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***
It must have been 1992 or 1993, the last year I have been still living with my parents; it must have been the end of March or the beginning of April of that year. It was Easter, and what you need to know is that usually by this time of the year my younger brother would turn into a family jester. It was fun to be around him. I will always remember this one time when Ma has send him out to buy a sugar lamb – one of these dreadful, corny things that have always been a mainstay of a Polish Easter: an indispensible addition to your Easter basket which, believer or not, everyone was supposed to carry to the nearest church on the Great Saturday, to be blessed by a local priest. In these years, way before the era of imported chocolate bunnies, every local warzywniak would stock these starch-and-dyed-sugar monstrosities before the holidays in all shapes and sizes. All of them were perfectly ugly and – what made them even more pathetic – despite high sugar content, completely and utterly inedible. My Ma could not imagine an Easter without one of those things. She would buy one every year and stick it right in the middle of the other clumsily arrangement foods in your basket – the ugly piece of moulded sugar, stuck somewhere between all the hand-dyed eggs and the festive salt dish and a miniature babka you were so not supposed to eat. My brother stepped out to get the medium-size sugar lamb he was instructed to acquire, and as he came back, he handed over two Easter sugar lambs back to my stunned mother. – Why would you buy two? – we inquired, and he gave a simple and utterly logical answer that totally cracked us up: because they only had small ones in the store. I do not remember ever laughing so hard in my life.

So it was Easter again, and armed with plethora of sugar lambs in our basket, off we went, to the church, for the blessing ceremony – there was one every hour, held in a lower level of the ugly, oversized, concrete local church. No one would ever ask you if you wanted to go: you used to go when you were little and then the precedent would just continue into years to come; you just went, and everybody you ever knew went as well. It had nothing to do with any faith or lack thereof, or with any respect for the ritual or lack thereof: you just went because your mother has told you to, and as the youngest in the family you were somehow presumed to enjoy this. Which you did, perhaps, until the age of seven or so – you would just grow out of it naturally like you do grow out of your kiddie short pants; but unlike children’s clothes, rituals do not wear out easily. So like any other year – we went, just the two of us, in our late teens, carrying our carefully decorated basket with eggs and sugar lambs and babkas and kielbasa and all nine yards.

It was a short walk from where we lived, and the road would take you across the space filled tightly with almost identical, six- or seven stories high apartment buildings of the ugliest possible kind – one of these gray, concrete suburban Warsaw neighbourhoods build in the early 1970s. From afar, we could see a stream of people trickling down slowly in the same direction – mostly children escorted by parents, swinging their wicker woven baskets filled with hand-painted Easter eggs which, when finally uncovered and displayed in the church, would turn out so much prettier then these pathetic ones you have spent the entire night decorating. We were almost half way there, and it was getting crowded the closer we got, people from all over being drawn by the church’s peculiar gravity. It was almost a done deal that this trip will end up like all other such trips before, with us reaching the cold, damp interior of the lower church and spending twenty minutes of our young lives crowded among uneasy parishioners, fidgeting about in the crowded space. But then something happened.

 

It’s not like it has been discussed. It’s not like it has been planned. There wasn’t even a wink, a word, a sign, a sight. As we were approaching the last local deli on our way, literally three hundred yards away from the church, we just looked at each other and made a turn into a different direction. The blacktop road would veer towards the local school, deserted now, and its soccer field, still gray and covered with last years’ brown dead grass. There was no one there. We came in, we sat on a small hill behind the shabby goal gate with no net in it, and stretched our legs in the sun.

The day was warm with the warmth of these early spring days in Eastern Europe, the warmth I have never experienced since. The air smelled of freshly sprouted grass and warm soil, first dandelion flowers opened up just a day or two before. We looked into each other’s eyes again, my brother and me, and as if the act of disobedience and transgression we just committed would have not been bad and rebellious enough -- with no word about it, we lit our cigarettes.

We sat there for a while, smoking and staring into empty soccer field – and then a few minutes later just like that, without discussing it, we stood up and walked away towards our home. There was no question as of what we were going to say – from the very first moment of this silent conspiracy we just knew were going to lie about the whole thing, improvise something about boring speech and fidgety crowds and crying babies, and then just have another family Easter. We were going to hell for this, and we were both in this together.

No one has ever found out.

It took me years to realize it was the best Easter I ever had. I never told this story to anyone and neither did my brother: we both kept our silent pact about it, but we never had a chance to try this trick ever again. I moved out this very Christmas; I think next Easter my mother has finally decided not to bother with this shtick anymore. It took me leaving for another country and never coming back home for this holiday, and him dying a stupid and unnecessary death a few years later for me to finally recognize this moment for what it was. And I can see all this, as if I was there again – the younger, slimmer, sillier version of myself, on an Easter Saturday in a country that is no longer mine, with the brother I no longer have, smoking a cigarette I would no longer enjoy. I would love to go out and look for that place, that field, that spot. Perhaps we are both still there, sitting in the April sun, puffing away on our forbidden cigarettes, freezing our teenage asses on the damp cold ground, careless, drunk with joy, and immortal.

sobota, 07 kwietnia 2012, bigapple1

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Komentarze
anetacuse
2012/04/07 15:39:05
Thank you for sharing...
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Gość: matali, *.hfc.comcastbusiness.net
2012/04/12 17:43:11
Czytałam jakbym prawie tam była :)
Czy to znaczy, że będziemy teraz Ciebie częściej czytać i to po angielsku?
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Gość: dorotkah, *.hsd1.il.comcast.net
2012/04/13 08:34:08
wiecej,czuje niedosyt po takim malym kawalku,chociaz mnie drazni to eastern europe i nie do mnie jest skierowane to opowiadanie to i tak wiecej prosze
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Gość: go, *.dynamic.chello.pl
2012/05/18 22:53:44
10 lat temu. Z moim nieżyjącym już bratem zamiast na cmentarnej mszy z okazji Wszystkich Świętych w McDonald's. Dziwnie się czułam czytając o Waszej Wielkiej Sobocie..
ps. Trafiłam tu po przeczytaniu Przewodnika, który zabrałam mężowi (poleciał do NY bez niego). Dzięki za garść pięknych historii, przewrotnych puent, za ciekawostki i za piękną polszczyznę. I za to, że umiałaś dostrzec i opisać detal bez którego big picture wiele by stracił. Będę polecać Twój przewodnik każdemu, kto będzie się wybierał do Miasta Idei
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Gość: MerryJ, *.adsl.inetia.pl
2013/07/11 16:55:13
fajny tekst