Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Snapshots: Anca and Crina
"Anca" and "Crina" are women of my village whom I know through observation, interactions, and snatches of conversation and to some extent through their children. They know little English and so we limp along with my little Romanian, and still I feel I know the quality of their character, and I admire them both. Anca is a woman in her late fifties, a kindergarten teacher and the mother of two lovely grown daughters. She is a bundle of energy and her bright henna-dyed hair and big smile make her easy to spot in a crowd. She not only deals with a passel of tiny tots all day, but she also tends a huge garden, and does massive canning and preserving of the produce as it is harvested. Her home is welcoming and well-organized. I love the fact that she has a fully-appointed wash stand between her garden and kitchen door and that she uses for handy hooks broken twig stumps on trees in her back yard. Her husband cannot eat dairy products and one of her daughters and son-in-law do not eat red meat. Still, from my experience, Anca's meals are delicious, varied and healthful (if one discounts the fried pies, which I do!). At neighborhood celebrations she always has her kindergartners perform--recitations, dances, songs. I don't know how she trains them so well, but they're delightful to watch! At a performance of Romanian traditional music and dance in the city, Anca was the first on her feet, hand to her heart, when one of the singers began, "Rise, Romania, Rise," a rousing anthem. Having lived through the difficulties of her country's recent history, she holds dear her patriotism and pride. One of her daughters is in my adult class, speaks English, and is a very special young woman. Her intelligence and forward-looking attitude speak well for her up-bringing, and her affection and high regard for her mother are obvious.*****Crina is a neighbor, just a few doors down from the red house. I first met her when my landlady brought her up to meet me and make a request. We somehow communicated--neither of them speaking English and I with my baby-talk Romanian. She is a religion teacher (a mandatory subject here) at a school in the city, in her mid thirties, and her two children, Mihai (10) and Ioanna (7) attend schools in the city. She asked if I would spend some time talking with them. I explained that I cannot give private tutoring lessons (PC forbids it, rightfully), but that I would visit with them the next Saturday afternoon. What has evolved is a standing session at their house with her two children and often a few of their friends. I usually tailor for their level a lesson I presented that week to my classes. It became a highlight of my week, the children being precocious and delightful. Mihai is one of those children who seems to have an "old soul," and again and again I have been amazed at his sensitivity and maturity for one so young. Ioanna is impish and cute--a pixie of a child who is taking gymnastics classes and could be another Nadia. But getting back to their mother, Crina is one of the most poised people I've ever met. She is immensely attractive while being modest in her dress and demeanor. Her home is light and airy and aesthetically pleasing and her flower garden at the entrance to their home is nothing short of gorgeous. She speaks to me slowly and repeats as necessary, but (unlike me) she never uses her hands, keeping a very calm and serene tone. She has trained her children to be courteous and they always--on subtle command--present me with a little thank-you gift as I'm leaving--usually chocolates or other sweets. Crina always follows me out to the gate and many times picks a bouquet on the way to send along with me. I have stayed for dinner on a few occasions and been royally treated with traditional foods. She and her mother, who is often there, are both excellent cooks. Her husband, a businessman, speaks quite good English, and he and Mihai keep the dinner conversation going in English very well. She once said to me in the bleakness of January that I should come to see them any time and have a cup of tea, just visit, not be alone. I don't remember exactly how she said this to me, but I got it, and it endeared her to me, feeling that she saw me as a person a long way from home, and not just "the American woman."