ava09 (angels, auroras and sad prose #holidayvibes)

United States

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Message to Readers

well i'm publishing this against my better judgement (shut up inner critic!!) and it is probably eh but anyway here goes.

there's a lot i don't know so maybe i should ask you || your leaving

June 29, 2020

PROMPT: Ancestors Speak

I haven't asked you what the weather was like. It seems like such a mundane detail, but I wonder. Was it cold? Or was the sun beating down on your heads? Was the wind blowing, or was the air so thick with moisture you couldn't breathe? Was it spring, winter, fall or summer?

I haven't asked you how you felt. Did you know you'd probably never go back? Were you scared, at 12, to leave the only world and life you'd ever known? Did you understand what was happening, and how dangerous things were? How did it feel to be separated from your dad and brother for almost a year and not know where they were or if they were okay?

I haven't asked you what it was like to leave behind your only home. Did you think about what or who you'd miss? Did you leave quickly and suddenly, or did you take time to walk around the yard of your house or the grass fields in town that you played soccer on? Was there anyone you cried saying goodbye too?

You left Romania when you were 12 in 1985, searching for a new life, somewhere, anywhere, but there. You didn't know where you'd end up - eventually they'd give you a choice between the US and Uruguay, whichever would let you through first - but you took the leap anyway and left. Nicolae Ceausescu was a fearsome dictator and communism ruled your world in Romania. You didn't know that there were places where meat and butter were plentiful, rather than almost rarer than gold. You didn't know there was a life where the secret police wasn't stationed up the street from your house - where there wasn't a secret police to begin with. You didn't know there were other countries where people disappearing and never returning was normal. You didn't know.

There's so much I don't know about when you left. But there are some things I do know.

I know you're proud of your home country, as broken as it was. I know you cried when Romania lost to Sweden in the world cup in 1994 when they lost in penalty kicks in the quarter finals. That Romanian team was the best team in the world that year, you always tell me, and they should've won that game. I share your heartbreak but it's not the same.

I know when you left Romania you thought your name was Marius (what you'd always been called) and told your mom they got the passport wrong, but she laughed and said no your name is Daniel - your middle name is Marius. I know escaping was illegal if you weren't coming back, and getting passports and permission to leave took years, so when you did leave and ran away with your family you all had overdue visas. I know that, on the train out of there, there were Czech guards who were checking papers. I know one of them let you all through, even though the papers weren't up to date. I know you're still forever grateful to him, the man who let you through instead of sending you back.

I know that for the journey to Italy, it was just you and your mom, and that you didn't see your brother or dad for a long long time until you finally reconnected, because your brother and dad were looking for work - you couldn't go because you were on your mom's passport because of how young you were. I know your family sold practically everything when you left but it still was barely enough for food so work was vital. I know you learned Italian in the year you spent there, living at refugee camps and hotels. I know you met the pope, and that Italy seemed like heaven. 

I know that when you came to the US, you barely spoke any English. I know your parents had to settle for jobs they were more than qualified for. I know you were embarrassed because you were poor. I know you had to work your way up from the very bottom. I know you learned English fast with your brother and had to be translator for your parents for a while.

I know the first time you tried spam you were confused. I know the first time you had fast food was when a teacher at your school took you to Burger King and that was when you decided you liked mustard more than ketchup. I know you kept playing soccer here in the states because you loved it. I know you adapted to life here and became a model American student and citizen.

So maybe I do know a lot, but there's still a lot missing.

I haven't asked you if you miss it. Your old life. How everything was. Do you? Things are good here, but Romania was liberated in 1989 - have you ever thought about what would happen if you stayed? Or do you keep those thoughts buried deep within? You've told me you never knew your life there was hard then because that's how it always was. I envy your outward detachment to it all. You have gotten to see so much of the world, if only through chance and being born into a family willing to escape a horrific communist regime, but I'm still jealous. Living in the US doesn't teach you 5 languages by the time you're 18, it teaches you 2, if you're lucky. And maybe that's me being stupid and ungrateful for everything I do have, but a part of me wonders that if you could live happily with next to nothing, why do we need all these things in this country to do the same?

Your leaving story is forever a part of my life. If you and Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Alain hadn't left Romania, you would've never met Mom, and never had me and my siblings. To this day, I love hearing you talk about it all. And while I'm sure I glamorize it and make things seem more exciting than they were, I am always proud of everything you and your family chose to do. I am proud to be 50% Romanian. And I can't wait to go visit and see it all someday in person with you, Dad.


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1 Comment
  • poetri

    "Romania was liberated in 1989 - have you ever thought about what would happen if you stayed? Or do you keep those thoughts buried deep within?" is probably one of the most beautiful phrases I've read today. Amazing job with this piece--I felt it the whole way through, and know I will be coming back to it again and again. All the best to you <3

    5 months ago