Saturday, September 25, 2004


When the summer wanes, my mind always drifts to my Grandfather (I called him Deda).
It is at this time in September when he passed away.
My Deda was a gentle man, at least he was as I remember him.
I am told that he was hard and tough, and had a temper unrivaled.I never knew the man that they described in that way.

My Deda was one of the most non-judgmental people I have ever known.
I had never heard him say an unkind thing about anyone. He used to carry me around on his shoulders making clucking noises, stick his finger in sugar and then in my mouth, when I was very little.
He was gentle and silly with me. I knew that he had suffered in his life. He spent time in a Hungarian work camp because his brother who was a big Communist fingered him as anti.
I know that he spent time in the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Story tells that he was in the Pijaca (open market) during WWII when a snipers bullet killed a German and at that time, the Nazis took 100 for every 1 German.
My Grandfather was one of the one hundred they rounded up and took to Dachau.
He survived.
He never, ever talked about his experience in the Camp to anyone.
I know.
I’ve asked. Everyone.
However, he did say that when he came home, he came home a different person. From a man of 95kilo to a man of 44kilo. He said that the Russians dropped him at the New Yugoslavian border at the end of the war, and he walked the hundreds of miles home. When he reached that same old gray house that I hold as my life touchstone, he wouldn’t enter it.
He (and Majka (Grandmother)) said that he went straight out to the field at the back of the house, Majka prepared a lye solution, he buried his clothes and shaved his body and used the lye solution to kill the lice and other things crawling over his body before he touched anyone in the household.
He said that bodies were floating in the Tisa River, coming downstream from wherever they were murdered and dumped. I was told that the Tisa River is still considered the river of the dead. I cannot argue with that.
My mother almost drowned in that river when she was a young girl, and I saw my first dead body on the grass by the banks of that river when I was 11 years old.
A young man had drowned when he was caught in the current. I stood fascinated by his young blank face and blue pallor…thinking to myself over and over again “he’s dead”. I couldn’t come to grips with the idea that someone so young could die.
When I was 21 and visiting, the whole town attended the funeral of a young man who had waded into the river and shot himself in the head from sadness or depression.
People said that the river holds the memory of many suicides, because the people who chose to kill themselves preferred to go and “be with their ancestors”.

But, I digress…When I was a young girl visiting one summer, a man came looking for my Grandfather. When he passed the window of the pantry, I thought it was Deda back from the field…it wasn’t. It was his brother.
A brother that I didn’t know existed. He visited for a few minutes, and said he would be back.
I hounded Deda to tell me why I never knew that this brother of his existed. Deda told me that they (he and his brother) hadn’t spoken in over two decades. “Why” I asked over and over….
I was relentless. Finally, he told me; he said that his brother was in love with a Hungarian woman before the war.
He (his brother) was also in Dachau because he was one of the 100 for 1, picked up on the same day in the same market as my Grandfather. However, over the two years that Deda and his brother were in Dachau, they were separated. When Deda returned to Petrovo Selo, he regularly went to the Post Office to check the lists of the dead to look for his brothers name, and one day, he saw it.After a few days, he went to the woman that his brother loved and told her. She hung herself. A few months after, his brother returned….and never forgave him.
Deda held that. As irrational as it sounds, he understood that.
When I think about what the people of their generation endured, my heart swells. Deda’s stories, and a million others.

When I hear memories and stories like these, I understand why Serbians have such a heavy spirit. Why during the bombing of Serbia, Serbs held hands over bridges and sang while NATO bombs fell. Why they stood up, even though they knew they didn’t have a chance. Why there is such a word as “Inat” (meaning “whatever the consequences”). Why people were partying in the streets while bombs fell. My Uja Lazar said, “if it’s going to be our last night on earth, let’s celebrate and not die like dogs cowering in the corners of our homes”.
I understand that.
And I miss sitting on Deda’s little bench in front of the house, with my head on his shoulder smelling the mixture of hay and rakija on his sweater, listening to him talk.

Rest in Peace.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Me and Tata

Yesterday, while I was driving along the lakeshore, I pulled up next to a car and the driver looked like my father.

I have been estranged from my father for 20 years.
Since in my minds eye, he will always look like he did the last time I saw him, I would probably not fully recognize him if I saw him now.

I got a pang of melancholy.

People would say (even I) that,
“it doesn’t matter”.
“He wasn’t really a father to you”
“he’s essentially a stranger”.

All of these things would be, and are true.
But when you think that you see someone, who loomed so large but absent for so many years.

Even though you are an adult.
Even though he wasn’t really a father to you.
Even though he’s essentially a stranger.

Just for a split second, you wish it were him…

So that you could make him pull over, and tell him how well you did despite him.

Fathers matter.
Even though some people say that they don’t.

They do.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mama Answers

Reece asked:

Dear Mama,

Do you think a man and a woman can ever really be friends, or do you think sex(uality) will always tend to get in the way, even if just a little?

Ya, I tink so. Da vooman is alveys in control of dees tinks. Eef da vooman vant to be mor dan da friends, den eet ken heppen dis vey.

Erik asked:

If the dead were to rise from the grave (a la zombie style) should I embrace religion in an 11th hour conversion, stomp them Milla Jojvich style, or hide in a deep dark hole somewhere and hope for the best?

I tink yu get da religion rite avay. Yu should get da religion anyvay.

Anyvay, dis iz no gonna heppen. So don vorry.

Chris asked:

Mama, there seems to be two schools of thoughts about sharing recipes. Some
people will give them away to anybody who asks for them while others will
treat them like hidden treasures, perhaps giving small peeks from time to
time but otherwise keeping them locked away. What is your opinion on this
and to which one do you practice?

