The week before Easter we needed to attend evening church services. There were special services dedicated to Easter, so called “deniile” in Romanian. The service started at about 7 o’clock in the evening. Each evening had a different meaning and role during the week. I remember that the most enjoyable evening was the Friday, when we got out of the church singing together with the church priest and walking with lighted candles around the church. All in all the church services during the week prepared people for the most important church service taking place in the Easter night.
The church was made out of wood. It was a small building, which could not accommodate all the people in the village. The church walls were painted on both sides, in and out. The frontal wall, which was supposed to “welcome” people when entering the church, had a scary painting depicting people suffering in purgatory. “Why on Earth would God punish people and send them to the purgatory?” was the question popping up in my mind when seeing the panting.
From my earliest years my grandmother encouraged me to become a priest. Their views and standards in terms of the best jobs were coined by the most important roles in the village, the village teacher, the priest and the doctor. Well, I am not sure how happy my grandmother would be hearing about where I ended up as she passed away when I was 12.
Having in mind my grandmother’s wish while passing the church threshold, I said I could never be a priest in the middle of all those scenes, including the frontal picture. I did not want to become someone who is a part of a value system that judges people and punishes them.
The inside pictures were nicer and linked into different stories, which I always placed into my own heritage of tales. All the church pictures conveyed a sort of fear, sometimes deeper than the sea, so I perceived that place as something unwelcoming and very intimidating for children. Probably they were meant to contextualise all the biblical stories that the priest shared during the service. Those feelings got softened when I discovered a book written by Sadoveanu who introduced Genevieve of Brabant in a story for children.
The Easter night service was preceded by the communion moment, where, as children, we did not need to attend the confession moment, which was compulsory before the communion. The confession meant to tell the priest face-to-face everything related to personal misbehaviour.
The Easter night services started at about midnight and lasted for several hours. As children we could not make it until the end and therefore we were sent home to sleep and wait for the magic light, which was taken from the priest candle, in the Easter morning.
The Easter morning was the moment with presents. Our parents handed out a little present to each family member. We were told that the Easter bunny brought them in. I normally got something to wear or some textile shoes to make it over the summer.
As soon as Easter Sunday ended, life came back to normal. What I often remember is the way I managed to persuade our parents to paint the boys’ room differently. The painting on the wall resulted from a layer of calcimine and a second layer with different shapes and forms coming out from a roller. The roller was regularly dropped in a recipient with the desired calcimine colour. My favourite forms were the leaves and the stars, but we could not have both, as the walls have to embed only one shape. The ceiling was always white, in one colour, without any shapes. I persuaded my parents to place the star shapes on the ceiling, while the leaf shape can stay on the walls. As I knew that my brother needs my help with some homework, I negotiated with him to get his approval and in return I promised him to do his homework for the forthcoming week. He then agreed and joined me in the persuasion exercise.
That was one of my first persuasion and negotiation exercise with an important and concrete result. The leaves kept me in the middle of the vegetation the full year while the stars shinned a little bit in the night and made me imagine that I have got the entire sky above me.