After lunch my mom sometimes tells me tales from her youth. It’s good practice to see if I can understand her Hungarian, and it’s a privilege, a glimpse of another world.
There was a teacher who thought my mom’s rosy cheeks were the result of rouge.
She described her disgust at the teacher licking her handkerchief, trying to wipe off the genuine colour that was on her face.
She doesn’t remember the name of the teacher.
My mother & her friends were in a park in Budapest.
A man in the park accosted them. He said she must be one who sent her letter to him..(?)
She replied “that wasn’t me.”
As they were leaving he said “why do you surround yourself with such ugly girls?”
Her friends teased her about that, boxing her shoulder, saying “ohh we’re such ugly girls”..!
My mom laughed about how she & her sisters would listen to the radio, to the opera without understanding what the Italian text meant.
They wrote their own libretto
(sung to the tune of “La donna e mobile”)
As aszonj ing alatt ——– The lady, under her shirt,
Fogott egy bogarott —— grabbed a beetle
Hoszu es feketet ———- long & black
Csipte a feneket ———– it bit her on the butt
As my mom is the last survivor I think it’s safe to say she owns the copyright. I’m sorry Pavarotti is no longer available to sing it. Too bad.
At the art gallery there was a young fellow who followed my mom & her friends around. They giggled… They were shy. Who was this guy?
Later he knocks at the door of my mom’s home. He was a film-maker asks my mom’s father for permission to take her away to Italy where he wanted to make her a star. But her father said no.
He left a card with his name in case later she changed her mind. My mom kept the card for a long time, told me she remembers the name “Sordi”.
Today I googled for an Italian film-maker of that name. Could this be the same one?
They were born a year apart. He died awhile ago.
My mother told me she knew a young guy named Laci. Laci and a friend rented a room, while they were in architecture school in their last year.
They were advised of a draft: compulsory military service that would interrupt that last year of school.
My mom’s aunt Irene’s husband (she didn’t mention his name) helped to arrange a one-year deferral of the draft via someone he knew as a regular in the kocsma (pub).
The paperwork from this official also would later help him finish his degree after the war.
But first: the war…!
My mom used to write to Laci regularly. There was a standard postcard, issued by the government, for sending messages to soldiers. My mom wrote to Laci regularly at Laci’s mother’s urging.
Supposedly the letters helped to keep him alive, giving him hope.
My mom kept it up, writing regularly, but never heard even a single word of reply.
In the meantime my mom met Barcza Jozsef, aka my father.
My mom told me that Laci and a friend somehow broke out of the Russian prison camp where they had been doing forced labour.
They had walked home.
Laci came to see my Mom, expecting to marry her. He had been sustained in his years of war & imprisonment, by his memories of her.
But my mom was engaged to Barcza Jozsef. She hadn’t heard a single word of reply in all this time.
I interrupted the story.
“Let’s say you can do magic. If you could do whatever you like, would you wish you could have been with Laci?”
She shook her head. Apparently there was no comparison. She was in love with my dad.
In the end Laci married someone that he said looked like my mom. My mom looked at me, shook her head, and said, “well she was a blonde blue eyed woman”. Maybe she reminded him of my mom even if the resemblance wasn’t very much.
And after the war my mom was invited to dinner with Laci & his wife, on a Saturday night. But her water broke (she was pregnant), went to hospital. Katherine was born on Sunday… Laci & his wife sent a lovely floral arrangement as a gift, then went off to Mexico. Laci had an uncle in Mexico, also an architect (like Laci, who had finished his studies)
That’s the last she heard of him.