This year's gift
Today I am not going anywhere, I do not have to catch a 7:30 a.m. train and make one hundred phone calls to get twelve appointments. I can relax, sleep late and enjoy my first Christmas in America.Skip to next paragraph
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I try to remember how it was in Romania, and my memories hurt. It is only human to forget the cold winter when the summer comes, to stop wondering about darkness when you finally come to light. And I pray that I do not forget the sadness I left behind, and that I keep the committment I made to myself, that is , to share my experiences and tell people to appreciate what most of them don't even realize they have because it seems so natural: FREEDOM.
For years I believed that in America there could be a superficial, consumer society with no depth. I was convinced that we behind the Iron Curtain had a more complex life, and because we lacked so many things, we appreciated better the little we had. But there came a day when I questioned the truth of my convictions, and I had to admit that there was no time left for creativity and thinking between listening to hypocritical speeches, attending meaningless party meetings and standing in line for food.
I remember the dirty, empty food stores smelling of rats while official posters announced a general rat killing campaign. I remember the frustration of going into book shops to find only mountains of President Ceausescu's writings in deluxe editions, and more and more his wife's - Academician, Doctor, Engineer , the number one lady, the woman scientist, mother and wife of a ''hero,'' symbol of what officially we all must aspire to become, symbol of all we can never become.
Ceausescu's works, purchased in hundreds of copies, by all public institutions, his and her portraits in every office, in every shop window, everywhere, like a haunting. One day, in the shabby kitchen of a garbage woman, I saw Ceausescu's portrait, and I could not stop asking ''Why? Do you like him? Has he been good to you?'' Thoughtfully, she looked at me and said: ''I found this while looking for food for my pigs . . . and well, who knows?'' She paused, then added: ''It never hurts to have his portrait around, who knows who comes here . . . and it is better . . . just more safe.''
My friend did not know to read or write, but she certainly had that unique instinct of preservation which exists in children and animals; most of us don't have it, as we become older and wiser, as we learn, as we know more, and our mind decides that it is better not to exist than to exist in shame.
I decided to go away before I reached the age when nothing is any longer of any importance.
It is still fresh in my memory, a nightmare I used to have in Romania: I dreamed that my whole existence is a path starting from nothingness, that I was looking upon my own life from its upper end, aware that the next step could be the last one. Now I know that the Lord has a plan for each of us, and I trust Him because his unconditional love never fails. And I have learned to give thanks in everything, good and bad, for now I know that ''all things work together for good for them that love God.''