Thursday, November 15, 2018
Monday, March 02, 2015
You remember Little Red Riding Hood, don't you? She had some adventures with a big, bad wolf on the way to her grandma's house. But you already know that story, so I won't tell you about her here. No, I'll tell you another story, about a contemporary of hers, Medlitsa. Say, "Med-LEET-sa." ‘Tis from “Maedl,” a German word for “small girl” and “fetitsa,” a Romanian word for “girl.” In English, “maid” still exists and “fetitsa” still exists in Romanian. Historically, these words were neighbors, y’know, from the German-speaking part of Europe and the Romanian-speaking part of the area East of what became Germany and Austria. You can think of her as "Green Riding Hood." And you’ll see how she got this name.
This was a little girl, somewhat younger and, in my mind, just a bit prettier than Red Riding Hood, who had some adventures of her own. Would you like me to tell you what Medlitsa looked like? Well, she was smaller than the grown-ups she knew- her mum and dad and even her aunts and grandpa and grandma were all much taller than she was. But she was spry and cheery and had a lot of calm intelligence. She had clear eyes and nice skin. She had small hands because children are not as big as adults, are they? And her teeth were small and white. Adults have larger teeth, don't they? But her fingers were nimble and she could run very well. Sometimes she saw things her mum didn't want her to. But that happens, doesn't it?
I have to tell you a bit about how people lived then. They had no electricity, so they used candles after dark. But being a child, this young girl wasn't allowed to use candles. And her parents made their own food, mostly. The mum sewed clothes, though she had to buy the cloth from which to make clothes. Yes, times were different. There was no television, either, so people talked to each other more. And her dad was at home more because they owned a farm where he spent most of his time.
One day, while the house was quiet, her mum had cleaned up from breakfast. And her dad was working away from the house. Her mum decided to do some sewing. She got her basket with needles and thread and scissors. "Summer's almost gone and you're getting taller, so I think you need something to keep you warm when Winter gets cold." She pulled out some nice forest green wool and began to make a cloak with a hood. Do you know what a cloak is? Or a hood? Well, it's like a baggy coat with a pocket for your head. But it has no sleeves, just like a blanket if you wrap it around yourself.
She began by wrapping the cloth around Medlitsa and seeing how far from the floor it came. "Yes, this will work," said her mum. Then she pinched a corner and held the pinched part to her head, to see how the hood might work. "I like this," she said.
Medlitsa was a young girl, so she didn't like to sit still for too long. Her mum could see that Medlitsa was getting fidgety. Do you know what fidgety means? I think maybe you do. When her mum was done with holding the hood over her head, Medlitsa ran off outside. "Well, don't go too far away," called her mum.
Medlitsa went outside. The sun was bright, but the air wasn't too hot. The sky was bright blue, like the color of her eyes. Her mum was inside and her father was somewhere working.
In a little while, Medlitsa’s mom called, “Come in here, I think your cape is ready.”
The garment fit perfectly. Medlitsa tied it around her neck, the hood keeping her ears warm and shading her eyes a bit. The rest came down to her ankles. There were three wooden buttons that closed the front, leaving a bit of overlap so the breeze wouldn’t come in. There were slits at the shoulder so she could bring her arms out to do something or keep them in for warmth.
The color was nice- a pretty green color that wasn’t too bright but not too dull, either.
Medlitsa liked it a lot. “I’ll wear it a bit, all right?”
Her mom answered, “Yes, but only a bit. The weather is a bit warm today, so you don’t need it.”
“All right,” she replied.
Medlitsa went outside and ran so the cape would flow behind her. Then she buttoned it up and stood still. She pulled the cape down on her neck. She raised it so her ears would be warm. Then she stuck her arms out and grabbed it by her hips, raising it so she could run very fast. Her mom watched and smiled.
Her mom called, “Ready to pretend it’s still summer?”
Medlitsa laughed and her eyes twinkled as she came inside. “Sure, mom. Thanks for this. It’s terrific!”
Her mom folded the green cape. “Your friend has one like this, doesn’t she?”
Medlitsa answered, “Yes, but hers is red. Mine is green and it’s terrific!”
