Thursday, July 01, 2004

To the reader who asked about my sister:

When time permits, my sister checks in here and reads these oddball posts. Why are they odd? Because her life in Warsaw could not be more different than mine here in Madison. I must appear nothing short of eccentric, writing about Ligurian cakes and blogger dinners. But she skims over this voluminous material nonetheless, because she is a kind person and because she cares, even though there is this great distance between us, a whole ocean and half a continent on each side.

She is a year older and a few inches shorter. From early in my childhood, I have regarded her as stunning to look at. She has the olive complexion, the chestnut hair, the delicate frame that catches your eye. I keep telling my mother that we must have gypsy blood running through because how else do you explain these very un-Slavic features? My mom used to agree, but for some time now she pretends she doesn’t know what I am talking about. I guess gypsy blood is no longer something that she wants to flaunt to the Public Out There.

When I felt inspired as a child to dance wildly around the house, I would make everyone tear-up with laughter (I didn’t intend to be funny, it was my best imitation of ballet). But Eliza* had grace. There were times when femininity was a desirable label for girls. Eliza oozed femininity. I ran (I still often run if I am in a hurry), she floated. I rode bikes through puddles and dug holes on the river beach; she sat back and watched with her beautiful big brown eyes. I filled pages and pages of numerous notebooks with rambling journal-like notes. She painted sunsets and birch groves and buttercups with delicate stems.

A reader asked me just yesterday if it’s hard living so far away. Most definitely. When I visit once a year, she gives me her room and always puts small bunches of flowers on the night table – great fistfuls of lilies of the valley in spring, pots of primroses in winter. We often drive to the village where my grandparents once lived (and we did as well, during our pre-preschool years) and where she is now trying to restore, with the help of her son, Chris, the house that my grandfather built. It’s slow going. But she is patient. I’m not. She is.

This photo of the river (with the terrific sandy bottom and waist-deep waters) that runs past my grandparents' house in the village of "Gniazdowo" was taken by me in 1973; obviously it was not a crowded landscape then or during my childhood. It still isn't.


River Liwiec, north-east Poland, 1973 Posted by Hello

Here’s a photo of the two of us (possibly the last one taken where she is still taller than me; soon after I shot up while she stayed petite). We are at the Baltic Sea. I am 5, she is 6. I am cold (according to me, it is always cold by the Baltic Sea), she is not. Gypsy blood, I tell you.


Eliza & Nina, 1958 Posted by Hello

*Her name is Eliza, and anyone who pronounces it E-lie-zah will have to withstand a glare from me, because this is NOT how she appears to me. She is E-lee-zah.

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