When I turned five we moved from our little countryside to Riga, the capital of Latvia.
We moved in with my grandmother (my mother’s mother) who lived in a plattenbau building with my uncle. My father was still going to sea as a mechanic at that time so it was my brother, mother, grandmother and uncle in the 3 room apartment.
It had this rubber covering in a beige that you will not find in any Pantone catalog
Even though I still know that apartment very well, because my uncle now lives there with his family, I have the strongest memories from the hallways.
Those hallways had such a specific smell. It was bad, but also kinda good. There were hints of all the things you would assume in a 12 story building, but also a smell of cement that is cool and earthy. I still know how the railing feels when I would put my hand on it running down the stairs. It had this rubber covering in a beige that you will not find in any Pantone catalog. All of that is etched in the back of my head for good.
I am not sure what the metaphor is, but likely it is about love or war
When my grandmother used to watch me we would play cards or checkers. I would win from time to time and I always was quite proud. We would sit on her sofa with that wool blanket which was so scratchy and unpleasant on my skin.
My grandmother had a lovely talent – she played the accordion. Whenever she played I would ask her to play a song I called “the sad song” I never could remember the name of it, but it was my favorite. It had one of those melodies that make your mind naturally wander. I since have learned how it is called and found a wonderfully old video with the original performance of it here. It translates to “Oh You blue rye” to be perfectly honest I am not sure what the metaphor is, but likely it is about love or war.
Those tricky pink and blue croutons
My mother was an English teacher and when my grandmother couldn’t watch me she would take me with her to school. I would sit behind a row of large bookshelves at the back of the class. My mother claims that I handed out worksheets to the class as well, but I do not remember that myself. I really enjoyed sitting in the back of the class and listening to my mother teach.
One of these times when I was playing the the back of the class I discovered a hidden treat. Croutons! I have no idea why my little 5 year old brain knew what that even was, but I loved them already then as much as I do now. Crispy, garlicky – yum! Somebody had hidden them between the bookshelves on the ground for some reason. How very strange I thought … but my little skinny kid arms could perfectly reach the little paper bag. They were colorod pink and blue which seemed a bit odd. And then to my big disapontment, they were bitter and horrible tasting so I stopped eating after about 3 pieces … I think. Well, imagine the face of my mother when I complained about the poor quality of what turned out to be rat poison. Ups!
Which tells you everything you need to know about the general tone of the relationships between us and our extended family
I believe we lived there for a couple of months and then moved into the house where my father grew up on the other side of town. It was an area filled with private homes. Nothing fancy, but it had history and character that was much more beautiful than the grey of the 12 story apartment buildings.
It was a fairly large house with two stories, on the second floor lived the parents of my father. On the first floor lived the brother of my father with his then wife.
When we moved in we put up a wall in the middle of the first floor and this way created two apartments on the first floor. Which tells you everything you need to know about the general tone of the relationships between us and our extended family.
The artwork was from aunt Anna, who wasn’t an aunt at all
The house was filled with a mix of gips figures, painting, hunting trophies and (already then) antique furniture.
The artwork was from aunt Anna, who wasn’t an aunt at all. She was this woman that was very close to my family and everyone was living in this house when my father was still a boy. She worked as a bookkeeper most of her life I believe. When she was let go of her job in her fifties she decided to become an artist and entered the art academy of Riga and studied sculpture. My grandfather inherited the house when she passed.
The trophies came from my grandfather. He was a renowned hunter and often talked about going into the woods and told tall tales of his hunting adventures.
We filled those walls with stories
The more I think about it the more crazy that time feels. And I guess it was crazy. Two young families, the in-laws and a dachshund in the house. There was fighting and screaming, but also lullabies and games. We filled those walls with stories. Some of them we tell and about some of them we just shake our heads. I have lived there multiple times again and it always feel like time of growth, but also conflict. But that is a story reserved for year 14.
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