Her mom laughed. “I hope the red color doesn’t attract any wolves.”
“No, her grandmother watches out for them,” added Medlitsa.
The green cape got put away and Medlitsa’s late summer day continued.
The two went outside. Far in the field, they could see Medlitsa’s dad working in the cornfield. Medlitsa waved and got a wave back. The blue sky had a small hunting bird in the air. The bird cruised in circles above a different field.
The white clouds were very bright. The smell of the earth was around them. Medlitsa walkedtowards the road near their house.
Vincent and Bube
From a long way, Medlitsa saw someone walking down the road. She ran inside to tell her mum the news. "Momma, someone's coming down the road!" she exclaimed. Visitors were always welcome, since they frequently had news about the community, so her mum stopped what she was doing and went outside. From their house, it was just a short distance to the road that ran past their farm. The road was mostly pretty straight, and it was shaded by tall trees that someone had planted a long time ago. The road was a bit dusty, but most people traveled slowly enough that they didn't raise too much dust.
The visitor turned out to be someone they knew. And he had a boy with him. From some distance away, he stopped and waved towards the fields. Medlitsa and her mum couldn't see to whom he was waving behind a small copse of trees, but they were certain it was Medlitsa's dad. The visitor was Vincent and his nephew was someone whose name they knew, but who hadn't been to their house before.
"Hello, Vincent," said Medlitsa's mum.
"Hello, Aida," said Vincent. "This is my nephew Bube." And the boy stopped and smiled at them.
"Hello, Bube," said Medlitsa's mum. "Nice to meet you. And this is my daughter, Medlitsa."
Medlitsa, normally a very talkative little girl, suddenly went silent. She grabbed her mum's apron and stood a little bit behind her. Vincent saw her shyness and said, "Bube, maybe Medlitsa would like some of those berries."
Bube stepped forward and offered a small wooden box. He took the lid off and started to tip out some berries. Medlitsa just froze. Her mom, Aida, put her hand out and took some. She put one in Medlitsa's mouth and another in her own mouth. "They're delicious!" she told Bube.
The taste of the berry broke Medlitsa's shyness. "Yes, they certainly are. Thank you, Bube," she said.
Now it was Bube's turn to be shy. He didn't know where to look- at Medlitsa or her mum.
Vincent made things easier by saying, "Let's leave a few for Paul." And just then, Medlitsa's dad came up. "A few what for me?" he asked.
Bube held out the box of berries and Medlitsa's dad took some. "Yes, they certainly are good," he agreed.
The parents and Vincent walked into the house, leaving Bube and Medlitsa outside. "Want more?" Bube asked. "Sure!" Medlitsa replied, taking a few more. They went under the pear tree next to the house. The pears were starting to grow, but they were still too hard and too small to do anything with. But the tree was a convenient place to play since the leaves shaded the smooth ground underneath.
Medlitsa spent lots of free time under the pear tree. She had a small bench next to the trunk, so she sat down. Bube sat with her. Medlitsa asked, "Where do you live?"
"About two days from here," replied Bube. "I came to visit Vincent's house with my dad. He rode our horse and I sat in front."
"I've been to Vincent's house, too," said Medlitsa. "We go there sometimes to get nails and tools for the farm," she added.
"Yes, Vincent showed me how to make nails. It's hot but he helped me with the hammer and anvil." He pulled out a square-shank nail that was just a wee bit lumpy, but very serviceable. Medlitsa looked at Bube a bit differently. This boy made nails? Bube saw her face. "Yes, I've got a few here. Look." And he dug in his pocket for more nails. "See, I made these, too." He was a bit proud of his work. "Want one?"
Medlitsa said, "No, thanks. I don't know what I'd do with it." Bube put the nails back in his pocket.
They went silent for a bit. Medlitsa thought she might have some duties as a hostess to entertain Bube, but he seemed to enjoy the quiet. So they listened to the breeze in the tree. A bird flew around, looking for something but didn't find anything, so he flew away. The air was warm. They smelled the corn in the field, growing larger every day. You must remember, dear reader, that in these days, people had no television so they also had fewer things to occupy their time and this led to extended moments of quiet and sharing thoughts. So Bube and Medlitsa just sat and both felt the same breeze and heard the same birds and saw the same sky with clouds.
