Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wyman Family Christmas Letter -- 2005

I don't know how much my little corner (very little corner) of the blogosphere is interested, but with a week to go before Christmas, I thought I would append this.

The whole batch of us, including Jonathan and Heidi, went to Romania this summer.

Nota, billet, plata

Romanian language tapes teach you to ask for the nota at the end of the meal. At the El Greco café after some confusion, we were instructed that the word we wanted was billet. At the Princepesa, one block away, billet was not the right word, no, no. What could you mean? What could these (stupid) Americans want? You must mean plata. And then of course not plata, but nota two blocks over at Little Italy, after many gestures and consultations. I tried checque once in frustration, which they immediately recognized – and then corrected me. We never once guessed right, but we did short-circuit this game they play with Americans by using nota de plata. Take that, Daria.

“But he’s my father!”

Ben worked at the orphanage in Beius for eight weeks. The children do not see adult males that much, and are often skittish at first. Several little girls took to him quickly however, clamoring for shoulder rides and carryings. When Pamela was chastened by the Romanian women for riding so long when she could be walking, she countered “But he’s my father!” Ouch. Ben would gladly have taken any one of a half-dozen home if he could, and saying goodbye was difficult.

“The house should be right here. Huh.”

Chris and John-Adrian went back to the village of Derna for the first time in 12 years. They walked in the fields where they had been young shepherds and visited the house they had lived in. As the next house over had been torn down and the distant cousins had changed their old house, it was difficult for them to recognize it. They were pleased that several elderly babushkas remembered who they were, and the whole neighborhood gathered around to see them. Derna is fairly remote, with not a lot happening, so the visit by the boys will be a topic there for months, with those who saw them being envied by those who did not. We later learned that Chris was also a grape stomper there.

"Thongs on Parade"

More important, J-A and Chris got to spend a few days with their older brother and younger sister still in Romania, and connect them to their two American brothers. The six of them plus a fiancée, a wife, and several additional friends traveled in a pack through Oradea, including the local pool, where the swimwear is extreme for all ages. Ben blogged wryly that toplessness was less enchanting than he had expected. The troupe even allowed Tracy and I to join them, particularly when we paid for dinner. Chris expects to be back next summer working either at the orphanage or for Habitat, and will time his trip to overlap with Catalin’s projected wedding.

The year of five addresses.

From May 2005 to May 2006, Ben will have lived in Kentucky for one college semester, in Romania for the summer, in NH during vacations, in Los Angeles for a film studies semester, and in the Italian Alps for the Winter Olympics. In between, there have been short stays in Ireland, Budapest, and the Florida panhandle. This level of excitement and dislocation seems more attractive at 22 than it does at 52.

Bat Cave Baptist Church

John-Adrian has started college in marketing at North Greenville University in SC. His dorm room wasn’t ready for the first month, the school server doesn’t block viruses very well, and the campus is at the intersection of two roads going nowhere. Small signs point to unusually named Baptist churches in all directions. But he thinks NGU a good choice, all in all. I think he talks with Chris more now than he did while he was home.

“I just put him down and made him apologize. We’re friends now.”

Chris has transferred to Goffstown High, where he is now learning to be an auto technician. He toys with the idea of entering the military in 2007, then thinks no, he will train to fix BMW’s. His other grades have also gone up, and he might have his first shot at making the honor roll. That is not where he has traditionally pictured himself, but he likes it. Ben and J-A don’t share with us who they’re dating, but Chris, like Jonathan, is more open. We have worried for four years what would happen if Chris got into a fight, praying it would not be like his fights at the state orphanage. When it happened, it was pretty anticlimactic (above).

I can build you something that looks like a porch from forty feet.

1) Tracy has always wanted a screened porch. 2) Our old porch was rotting in places. 3) Having someone do the work for me would run about $10,000. Thus, I attempted it myself. Most of my previous construction experience was building theatrical sets thirty years ago, and this type of help is what my brother, who earns his daily bread teaching technical theater at Smith College, offered – as stated above. I had no designs, just ripping off pieces and adding on others. I spent a lot of time staring at the porch, considering options, and obsessing about it from June to November. I finally completed a screened porch twice the size of the previous one, including a metal roof. No major injuries. Chris helped with the labor, and if he occasionally invented his own ways of doing things when I wasn’t there, that is a small price to pay for having a son help. As it was all seat of the pants, his ideas were usually about as good as mine anyway.

I had hoped to split the difference between theatrical construction and real construction, building something that held weight and looked like a porch from 20 feet. I actually did a little better. Come see my porch, and stand about 15 feet away. “Distance adds beauty,” my brother reminds me


Anonymous said...

Wow! I've been reading your great comments over at Dr.Sanity's blog for months now and all this time I had no idea that:

a) you had a blog
b) you are practically Romanian :)

Just to confuse matters even more, both a) and b) have been made clear by a recent comment of yours at All Things Beautiful.

Anyway, I'm Romanian and I can sympathize with anyone who has to deal with waiters in Bucharest. Thanks for a good laugh. And thank you for being a friend of my country.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Glad you visited, Felicia. My boys' original Romanian names were Adrian Ionut and Dorel Cristian Parcalab.

Vorbesc putin Romaneste numai.

Anonymous said...

JSW here- you might have done better to qualify the Romanian toplessness. While you and Mom were invited to join the troupe for dinner, neither of you were invited to be topless. That's not entirely clear, and gives the family a Heinlein-esque image that we'd probably like to avoid.