Yesterday, my friends in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia celebrated Easter. Five weeks after American Easter, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Probably for the first time since I left Europe 13 years ago (and Romania 18 years ago), I forgot Orthodox Easter. It’s not like I ever do anything about it rather than write “Hristos a înviat!” or “Христос воскрес!” on their Facebook walls, but I’ve always remembered. Until now.
I’m afraid I’m losing my connection to a place to which I feel incomplete when I’m away. And to people who have become part of the fabric of who I am. That scares me.
My language ability is as rusty and squeaky as an old gate from lack of use. Sure, there are terms which just work better in Romanian. I still use them and even my non-Romanian-speaking husband knows what they mean. De geăba. Şmecher. Nemaipomenit. Sunt de acord.
I loved Easters overseas. I remember the first one in Bucharest, celebrating with people who’d been denied the right to worship freely, and brainwashed that God didn’t exist, for 45 years. Hundreds of us filed up to a hilltop monastery at midnight to hear the bells ring out that Jesus had risen. Then we stayed up all night, cracking red hard-boiled eggs on each other’s foreheads, until it was time to go to church. The freedom and joy people felt to enter a church and proclaim The Name above all names was palpable.
And then a couple years later, it was on Easter that King Mihai returned to his adoring fans in Romania after his long exile. I watched the parade from my apartment balcony and knew I was seeing history unfold.
When I moved to Cluj, we were caught between two worlds and two calendars – the Romanian Orthdox one and the Hungarian Catholic one. That meant we had two Easter celebrations. Sometimes they were a month apart, sometimes two weeks, but I don’t ever remember them being five weeks apart or any Easter happening in May. It sure added a challenging dimension to planning spring semester events with a full month when only half the college students were in town.
Easters in Hungary brought new customs. Perfume being sprayed on unsuspecting girls downtown. Hand-painted eggs in lovely pastel colors and designs. The whole city shutting down for Easter Monday. Traveling by train to spend the weekend with my friend in the old world city of Vienna.
And this year I forgot. Am I becoming so acclimated to America that I’m losing Europe? Are my memories and my consciousness of such a formative time in my life becoming dim?
The big issue for me is whether this is a normal, perhaps even good, signal that it’s time to move on. Or, as it feels, do I need to fight to keep connected? Leaving Europe was the biggest loss I’ve ever encountered, and it hurt so much that, in a self-protective way, I had to put some distance emotionally between me and what I no longer have. To be able to bond to my husband, I had to partially close that door, while still keeping it a little ajar.
What about you. Is there any period of your life that you are afraid you’re losing your connection to? Can you no longer recall on demand the look and voice of significant people who are no longer present, either because of distance or death? How do you try to recapture the memories?