Bube took out his box with berries and offered Medlitsa more. She smiled and took a few more. He took some, too. For a bit longer, they just tasted the berry's sweetness and tartness. If you've had fresh berries, you'll know what I mean. Maybe your mom can get you some fresh berries so you’ll know what Medlitsa and Bube tasted.
Then the afternoon's quiet and stillness made the children drowsy. They both yawned at the same time. Then they looked at each other and laughed because each one was laughing at the other one and at themselves.
"Let's go get a drink of water," said Medlitsa.
"Sure, that's a great idea," replied Bube.
Medlitsa went to their water barrel. There was a ladle hanging from a hook. She took one of the stoneware cups from a ledge and handed it to Bube. He dipped the ladle into the cool water and filled it then gave it to Medlitsa. Then he filled his. As they drank, the water was cool and tasted just a little bit like the stoneware. Does your water taste like anything at all, or is it just water?
They put the cups back and went to the front of the house, where they could see the road. Today, having a visitor was a treat. Having two was special. But the day was going to get even more special.
The Oma Mama
Just as they were getting to the road, they heard a voice from past the copse of trees. “Hallo m’bay-bee!!” They turned to see who was calling. ‘Twas a very nice lady, a bit taller than Aida and a bit rounder. She had brownish-blondish hair and green eyes and strode towards them with a purpose. She had on some comfortable clothes that swirled as she walked. In one hand she carried a cloth bag, strengthened with leather straps that became handles. In her other hand she carried a stick that she used, but not much. The stick was just a handy thing to carry with you. This one had a curve at the top so she could wear it on her bent arm if she needed to use her hand for something else.
Medlitsa screeched, “Oma Mama!” She turned to Bube and told him, “It’s my Oma Mama. I haven’t seen her in a long time.” Then she ran out the gate and sprinted to give her Oma Mama a big hug. When she got there, she hung on to her leg, hugging her. Oma laughed and said, “Let me give you a kiss.” So she bent down and picked up Medlitsa, gave her a kiss and a big hug.
“Who’s your friend?” she asked.
Medlitsa replied, “Oh, that’s Bube, Vincent’s nephew.”
“Hello, Bube. Nice to meet you.”
“Hello, nice to meet you,” said Bube.
The three waked from the road to the house. Medlitsa ran ahead and burst through the door, shouting, “Momma, it’s Oma Mama!” Aida, Vincent and Paul were in the main room. Aida gave her mother a big hug. Paul hugged the two of them. Then they stepped back and introduced Vincent. "Mama, this is Vincent, Paul’s brother,” said Aida.
“Nice to meet you,” said Oma Mama.
“Same here,” said Vincent, smiling.
After introductions, they sat around the table which was sort of a long picnic table with benches. The four adults sat at the corners and put the children on the benches between them. The adults had some home-made wine and gave the children apple juice.
Vincent asked the Oma Mama, “How’d you get this name, ‘Oma Mama?’”
She took a sip and replied, “Well, it’s something that I got because of my position in the family. I’m Aida’s mom, you know. And some folks call a grandmother ‘Oma.’ The ‘Mama’ part is what Medlitsa said to me when she was a baby. So the two kind of got rolled into one- ‘Oma Mama.’”
Vincent said, “Yes, Bube sort of did the same to me. Instead of ‘Onkel,’ he used to call me ‘Unku Veechee’ but only while he was small. I guess your nickname stuck.”
The conversation went to what was happening with each family- Vincent’s, Bube’s, Medlitsa’s and others they knew. This was boring, so each child finished their juice and slipped away from the adults.
The Gold Creek
But the day wasn’t over, not yet. The children went outside and towards the copse of trees. They were on their own. Sure, they knew not to go too far but in those days, children roamed a bit further than today. At the trees, they walked around, looking for something interesting. They picked up some acorns but tossed them down again. The afternoon was warming up. Bube asked, “Is there any water around here?”
Medlitsa answered, “Yes, over this way.” And she began walking to the right, juse where there was a small hill beyond the trees. The field of corn ended and she kept going, where the ground became sandy and had plants she couldn’t identify.
