Monday, March 28, 2005

Food and Memory

My Aunt Carla asked me during my trip to BA in January if I remembered anything from my first trip to BA about twenty five years ago. I said, well I remember Aunt Mila's house and I remember Baka sitting in her chair at that house and I remember eating soup there, and I remember my cousins Tomi and Vlado and Jure and their turtle Pinky. Then a few days later, I walked into a bakery with my mom and Gabi, my cousin. I looked through the display case at the cakes and cookies. And the whole experience of the trip at age five came back to me... The wonder of a foreign place and meeting my parents's sisters and my grown-up cousins, after living with just us in the USA, in a small town in green Kentucky, and here we are now in a city with buildings that went up forever and avenues and streams of cars that went on forever. My mom telling me in the car not to talk while my Dad is driving, becuase we almost got into a wreck, this never could happen at home. My brother and sister seeming to get it better than I. So much new stuff... I remember the beach at Marciquita (?) - was that my first beach, the first time I saw the ocean? The beach was so wide, and I wasn't permitted in the cold water, of course. I remember the sand everywhere, and my cousin's house there, and preparing and eating Asado...
I felt when I was there in January similar. Now those cousins live in the USA, in our town in Kentucky and San Francisco, and in Zagreb, in Croatia, in Europe! But I'm the one in BA now. I'm just with my mom, this time the visit is about her ageing mother, not my Dad's, she passed away when I was 13. I hardly knew what to say to my Dad that day when I was raking leaves and he came into the yard and told me my Baka Katica died, and then returned to the house. I have her name and I only knew my grandmother from metting her once. I didn't know what I felt about this half stranger, half namesake, and I couldn't imagine what could my Dad feel. I wonder now what my Mom said to him to comfort him. I'm sorry I couldn't miss my Grandmother that day, it would have to wait until 2003 when we re-buried the urns of my Grandmother and my Grandfather in Croatia. I cried during that ceremony, so did my Dad. I was sad that I missed out on knowing her, and I was sad for my Dad that he lived away from her for so long, and sorry that his mother died, that he was an orphan, and that wars had changed their lives so much, it must have changed relationships, too. Feeling in my heart a lingering lack of faith in the future, an assurance that the worst will happen.
But on my Mom's side it isn't so. This time what is new is the teasing and laughing between my Aunt and my Mom, ganging up on Abuela. How Gabi is just like my Mom, go-go-go. How I feel good every time my Aunt looks at me, how I feel understood. How I know this time it is different, and next time I can feel different for my Mom and for me. That lingering lack of faith seems less relevant, and all the tenses of time less unsure.