I geev da recipes. Vai nat?

Kim asked:

What do you do when you've had a dog since November, and despite all your best efforts, he's STILL not 100% potty-trained?

Da dag shood be outside anyvay. Vai you let him to do det in da house? Tis steenks. I vould get reed av da stinky dag.

Jacqueline asked:

My mother-in-law always wants us to go to her place for thanksgiving, but we don't want to.

Two words = Tofu Turkey.

We keep a vegetarian household, but it's really important to us to eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

How do we break it to her?

Vat to break to hair? You invite hair to yu houz and yu mek da tourkey and yu mek da vege-tables. She don like eet? She don hev to eat. Eef yu invite da peepl to yu houz yu shood mek vat dey like. She like da vege-tables rite? She's da vegetareean...she don need da tourkey.

Chris asked:

I don't get the whole Tofu Turkey thing. If people are vegetarians that's fine but give up on calling it Tofu Turkey, Tofu burgers or Tofu dogs. Just by appending a tasty meat name to the end of Tofu, doesn't change the fact that it is nothing more than coagulated soy milk . I vote that unless there is actually turkey in the food you can't call it turkey.

Oh, this is the Ask Mama thread. Hmm my question would then be, Right Mama?

Rite, rite.

David Roaten asked:

Dear Mama,
Have you ever been to a fortune teller? If so what happened? Should parents be allowed to disown their children?

Yes. I bin. Dey don no vat dey takkink. Dey jas van yu maney.

No. Da parants Kannat deesovn da chilren....meybe yu van to, bat dey steel yours.

Ice Queen asked:

Ice Prince is misbehaving at kindergarten. How can I make him obey me and the teachers?

Geev heem a kappla shamars an da battam. He gonna lissen efte dat.

Mark mai vord. Tis alveys vork for me.

Sonja asked:

Why do men like to walk around the house with barely anything on (usually with underwear only) and women don't....

Becaz dey don hev nattink to hide an da tap.

Lilly asked:


How can Crabby get her cat to stop puking every single day?

I don no. Mek heem go outside.

Lilly asked:

Mama, should Joe and I get married at Niagara On The Lake or in some cheesy, kitchy 'chapel' (I use the word loosely) in tacky downtown Niagara Falls?

Nee-a-gaara on da lek. Tis is da nice place.

Rada, she get da maarried der.

As I've said in the past. If you don't like the answers, welcome to my world.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Tour My Hometown

Mark of Check Mark and Exclamation Mark invites us to Tour his hometown, with a little history and some pictures, and asks us to invite him to ours.

Here's a little tiny tour of the part of Toronto that I grew up in.

When I was a kid, Parkdale was a neighbourhood full of Eastern European and Caribbean immigrants. Over the years it has declined, and run down...but I'm noticing that it's rising from the ashes and becoming trendy.
Just like my Uncle said that it would!

Let's start with a little story I told about the Greyhound Bus Depot at Roncesvalles and Queen, and then move on to another one about Harmony Records at Queen and Sorauren.

The Parkdale Theatre (later known as The Comesee) was where I saw my first movie.

I crossed this bridge to the lake every summer day until I was in my teens to spend time at Sunnyside Park or go swimming in the pool.

Everyone in my family who either lives here or has visited has a picture next to the Maple Leaf in High Park and The Horseshoe Falls at Nee-a-gaara.

Most of my teen years were spent nursing a cup of coffee or a plate of french fries and gravy under Peter and Spiros's watchful eye at the:

(They are still there, believe it or not)

Here ends our quick little tour of a small part of my hometown.
Yes, as I was reminded recently...I've got a soft spot for Parkdale.

There you go Mark.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Beginning of the End

For those of us who live and grew up in Toronto, the C.N.E. (Canadian National Exhibition) or "The Ex" marks the end of the summer.
The last day of the "Ex" is also the last day of freedom for students who have to go back to school the very day after the "Ex" closes it's Princess Gates.

The Mister and I went down yesterday for the first time in a really long time, and shared our memories of the fair.
Both of us being west enders, the "Ex" was a summer staple.
I grew up in Parkdale, so the last three weeks of summer were consumed by the "Ex" for me.

My very first job, (unpaid of course) was to stand in the driveway of our Tyndall Ave home with a rolled up newspaper and wave cars in for parking on the lawn during the time that the Ex was on.

My very first paid job was in the Ex, on the a restaurant, where I bussed the counter back in the day when your boss could yell at you, and tell you that you are useless and didn't know what you're doing.
And he was right, since I was 12 or 13 and had never had a job before.
I got fired for bussing a plate of french fries right out from under a customers fork.
Well, I imagine it was for a culmination of things....the french fry thing being the last straw, so to speak...

I got fired from that job, but went back to the job trailer and got another job within the hour.
This was one of the wonderful things about the C.N.E.
Another wonderful thing about working at the Ex was that I got to meet other kids my age from all over the city.
This was certainly something big, since at that time my world was pretty small.

The C.N.E. seems very different doesn't smell as bad, for one thing...but one thing does remain for me...

The memories.

P.S. I have 5 G-mail invitations available...if you're interested in one e-mail me.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Confessions of a Purse Snatcher

Benjamin at Iracible Musings wrote this entry on first memories.

In the comments, I mentioned that my first memory was of a picture taking session in a park.
The above picture is from that day.

My cousin (it turns out that she's a fan of Benjamins) weighed in with her first memory of me accidentally hitting her in the head with a gigantic crystal ashtray.
I mentioned that she had an obsession with purses when she was little.

Turns out that it runs in the family.