Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Song of Innocence; Winter Tale.



Winter tale;
It was end of November. Snow had not yet fallen however one could smell it in the air. A blistering, cold wind was hurling itself against the closed shutters.
My mother said: “I wish I would not have to go to fetch the milk while she was already putting on her warm coat, a shawl over her dark hair, warm boots and gloves. "She won’t take the bike as the roads were wet and this strong wind was blowing."
When she returned, warming her hands and saying oh it is so cold I think it will snow to night, I would have pondered about the snow because I was looking forward to it. But my interest was taken by a young woman who was standing behind my mother. I had seen this woman before, it was Selina, she was one of the gypsy woman who lived on the edge of the woods not far from our home. In summer they moved from village to village to do odd jobs. Usually they were not on the road anymore on the onset of winter, as they had a village with houses to go to. Selina's husband did not like to go to the village. He always waited until the first snow fall before he moved there with his family.
I knew most of the gypsy women as they came to the station to fetch water, where I spend a lot of my time. Most of them were very nice and liked to talk to me. One always cursed at me even if I had been nice to her. Selina clutched a bundle wrapped in a fraying, gray blanket.

My mother led Selina to sit onto a chair in our warm kitchen. Gently, she took the bundle from her arms. She unwrapped the blanket and inside was a tiny newborn baby. It did not wear clothes and was encrusted in blood and other things I could not identify. My teeth were chattering and I was trembling.
My mother notched me and said do not panic the baby is fine it has not been cleaned after its birth. She wrapped the baby in a soft towel and placed it on a blanket near the stove to keep it warm. It was quiet like a mouse, its eyes tightly shut in a crumpled tiny face.
I was standing there gawking doing nothing while my mother knew exactly what had to be done. She placed a cup of coffee and a slice of bread with honey before our guest and said:” eat up, after giving birth one is always hungry.” The honey indicated to me that it was a real emergency, because honey was not dispensed lightly, it was precious. It was used for comfort in days of sickness, or bad coughs, to sweeten tea or milk.


When Selina was comfortable, my mother gave her attention to the baby. First she warmed a little oil, it was a special oil, called Johannis oil, it was made from the plant called St. Johns Wort. In the bottle floated a few red berries and the oil looked reddish too.
With a soft rag she applied the oil to the encrusted skin of the baby and cleaned it gently while murmuring little endearments, it sounded like a soft spell. Then she washed it with warm water and finally wrapped it in a clean, warmed blanket.
She asked Selina if it had some milk. My mother wanted to chase me out of the kitchen, but I did not budge this was to interesting to miss. My mother was to busy to pursue me further.
Selina opened her cardigan and her blouse, she did not wear a bras like my mother did. She freed one of her breasts which was small but plump, snow white with fine blue veins with a big reddish brown nipple which had little drops of milk seeping out. Unceremoniously she squeezed it into the babies mouth which instantly began to suck like it already knew what to do, then it lost its source of food and began to cry shrilly and distressingly, showing its tiny, toothless gums until the nipple was once more firmly stuck in its vigorously sucking mouth. Selina said she would name the baby Emma, after me, I felt glad about it.

Selina said to my mother not to mention to anybody that she had this baby girl. The authorities would come and take it away from her, as they thought she was not fit to bring up children. She said she has three boys but they were taken away and placed with other families. She did not know where they lived and it made her very sad.
My mother wanted to cheer her up and brought out the box with a pink ribbon on top which contained my baby clothes, my mother had knitted herself. I had it opened many times and marveled at the tiny garments I had once worn.
Fancy bonnets with pompoms, Jackets, booties with pink ribbons and tiny mittens. Selina was to choose some of the garments as my mother said she has no further use for these, she kept it only out of sentimentality. Just as well this baby girl can wear it.
It was getting late. I had not my usual cup of hot milk because my mother gave the dairy a miss when she met Selina on her way to fetch water. Selina said she should get back to the camp her husband would be worried.
However my mother decided for her to stay over night with us. , I traced a little anger in her voice, when she said to Selina, your husband should not have let you go out to fetch the water after you gave birth. You stay here and have a good rest.
Selina gave in willingly as she was rather exhausted. My mother showed her the couch in the living room where she and the baby could sleep. I can sleep on the floor with a blanket, said Selina. But my mother insisted that she sleep on the couch. She gave her the baby and covered her with a blanket and a warm eiderdown.
Early the next morning when my mother left for work, Selina and her baby daughter left too with a small box, filled with some of the chosen baby clothes, dangling on a string from her fingers.
I said goodbye to Selina and the baby and said that I hoped to see her in spring again together with a much grown baby. Celina said:” she was looking forward to spring she hated the cold winter.
When spring was here again I saw Selina and waved to her, she did not wave back. Her baby girl was not with her. When I asked my mother, she said:” they have taken the baby and placed it with a respectable family.” I was sad for Selina and I knew why she did not wave back; we belonged to the same clan who persecuted and judged her and took her children away.


