From the earliest years of my childhood, we would spend part of our holidays, especially at Easter and in summer, together with Father in his native village, Nadeşul Săsesc [Saxon Nades] in Târnava Mică county, where lived Grandmother, an uncle who was a priest, married to my father’s sister, Auntie Elena, and several first and second cousins. We would leave from Braşov for Sighişoara on either the express or the limited express, and from there we would take a suitably dilapidated bus for about an hour, through potholes, dust, or mud, along the road between Sighişoara and Târgul Mureş. At the bus station, which was at the head of the village, would be waiting Uncle Rusu and a few cousins, who would accompany us on the road to the parsonage in the middle of the village, where they lived. We would walk, while the oxcart followed slowly behind with the suitcases and packages we had brought along, with an occasional “haw” or “gee,” which would give me great pleasure. It makes me nostalgic to think of the evenings we spent crammed around the table, chatting over a glass of Târnave wine or, when I was still small, listening to my elders. During the days, we would go for walks through the vineyards or to the neighboring villages, Ţigmandru and Pipea, collecting mushrooms on the road through the woods. In the evening we would roast them with pieces of bacon skewered on spits of hazel wood expertly carved by Uncle Ionel.NOTES: ‘Auntie’ renders Tuşa; ‘express’ renders accelerat and ‘limited express’, rapidul; ‘dilapidated’ renders hodorogit; ‘haw’ renders hăiş and ‘gee’, cea, which steer draft animals to the left or right, respectively; ‘mushrooms’ renders bureţi (also ‘sponges’); ‘cousins’ renders veri şi verişoare (Fr. cousins et cousines); ‘juicy’ renders zămoase (zămos), a word I couldn’t find in my dictionaries (but see zămoşiţă ‘hibiscus’, which has a sticky sap); ‘was just about to leave’ renders eram gata de drum (lit. ‘was road-ready’).
Every afternoon around five was a special moment, when the bus delivered the postal sack, which was carried to the Post Office, whose mistress was my cousin, Tiţa Dan. I would attend the undoing of the sack as a kind of ritual, snatching out of her hands envelopes addressed to me. Other cousins would usually attend this “cult”: Elvira and Sabina Dan, Ionel Moldovan, Lucia and Stela Rusu, with whom I would discuss the news in the letters and magazines we received. Sometimes I would go home with Ionel Moldovan and we would sit on a wooden bench under a leafy tree, breaking open large and juicy onions and drinking generously of wine brought by Auntie Aurelia, the mother of Ionel, a newly commissioned second lieutenant in the cavalry.
The last time I was in Nadeş was only for a single day, with Mira, in the spring of 1946, only a few months before leaving the country. Grandmother examined us with her weak eyes under the ever-present headscarf covering her forehead, then took me aside and said, “Bravo, Ştéfane (accented on the first e), fine wife you’ve taken. She’s a real lady!” At parting, she asked me if I had opened an office (she knew that I was licensed in law), and when I was just about to leave she put a question to me that I didn’t realize at the time showed prophetic vision, “What do you think, Ştéfane; will this democracy last a while? Because the kids roam the streets and shout that that’s democracy!”
UNSOLICITED PLUG: I've bought a motley assortment of Romanian dictionaries in print, none of them either comprehensive enough or bilingual enough to handle this translation. Instead, whenever I translate from Romanian, I now keep open the best Romanian-English dictionary I've found in any medium. According to the publisher, it has over 30,000 words in Romanian, along with more than 35,000 translations of common and less common phrases. And it is indeed "extremely fast and easy to use."
UPDATE: Mulţumesc cititorului Mihai, who pointed me toward zemos 'juicy', related to zeama 'juice', a word I knew but didn't think of when I needed it.