from twenty to forty
from twenty to forty
There are literally two places in this country where people of modest means go for holiday. One is a summer campsite and the other a winter skiing resort, frequented for hiking also in summer. I’ve been to both – twice. The first time in each place I suffered a childhood trauma – I’ve always been prone to drama – and the second time I only suffered. I’ve had so much trauma before I reached adulthood that I used up all of my trauma storage capacity. This is very convenient because I’m immune to new traumas and only have déjà vus of the old ones. And better the devil you know.
I was probably seven or eight when my parents decided to prove how much they hated me by sending me away for my first summer camp. I can’t believe they paid to strangers to devise elaborate means of torturing me. I’ve always hated discomfort and I can’t see how sleeping in a tent is an exciting adventure. I vividly remember that it turned out to be more adventurous than either me or the camp overseers could wish for when I was stung by some nasty disease-ridden mosquito in the eyelid in my sleep. The eyelid got so swollen that I instantly became a pirate. What I loved about it was not the emergency trip to the hospital, but the resulting leave-of-absence from the perverse collective camp games.
The worst adventure game ever was the night-time Path of Courage challenge. It’s a popular game with children, despite the inevitable consequence that kids with a poor sense of direction always get lost and scared kids are scarred for life. So, in what was apparently thought of as an initiation ritual, I ended up walking from A to B along a marked path when there was darkness visible because I had a torch. The good thing was that I was finally alone. The bad thing was that I wouldn’t be let walk in peace. All sorts of would-be-scary ghosts in which I recognised the camp staff kept on popping from behind trees and bothering me. What genuinely bothered me though was the ridiculous length of the path, since I would’ve preferred sleeping instead of trampling in the woods for no sensible purpose.
I was to revisit the site of my childhood trauma nearly ten years later for a fresh dose of teenage trauma during a secondary school team-building trip. I wonder if adults purport to terrorise their offspring when inventing activities for them or if they’re so clueless that they believe the young ones would actually enjoy it. So, this was a cycling-slash-canoeing trip, and it was all sorts of awful. I’ve always been stronger in mind than in body, and I was wondering if I was to die there. As I couldn’t keep pace with the peloton, I became a solitary cyclist and was allocated an accompanying doctor to guide me from start to finish. I also couldn’t lift the canoe to carry it over shallow patches in the river, which made me an incredibly popular canoeing partner. I’m being ironic.
As if the summer team building wasn’t bad enough, our class also had a winter skiing course as part of our physical education. Needless to say that any attempts to educate me in sports were pathetic failures. It’s not like it’s not my fault. When planning the course, our teacher advised us that skis might not be necessary if there’s no snow. I understood it literally, and as there was no snow where we departed from, I didn’t bother with skis. Not that much of a surprise, there was plenty of snow in the mountains where we arrived. I was the only boycotter without skis. I can’t say I was disappointed, that is, until the teacher contrived for me to hire a pair of skis on the spot. I wish the skis came with a skier. I considered sheer survival a success, but the instructor attempted to impose his high ambitions on me. He failed in the attempt, and so did I.
I happened to revisit the place where I didn’t learn to ski another decade later. This time it wasn’t by the evil workings of my parents or educational institutions, but by a fatal error of judgement on the part of my then-new, now-old husband. We were spending there a hiking weekend with friends in summer. As we were driving along an endless road winding up an insanely high mountain, I was regarding with increased concern what my husband called fresh mountain air. I suspected a risky amount of allergy-triggering pollens in the air. Though I didn’t get an allergy fit, I got a screaming fit as soon as I entered our room and discovered that it was infested with spiders. I spent the first night hiding completely covered under a blanket, while my husband was hunting down the pests.
I can’t go into details of the hiking because I was so exhausted that I was virtually a walking dead. I also suspect that I suppressed the memory of the torture. One of my few recollections of the experience is the biting cold on the hike and the orgasmic relief when we finally reached a pub on the way. They had no slivovitz, the losers, so I ordered two shots of rum and coffee. One shot I gulped down as it was and another I stirred into the coffee. Deliciously warming. Unrelated to my spirits consumption but rather to my fatigue, I couldn’t climb the hill back to the cottage where we were staying. So, as I was very thin back then, my husband put me on his back and carried me up for a substantial stretch of the road. I would’ve married him for that if I hadn’t married him already.
The same couple fifty years apart. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the credits of this lovely image. But I do hope that we might be able to take a similar picture with my husband. That is, unless death do us part.
This is a heads up that I’ll be on holiday and largely off internet from 13th to 23th August. My blog posts will be scheduled, but I probably won’t be able to respond to your comments immediately and keep up with your blogs. Sorry about that.
