I was born in March of 1979 in what was then Eastern Germany, part of the Communist Block. My father was Hungarian, my mother German. They had met in my mother's home town while Dad was working there. I was the third child after my two older brothers, who were 1 and 2 1/2 years older than me, respectively.
When I was about 6 months old, our family moved to my Dad's little home village in Hungary. Thus, my earliest memories all date back to Hungary, and Hungarian was the first language I ever learned.
Our little abode was very modest compared to the standards of the Western world in the early 80's. To me, it was home, and I loved it. We lived in the back half of this "duplex" - in the above picture, everything to the right of the fence. The house was generally dark and narrow, and from what I can remember, it only had two rooms: the kitchen when one first entered through the door on the left, and a single bedroom beyond that, which is on the right in the picture above. We had electricity, but no running water or indoor plumbing. Water was fetched from a central pump on the main street. There was a well right in front of our door on our own property, but it was defunct, and we children were strictly forbidden to get anywhere near the pile of rocks and the deep pit that remained of the well.
My mom painted this dresser, as she did much of our furniture.
I don't know how my mother managed with three little kids and no running water, no disposable diapers, no washing machines or bathrooms, but somehow she did, because we all made it. I'm guessing she did her laundry in a big wash tub with a washboard, because that's the way my grandma was still doing it as long as I can remember. The diapers I think she boiled in a large pot on the single electric stove plate we had in the kitchen.
My Grandma's house, in 2004
My grandparents lived just a few houses up the only street in this village. That is my Grandma's house above, where she continued to live even when we visited her there in 2008. By that time, the house had been upgraded with limited indoor plumbing, and my Grandpa had passed away and been buried in this same village where he was born and had lived his entire life.
This house brings back so many wonderful memories. My grandparents, as well as my great-grandmother, lived there my whole life. My brothers and I spent countless weekends there as children, and much of our summer breaks. I can still smell their pantry (which made up a large part of the house) filled with all sorts of dried and cured goodies, loaded each fall during harvest. My favorite were the fresh walnuts, spread in the attic to dry. I also remember shelling beans of every type and color with great-grandma, watching grandma kill and pluck chickens for dinner, and watching the men butcher a pig and process it into meat, sausages, etc all right there on the little farm.
My uncle with Grandma. The ladder in the back goes to the attic, and I have climbed it countless times.
Grandma in her pantry. By this time, she was an old lady and living alone, so it was no longer in its hayday.
I once tried to show Grandma that I could walk down the stairs to the porch backwards, but missed the steps, and tumbled down instead. I bust my head open and had to have stitches, which are still visible on my forehead today.
When my brother, who took these pictures, told her he'd be sending these on to me, she made him wait while she put on her Sunday best.
I don't think this dear lady ever wore anything but skirts and dresses. It was a very different time, even just a few decades ago.
Grandma was a great cook, and we never lacked for delicious food at her house. My favorite were her cakes. She cooked everything on an old wood stove.
The electric stove in the back was not there when I was a child. Rather, this big cupboard was against that wall.
The wallpaper, on the other hand, was the same they had when we were little.
My Grandpa was strict (I remember he spanked me once for refusing to take a nap!), but according to my Dad and my own memories, he loved me dearly. Him and Grandma had two sons, then there were my two brothers, and finally at long last I was the only girl to come along. I remember watching him wash up and shave in the mornings, then he'd take his cap off the peg by the door, and head out to his day's work. In addition to their little subsistence farm, and their own little vineyard, both my grandparents worked in some sort of rock quarry. Grandpa would often bring home pretty glittery rocks for my brothers and I.
Grandpa knew I loved sunflower seeds, which are abundant in Hungary, and which they grew themselves. He would spend his free time all week long shelling sunflowers one at a time, so that by the time I came on the weekend, he would have a little cup full sitting on that cupboard, waiting for me to eat them. After he had worked so long and hard, I would put the cup to my mouth, and "drink" it down in no time flat. Yet, he never did tire of shelling them again the next week.
My brothers and I had a favorite snack he would make for us, called "Little Soldiers". Basically, Grandpa would take down a piece of smoked pork fat from the pantry, cut it into small cubes, top each with a dollop of mustard, salt them, and we'd pop them in our mouths as quickly as he could make them. We also loved roasting the pork fat over an open fire at night. We would let the fat drip onto thick slices of white bread until they turned into crunchy pork rinds we would eat with fresh tomatoes and peppers from their garden.
My parents soon moved to the big city nearby, but we continued visiting our grandparents every week until we left Hungary. More on that next time.