“Just a bit further,” she said. They came to a place where there were lots of squared stones in the ground.
“What’s this place?” asked Bube.
“I don’t really know. It’s a place my dad took me to several times, but he doesn’t talk much about it.”
One or two places had stones that still made walls. Like little boys do sometimes, Bube climbed up and walked along the top of the walls.
“Hey, from up here, it looks like people used to live here,” he called to Medlitsa. “Come on up, see for yourself.”
She climbed up the wall, too and walked next to him. The stones were wide enough that they could go past each other if they were careful. She eased by him and went a little further. “Yes, you’re right. This looks like a place where many buildings used to be.” They looked around, trying to guess what the buildings were. “I think this was someone’s kitchen,” Medlitsa said.
“See the black stuff on the wall? I think that’s where someone made a fire.”
“Yes, a lot of fires,” added Bube. “Want to see what they cooked?”
“No, I don’t think there’s anything left. This place hasn’t had a fire in a long time,” she added.
“But we can stand on the walls and see if we can guess what the other buildings used to be.”
“Sure, that’s a good idea,” replied Bube. He hopped down and walked on the stones that were the same level as the ground. “This was a pretty large room.” They found a wall with a window, though there was no roof, just a few timbers stuck in the top of one part of the wall.
The children wandered around the former town. They found a large white stone that had some letters carved in it. “What does this say,” wondered Bube. “My dad knows how to speak several languages. He probably could read this.”
“I’ve spoken with some ladies who aren’t from around here,” added Medlitsa. “They were very nice. I got a needle from one and a thimble from another. I can say a few things in their language but only a bit.”
Bube remembered the pretty girl in the too-thin dress who’d given him a small apple that tasted like a pear. “Yes, I met some nice ladies, too. ‘Twas when my dad took me to a town.”
They found themselves at a creek. The creek was full, with plenty of water flowing through, though it wasn’t too deep. One of the ruined houses had a front door on what they thought was a street and a back door that was just a few feet from the creek. They saw lots of stones that could have been walls, mostly tumbled down but in places the stones were as tall as they were. A longer stone was probably a doorway because there was no roof there, just two walls with a place they could span their arms and not quite touch the walls. The stones that had been a floor sloped down towards the creek slightly. Rain had flowed over the long doorway stone. Bube thought a bit. “This is called a lintel,” he announced. “My uncle knows about these things.” Medlitsa just nodded.
She looked at the edge, where the rain had washed the earth from next to the stone. The creek had washed away the earth until just the lintel was left. “I see something shiny there.” She bent down and scraped the dirt away. A small, shiny object was in her hand. “What’s this?” she asked.
Bube looked. It was a small coin, about the size of Medlitsa’s fingernail. And it was shiny and round. There was a stamping of someone on one side and some writing on the other side. “Let’s take this back and ask Vincent,” he said.
But before they could stand up, Medlitsa had dug up another. Then he scraped and found a bit of raggedy old leather. They kept digging. She got a few more coins and he got more leather. But the leather was wrapped around more coins. The others were larger, a few silver as well as gold. One had a raised head on it that looked very real, like a tiny person was inside the coin. They kept digging until they could kneel in the small place next to the doorway stone. Though they knelt in water, the day was warm and the creek was giving them coins. The pile of coins on the lintel grew until they had more than they could carry in four of their small hands.
“I don’t think there are any more,” said Medlitsa.
“Let’s wash our hands, eat the last of the berries, then we’ll put the coins in my berry box,” suggested Bube.
“Sure,” said Medlitsa. “I like those berries.”
They rinsed off the mud and stepped into what used to be a room. “I wonder what sort of people buried coins under their doorway lintel?” asked Medlitsa.
“Probably people with more money than they needed,” answered Bube.
They sat on a warm stone in the middle of the room and ate berries. When they were done, they put the coins in the berry box and walked back towards Medlitsa’s house. As they got back, the adults were still talking. Oma Mama and Vincent were laughing at something. Medlitsa’s mom and dad were looking at each other with an expression that only adults understand.
“We have something,” Bube said.
“I think you’ll like what we found,” added Medlitsa.