If you’re a robber planning to do our house, don’t, there will be still people in: grandma with a broken arm, granddad with a broken leg — not kidding — and the rest of the family caring for them, plus two bad cats. If you’re a fellow blogger, stay patient, I’ll be back (unless the Russians shoot our flight down) and catch up with you!
If you like, follow me on Instagram for holiday photos from Greece, and in any case, have a happy summer!
Rain, dew, mist
Blood is thicker than water
I was always too down-to-earth to indulge in glossy women’s magazines. I only ever read these in hairdressing studios, where I’m already indulging myself to such extent that one consumerist act more or less makes no difference. From the article snippets I’ve read over the many years that I’m having my hair cut short (as an act of women empowerment, you know), I gathered that engagements and weddings are a thing. Apparently, it makes all the difference where and how precisely your boyfriend proposes (provided that you’re a straight girl like me) and what designer’s robe you wear for your wedding day. I understand that everything is supposed to be totally and hopelessly romantic. Yuck.
In that case, I messed up. About six months after my boyfriend moved with me, he presented me with a simple golden ring with zircon stones for Christmas. He didn’t comment on his choice of the gift, but I optimistically assumed that this made us pre-engaged. This condition I interpret as not engaged to marry, but engaged to marry at a point. Five years later, we were sitting on the bed in our bed-sitter (there was no settee to sit on) and reflecting on the interesting fact that most of our friends were already married. After not as much deliberation as one would expect, I casually proposed, Won’t we get married? After surprisingly little deliberation too, my boyfriend replied, Sure, when do we set the date? So that’s how I proposed to myself.
It was before Christmas, so we made the announcement as the family was conveniently gathered around the Christmas tree. For reasons neither my fiancé nor me could grasp, they were shocked by the news out of their senses. Perhaps they didn’t expect that we would ever marry after all. My fiancé’s ever-so-witty father observed a long silence and then weakly remarked that we should set the date soon lest they should have other plans already. It was meant as a joke. I set the date for a random Saturday in June. My fiancé had no preferences regarding details, and I always wanted to get married in summer because I like the warmth.
My fiancé’s mother, who already started to ready herself for epic home-baking and other nonsense, welcomed the date with forging desperate scenarios as to what the heat would do to the cake and the sweet pastries traditionally left on the table throughout the day. She was however overjoyed when I left the food matters up to her better judgement, as I couldn’t care less how many sorts of pastry and what kind we’d have. Inadvertently, I hugely disappointed her when she was elaborately describing the beauties of the cake she picked, and I drily observed that I was hoping it wouldn’t have the ridiculous bride and groom dolls on the top. It was meant a joke. And it was a big mistake. With tears in her eyes, she called to cancel the order for the figures. Oops.
It was utterly unenjoyable for me to try to find a sensible wedding dress to my taste. I certainly didn’t intend to look like a tragically aged princes in a fancy robe, neither did I mean to wear the colour white, a veil over my face or other attributes of purity, because I’m clearly no Virgin Mary. The easiest and cheapest option turned out to have my dress custom-made. The dress turned out so awesome that I’m still keeping it six years later, though the idea that I’d ever be so thin again to even zip it up is ridiculous. I easily picked the rings, having chosen well enough for hubby and me to still wear them; and I picked the bouquet, unwittingly dismaying the florist when I specifically asked to have all the glitter, trifles and beads removed from it, because I’m clearly no Pocahontas.
All other preparations were executed by our families, as they seemed to be genuinely loving it. They didn’t love too much that I insisted to be married in the registrar’s office, but they softened when they saw that the office was in fact a magnificently decorated baroque hall. It never crossed my mind to get married in a castle or other allegedly romantic spot, as some family members suggested, because I don’t even like castles and my idea of a romantic spot is a library. Unlike what I see in American films, it’s customary here for the registrar to read the wedding vows, and it’s not the engaged couple’s business to advise the registrar as to what s/he says. Luckily, our registrar was our acquaintance, and I was able to cut out all melodramatic nonsense from the speech and all references to children, because I don’t even like children.
Our wedding was short and sweet and went well, like our marriage so far (knock knock). I served as a voluntary testing subject for my husband’s family, for whom it was the first time they were marrying off their child. We apparently inspired my husband’s younger brother to action, as he married shortly afterwards. I’m not sure if he and his bride wanted a wedding as romantic as they had, but that’s what they got, owing particularly to the now unbridled enthusiasm of my excessively sentimental mother-in-law. (Oh, why, hello, Blanche!) Their wedding ceremony lasted an hour, nearly bored me to my untimely demise, and afterwards my husband and me had to get an emergency shot of slivovitz to wash down all the sticky sweetness we witnessed. We discreetly congratulated ourselves on having had an unromantic wedding. Incidentally, the newlyweds divorced before they could celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
My first tentative attempts with macro photography. In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture.