I guess I should explain a bit about me. I’ve been trying to understand who I really am for a long while, actually since I came back from that mission to Romania for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The hopefulness of youth has faded into the realities of adulthood and with it several dreams of what should have been. But as life trudges onward, without stopping to take an account of the tragedies and nastiness that occurs each day, nothing more can be said except that life continues. It endures.
I was born in Romania during Ceaucescu’s nasty dictatorial regime. I left when I was seven years old, and while the time spent in Romania for my parents was pretty harsh–my dad escaped by locking himself with one of my uncles in a crate on a freight train to Germany and my mother was arrested and held by the Securitate (the secret police)–my memories of those days were quite pleasant. Except for the fact that all of my memories of those days did not include my father in them. While he did escape Romania for our benefit, he was not a very good father at the micro-level. I cannot recall what he did to me at a young age, I can only guess from the views my mother has given me. I cannot tell whether her view is skewed or not, after all, he abused her as well, so her feelings are strongly against him, but with his actions towards me once in America, I feel the consensus is that he abused me during those times as well. One thing my mother has been pretty consistent about: when I was about one year old or so, my dad, upset at my constant crying, would pick me up, off the bed, and thrust me back against the bed, throwing me down. I’m so glad I cannot recall that. Unfortunately, there are things I do recall from his abuses that I wish I could not, that I wish somehow disappeared completely from my mind, including from those dark places in my mind that have an effect on the way I view things today, those places in my mind I cannot get to consciously.
I’ll get to those situations later. First off, my memories of Romania were quite good. I do not know how others experience their childhoods, and how they continue to remember them as they grow to adulthood, but for me, my childhood felt adventurous and exciting, or at least the things my mind has decided to keep in the active memory file have felt that way. From sitting in the backseat of a Volkswagen bug scaling the sheer heights approaching a vast city lit in the night, feeling perhaps the makers of the road put the road to high up a cliff, to running through a large, dark, deadly forest of thorn bushes trying to avoid any brush against those spiky thorns while chasing my sister around. There are memories of joining my grandfather at a village meeting, getting bored of their talk, going out among the fields of corn. And ah, Baia Mare. This town in the north of Romania, set nicely in the mountains. One of my mother’s uncles has a home in that area and we’d (my sister and I) stay there, chasing each other around, climbing the hill in the backyard, crossing the creek in front, playing hide and seek in the train graveyard just across the road and creek with my cousins. Or a memory of running on a hilly, grassy, field, devoid of trees towards a house. For the longest time I could not place where that was. Then when I went back on my mission, I knew where it was: Dorohoi, or a little village just out of Dorohoi where my grandparents on my dad’s side lived. Another house from my memories I could not quite place: I remember having a party, uh, more of a family reunion of sorts, at this house. For the longest time I could not tell where this was. Then, on my mission, I went back to see my great-grandfather who was 94 years old by this time, and as I approached his home, I knew it! I recognized it immediately. I said to my companion, this is his home. I remember visiting Bucuresti, the capital, of being afraid of the dark when a train would go through a tunnel, of a beautiful field of bright colored flowers in a remote area as the train sped along, but my favorite memories are of Medias, the city I was born in, and Sfantu Gheorghe, a small village outside of Iernut where my grandparents on my mother’s side lived.
Ah, I love Medias. It’s a lovely little city in the middle of the country. It has no claim to fame, but I like to say, when I tell people where I’m from that I was born in Transylvania, 30 miles from where Dracula lived, and 13 days after Halloween. 30 miles to the east of Medias is the city of Sighisoara where Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, or better known as Dracula, was born. They are making a theme park in that town, so I’ve heard (here’s a bit from the BBCNews about it http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1429556.stm). But Medias doesn’t have much fame to stand by. And that may be good. I like the town the way it is. It’s in a pretty location, a river valley between to ranges of small mountains in the middle of the big towns of Transylvania: Brasov to the southeast, Sighisoara to the east, Sibiu to the southwest, Targu Mures to the north and Cluj-Napoca and Alba Iulia to the west. The cool thing, for me about Medias, is that whenever I go back there, I feel like I’m home. I have many memories of the place, none with my father ofcourse. I had enough memories to go by that when I went back to visit it the first time, during the mission, I knew exactly how to get to the apartment we lived in over 20 years ago. I recognized the maroon and green buildings. I knew the marketplace just before the pedestrian bridge crossing the Mures river. I knew the field before the apartments, and I knew which of the similar looking apartments was the one. It was this far from the main street to the east, and this far from the turn the small street the apartment is on takes to the west towards the school I went to for first grade.
My memories include horsing around with a faceless and nameless friend–some other kid from school. I wish I could remember more about him. We would slide down on our school backpacks on a snowy hill. I even remember dreams I had while living in that place of the street we lived on. There was an incident where a man was hit by a car and crushed, apparently his head was crushed by the wheels. I remember that detail because I kept trying to imagine what that meant and what it looked like. I remember the earthquake of 1977 as we rushed out of the building. None of us were hurt. I remember walking around town and eating on many occasions at this restaurant a certain food, which I cannot recall in good detail anymore, except that I know I LOVED it as a kid. I even went back to this exact restaurant to try and figure out what that food was, but without success. I remember when we moved into a temporary home with a family as we were preparing to leave Romania in the spring and early summer of 1982. They had a television, something we did not have at the other place. There was some war movie on and I remember the intense fear I felt as I watched it. Why did they do that to each other?
Something else I remmember from that period was, what I just recently learned, was a TV cartoon about animals trying to get over a great wall. It’s amazing how something like that has been on my mind over such a long period of time. For a long while I thought it was a dream I had, but my mother cleared it up for me. I asked her, once, on a whim, if she knew of it, because I was trying to pin it down. Of late, I had felt like those animals, trying to get over a big huge nasty wall with no way of doing so. The giraffe could see over the wall with his long, long neck and could see the beauty of the paradise that awaited them. The cheetah ran and ran all the way around the world until he came right back to the same spot and could not find a way around the wall. The chimpanzee tried and tried to climb the wall, but the slope was too slippery. There were other animals present. I cannot recall the whole thing, but I think the point was that a communal effort was needed if the wall was to be passed. I do not know the end of the story, which was the reason why I asked my mom. Did the animals make it accross or through the wall, or maybe the best word is passed. Because I have felt like those animals, trapped by some stupid, dumb, impenitrable wall from my destination, I needed to know. I still don’t. Maybe someone out there knows the end of the story and could tell me.
I will end here for now. If I have the motivation to continue at some other date on this story of the life of Nicolae Padigone, I will continue on with the Move to the United States in the summer of 1982.