Four adults looked at the children. “What did you find?” asked Oma Mama.
Bube put his berry box on the table. “You got more berries?” asked Vincent. “Good. Berries are always tasty.”
The two children looked at each other and grinned. Then Bube turned the box over, making a loud clinking noise. The pile of coins glinted in the afternoon sun. There was a gasp from each adult.
“That’s a lot of money!” cried Oma Mama.
“Where did you find it?” asked Aida.
“Let me see what they are,” said Paul. “Vincent, have you seen anything like these before?”
Vincent leaned forward and picked one up. “Yes, these are very old. But they’re valuable nonetheless.”
Medlitsa’s dad read the writing on the back. “The writing is Latin and Greek.”
Bube’s uncle looked at one of the silver coins. “And from further east, too.”
They spent some time making little piles of coins, each from different places. Some had what Vincent and Paul agreed were “Roman” letters. Some had Greek letters. And some had wiggly writing that they couldn’t understand but Vincent said Bube’s dad might be able to read. He thought those were from the East, from a place called Mesopotamia, maybe Babylon.
“Coins travel a long way, don’t they?” asked Medlitsa.
“Yes, they do,” said Oma Mama. “Whenever you go somewhere, you need money. So if you travel, if you come from far away, you have to bring money with you. That’s probably how these coins came to where you found them.
She paused a bit. “Where did you find them?”
Medlitsa proclaimed, “We found them in Gold Creek.”
Oma Mama said, “Where is that?”
Bube answered, “It’s where there are lots of square stones, most of them in the ground. We think it’s an old town.”
Paul nodded. “I’ve taken Medlitsa there before. But I never knew there were coins there.”
Vincent nodded. “We have some very clever children here, don’t we?” He hugged Bube.
Medlitsa’s mother, father and Oma Mama nodded. Oma Mama picked up Medlitsa and kissed her.
Medlitsa’s mother said, “Well, let’s start dinner before it gets too late to see what we’re eating. And we can talk about what to do with these children’s coins afterwards.”
They all had dinner. Medlita’s dad got a smoked ham from the cellar, her mom got some eggs from the henhouse, Vincent brought out some very tasty spices he brought and Oma Mama took sausages from her canvas bag. Medlitsa and Bube got carrots and potatoes from the garden. Medlitsa’s mom made cookie dough and baked some cookies for dessert. They put the vegetables near the coals of the fire to cook. The sausages got fried in a pan on top of the stove. The eggs went into a pot of water to get boiled and the spices went on the table for everyone to use.
After dinner, Paul lit some candles because it was a special occasion. They all had milk and cookies and talked about the events at Gold Creek. Medlitsa and Bube tried to stay awake, but the milk and cookies worked sleep magic on them. They both fell asleep leaning against someone, Bube against Vincent and Medlitsa against Oma Mama. The adults talked more softly but discussed the small treasure the children had found and how they’d make sure the children benefited from their discovery at Gold Creek.
Bube dreamt about a pretty lady who spoke a strange language and gave him a pear-tasting apple. Medlitsa dreamt about her Oma Mama. Both of them saw the old lintel and the shiny coins in their sleep.
A good day at Gold Creek would be in their dreams for a long time.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Bad day; we lost Frigga, our cat.
Friday, July 05, 2013
Fourth of July 2013
Friday, December 21, 2012
Sunday, October 07, 2012
A Tale of Two Columbi
Today is Sunday, October 7, 2012. I'm in Columbus, Indiana, having spent a few days in Columbus, Georgia. Hence the clever title. After being put on medical hold in April, I finally got my A1C blood sugar down to 6.7. One more check-up with my doctor, more blood lab work, and I contacted my prospective employer, FedSys. They put me back in the system, and sent me an e-ticket. Had a bit of trouble going to sleep Tuesday night. Last Wednesday, bleary-eyed, I boarded a Delta flight from Oakland to Salt Lake City, barely making my transfer to the SLC-Atlanta flight. I didn't eat or drink anything from Hayward to Atlanta. My checked bag got to the baggage belt, and I found my way to the shuttle that would bring me from Hartsfield International to Columbus/Fort Benning.