I lived apart from my parents between my first and fifth birthdays, and then once again a couple years later for several months. People I was left with were first my grandparents, then an unknown to me lady. They all had full time jobs or other responsibilities, and left me alone all day long, alone.
My initially estranged paternal grandparents took care of me while my young professional parents were pursuing their career goals in another city. My parents visited me a few times during those years, and even a couple of other relatives did, once.
My grandparents were not affectionate towards me. They disagreed with their son's choice of partner, and saw me as an unfortunate result of it, which forced the marriage and complicated their life. They perceived my mom as a frivolous and arrogant big city girl, as far as I could tell later.
Only once, when I was already fourteen or so and came to visit, my grandmother told me a few non-critical words about my mother: she was pitying her for enduring her own son, after my father shouted at his mother in front of me with full rage. She told it to me in confidence, later, while giving me a gift: her big silver ring. I never told my father any of it.
Both my grandparents were working full time, so they used to leave me alone, often tied to a table, to prevent me from running away or hurting myself. At the table I could draw, and later read.
My granddad taught me the alphabet when I was two, and recognizing Cyrillic letters in a newspaper was one of my first memories in life. I could read by four, not very fast though.
Sitting behind my grandfather on his motorbike, we were often riding around the town.
He played accordion, and made some extra money by playing on weddings and parties, and sometimes I went with him to sing the songs he taught me. I only remember who of them now, they are beautiful love songs, one is from a guy's prospective on love, another from a girl's.
Several things I remember clearly about those years, in chronological order:
- Red cherries in green leaves, and all other fruits and berries from the orchard, gathering them, sun-drying; aroma of the sweet pea plants, raspberry bushes under plum trees.
- My grandfather encourages me to read newspaper titles.
- Swallows are nesting in the potato storage building.
- A white puppy runs out on the street and is killed by a car - I see him afterwords;
- A white baby goat with whom I used to play is butchered in our yard by a hired professional;
- A new black puppy is living in a dog house in the yard, and is loosely chained soon. Chapa would recognize and greet me after many years of absence, when I was 12-13 - she ran towards me with the joy I will never forget.
- Night after night, in almost complete silence, I lay in bed between my grandmother and a wall without sleep, afraid of the monster under the bed, who would would grab me if I move, as she told me. Eventually, after an hour or so, I drift into sleep. I am amazed in the morning I am still there.
- A glowing eagle sculpture in the rarely used, and perfectly maintained second living room of the house. A large portrait of a lady hanging over the doors into this room from the primary greeting room (Stranger by Kramskoy).
- My grandfather punishes me for something with a heavy belt, many times. I barely recall the pain and do not remember the reasons, only the humiliation of the process and the threatening trajectory of the buckle - probably imagined while I could not see it.
- I hide under a round table with a long red velvet cover, for a long time, many times.
- My friends find and eat a raw potato on our way to a long tree swing, we are dirty and happy.
- My parents come to visit and give me a delicious banana. Later, my mother liked to laugh about my telling her then that my grandmother was hitting me with a chair. This obvious lie was exposed right there to everyone's amusement.
After puberty, I destroyed the few photographs of me taken on one of those days. I could not look at that sad tiny kid, and did not want it to exist.