12 comments:

marie-louise said...

Love your memories. It is fascinating to read. Is there any more? Love ML

Elfe said...

Liebe Titania

Das ist eine traurige und gleichzeitig eine schöne Geschichte, die Du da erzählst. Letzteres vor allem was Deine Mutter anbelangt, sie muss eine aussergewöhnliche Frau gewesen sein. Lebt sie noch?

Mit dem Thema Kinder wegnehmen von Fahrenden habe ich mich vor eingen Jahren beschäftigt, als solche wegenommenen "Kinder" an die Öffentlichkeit getreten sind und über ihr Schicksal berichtet haben. Ich war erschütter, was da alles an den Tag gekommen ist, davon hatte ich keine Ahnung gehabt. Und das alles sozusagen unter dem Patronat von Pro Juventute, damals hiess das "Hilfswerk" Kinder der Landstrasse. Einfach unvorstellbar wie sie früher gedacht haben und vom Staat und wahrscheinlich auch noch von der Kirche abgesegnet.
http://www.pro-juventute.ch/Chronologie-KdL.1425.0.html
Danke Dir für Deine interessanten Erinnerungen und vielen Dank auch für den Freundschaftsaward, das ist echt lieb von Dir.
Hab eine gute Zeit, sorry, dass ich in Deutsch schreibe, doch mein Englisch reicht einfach nicht aus. Vielleicht besuche ich mal einen Englisch Kurs zum auffrischen.
Liebe Grüsse zur Wochenmitte
Elfe

Regina Marie said...

Wow, it's a demonstration of hands on you received- I love every bit too. Though I'm often saddened at the twists & turns we're either dealt with in life or roads we step on -but I'm intrigued. As hard as it may be, it all boils down to what we do with it? I honestly enjoy your writing and feel blessed to of found you-

Titania said...

Marie-Louise, there is plenty more!

Elfe, Ich danke dir sehr fuer dein Interesse und deine Feinfuehligkeit. Danke auch fuer den URL.

Thank you for your visit and your genuine interest you show in my writing.

Titania said...

Regina Marie, thank you so much for you comment and I do appreciate your interest in my writing.

diane said...

A poignant story with a fine message. Well done!

Arija said...

This is such a moving story.
It goes to show that the same treatment to try to assimilate those who are different was meted out in Europe as it was here with the stolen generation. Take away the children and put them into 'respectable' families, it only engenders crippled souls.

Reader Wil said...

How sad! That's what the Europeans did in Australia to the Aborigines. My daughter was married to an Aboriginal in Cooktown. That family escaped the drama of the stolen generation, but I know how they were treated. How arrogant we, white people, are!

Reader Wil said...

Your mum was a wonderful person! And you told the story very beautifully!

MedaM said...

This blog of yours is also wonderful. I am alone at home and I have found some more spare time to visit your other blog sites and I am delighted. I am only sorry that i don't have enough time to read everything and to leave my comments to each of your post. As you know, English isn't my native language and it always takes me lots of time for reading and writing.
This life and pictures story is really touching and at the same time very interesting. I read it almost breathless. I am sorry, but I don't know if your mother is still alive, but her heart is huge. I do admire such persons. As I could notice, your heart is as big as hers. It is a heart that makes people rich. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

Titania said...

Thank you Diane.

Arija, thank you for your comment, you are so right.

Reader Wil, thank you, I guess they come in all colours.

MedaM, Thank you for your interest. I know t i m e. My mother died many years ago. She was a very giving person and never tired. I am much more pampered!
Your English language is very good and I am so glad to have contact with you through the blogosphere!

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.