Apart from the tobacco story, my childhood summers meant the joy of reading and playing whatever I wanted. The books made me escape from the real world into the stories narrated by their authors and with the support of my imagination skills I was able to see meanings and learn life lessons that were depicted in words. The books also made me reflect and learn about the dimensions of bad and good. Reading and playing as my favourite moments of the day always came after completing my regular tasks.
Summer readings and my first books
I was always equipped with a hemp sack to go and read in the garden, under a nut tree, a quiet place. Laying on the hemp sack the stories I read came to life. From time to time I used to turn and watch the sky. All stories flew to the sky through branches and leaves. In my imagination the sky turned into the story settings where the characters got life and their actions were driven by the sky landscape with the clouds and the sun.
I started my readings with everything I found in my father’s corner: a small pile of books next to his newspapers. Most of the books were translated from Russian into Romanian and their content was about Soviet heroes, war and the new life following the World War II in Romania.
While playing, my elder sister used to mention book titles to me. She recommended me books and writers whose names I memorised until getting a piece of paper to write them down. The village library was open only on Sundays or late in the evening, so each Sunday I had my own moments in the village library. I was always fascinated by the bookshelves and the books lying on them. One day my grandfather made a small bookshelf for me. I became an owner of a small library space when I was about ten. What to put on it? I only had the books I got as school prizes at the closing ceremony of school years. One of them was a colouring book (page in Romanian).
My grandmother told my grandfather that the piece of furniture should not be offered empty otherwise it might mean bad luck. So she promised to buy me one or two books when she would get her pension. And she did. I was very proud of my first two serious books, which are two pieces of reference in Romanian literature, Memories of My Childhood (Amintiri din copilărie), by Creangă and The Tear Drop Prince (Făt-Frumos din lacrimă), by Eminescu.
Whenever it was about doing an extra job which was actually not assigned to me regularly, I tried to negotiate and get a book in return. My parents never accepted any deal. The only people who were able to understand the game and its long-term benefits were my grandparents. Therefore they became my book donors little by little, without sharing that with my parents.
The books I read in my early years were a way to escape from the real world into a fictional space created by Sadoveanu, Eminescu, Creangă, Tolstoi, Turgenev, Mark Twain to name just a few. Each reading determined me to reflect on each story with its bad and good sides and on its characters and plot. I found the readings of my childhood as a first step towards self-development.
Summer traditions or the first steps to experiencing role-play
Summer droughts were part of the village life. The droughts occurred mainly in July. People believed that they got a remedy to overcome the drought. That was a ritual named the “Caloian”, a sort of rainmaker. The Caloian was actually a clay doll resembling a boy. Girls and boys gathered to shape the clay into the model. When ready the Caloian was decorated with wild flowers. What I liked a lot was the ceremony itself, which was my first contact with the role-play idea. As participants to the ceremony we needed to persuade God to send the rain over the fields to yield well. We invoked the rain by reciting a set of verses during the ceremony. The ritual always ended with a simulation of the Caloian funerals, by burying the clay doll into the village river. The traditional believes said that the river water must carry it away and must bring the rain in return.
I remember we invested in a lot of effort and time in preparing the ceremony. It was about doing a serious job of influencing the village fate and ensuring people wealth as the rain was needed in addition to the regular maintaining work of the fields.
When I go back in time now I find the Caloian ritual as an outstanding chance to test and improve our acting skills, a complex exercise, which was well contextualised in the village life. This exercise helped us understand and perform better the small school sketches at the closing ceremony of the school year.
The evenings had their particular murmurs each season. There were noises of different intensity which mirrored the village life and activities. I always associated the noises to a specific murmur of each season. There were the sleigh bells in winter, while in autumn there were the noises made by people enjoying too much of the new wine. In summer the noises had the beauty of long days: there were people returning from their working places in carriages. They did not look tired, although the day was though enough working the field and drinking the water which turned hot during the day. Despite that, they had enough energy to joke around and laugh, sharing funny moments they were part of during the day. Very often some people used to sing. Their songs were a sort of closing chapter of the working day. Most of the songs were sad although they never used to share any sadness directly as they were proud people. They did that indirectly through the songs.
There were also the noises made by the cows on their way home, announcing their return somehow. There were noises happening in each yard, when people looked for a place where to put their tools and carriages. There were also noises made by the evening preparations: feeding the animals, checking on children and preparing the dinner.
Summer dinners were late and silent. In our family the four adults were always tired. They focused on sharing plans and ideas on how to get organised for the forthcoming work, nothing else. Rarely were we told to report on our duties. Otherwise it was taken for granted that everyone should do the job as better as possible. As children we all were in charge of a number of little jobs to contribute to the dinner preparation. Mine was making the salad: collecting the vegetables from the garden, cutting and putting them in a large bowl.
I remember that our mother used to go to bed very late. After the dinner she checked our clothes to see whether any of them need patching. We were four children and my parents made efforts to provide us the basics. Our clothes were extremely modest, some of them bearing patches. I remember that sometimes we felt a little embarrassed because of the patches. But the approach in the village was that as long as the clothes are neat, it does not matter how many patches they bear. After all, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
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