I think the beginning is what really defined me and made me feel the way I do today. It is so important for me to go back there and find the reasons why I cannot let go of certain things.
Over time I have begun forgetting events and stories, I find myself different from other people because a lot of them remember things so specifically.\
I remember a few things. I remember the freedom I wanted and to defy all rational logic of needing to be in a specific place and time and following instructions. I would break all rules, climb up furniture, run around with children, take them to restricted places, enjoy the friendly smiles of those around me. I remember not having much, but appreciating what I did have.
I remember stealing money for ice creams and getting caught. I remember being reprimanded for not following instructions, for writing my letters untidily, for coming home late.
I remember the love I had from my grandparents and the loss I had from wanting to be with my parents who were working far away. I remember not remembering how they looked like, being abandoned by them. The pain is nothing like the pain I have today, because I cannot recall being able to rationalise it, only to experience it.
You have heard it before “Children can be so mean”, they can especially when they feel that there is pain they can reach. It only takes one to influence the rest. When I was about 5 years old I called out a friend to play and the older kids saw this and as I have always been an outspoken, bossy child they decided to play a prank on me. “Oh, the Queen has arrived” they joked. Then they called out for my little friend and off she went listening to their poison. She stayed with them and wouldn’t play with me any longer. I fetched another friend, the same thing happened, then another. Until all the friends I could find were on the playground in a group making fun of me.
Then the bigger kids got hold of me and they dressed me up in rags as their queen and made fun of me. I tried to run away and eventually I did. Innocently I never thought to walk away in the beginning nor to go and play in another playground nearby. I didn’t then believe that the obvious was going to happen and yet it did. Similarly I think in the same way today and still wonder why I have not learnt my lesson.
Moving away was kind of fun and sad. I was finally given the chance to live with my parents by moving to Africa. I would be leaving behind 5 of the most precious people in the world to me. The few days before we left I remember the last thing we did for my grandmother we took off all the old wallpaper off of the wall. It was so cathartic.
I’m now on a plane with my mother, a woman I didn’t know, a woman I had spent an amazing summer with in Greece, a woman who I knew loved to sleep and who used to storm in the house and fight with my grandmother and leave. She was one of the people I wanted to please. When I was about 7 years old, I remember her asking me to let her know when the news was going to be on. In those days I wore slippers that had no grip and when I ran to let her know I slid straight into the most dire cupboard edge. I split my head open, but I didn’t feel any pain. The suddenly I felt a gush of heat coming down my face. When I touched my head the blood stains on my finger tips send a wave of shock and distress into the core of my body. I don’t remember much after that only flashes. Flashes of blankets being wrapped around my head, my mother asking me why I ran, flashes of the taxi speeding to the hospital, flashes of the huge needle they wanted to stick me up with and finally peace in falling asleep.
South Africa was a foreign place to me. Two new languages, different types of people. New school! By that time I had changed school 3 times and I was only 9 years old. More than anything I have always enjoyed drawing. I was better than all the other kids at mathematics. They had move me up a few grades because of my age. I had started school late, this left a few gaps in my education. It doesn’t matter where I was because even in the new school my obsession with the Kirate Kid movie at the time didn’t win me any favours.
Two boys kept harassing me about being a karate kid and I eventually kicked both of them in the sacred boy place. At least the teacher was on my side, she put them in detention and not me for having done so grievous bodily harm.
Eventually my parents had enough money for the first time to move out of our tiny little apartment to a nice house, where I could have my own room. Apart from the summer that my mom bought me so many clothes I can’t remember being so excited about something tangible. My aunt always used to spoil me with barbie dolls, without her I wouldn’t even have had anything girly to play with, but only hand-me-downs from my dad’s time. I never asked for anything because I knew our situation and I would prefer to be closer to my parents and not have toys, then to have them working in the province as they did so they could provide for us. Their lives must have been difficult, but I didn’t really understand it then. My mom asked me to pick what clothes I wanted and I would pick one item off of the beautifully laid out tables with pretty colourful dresses. She said more and I would pick another, until she helped me pick a whole new wardrobe worth.
I failed to mention that whenever I stayed with my parents, my life revolved around the hospital. I grew up handing over instruments to my dad in surgery and reviewing X-Rays with my mom. I won’t go into the more gruesome things I didn’t think anything of at the time. My favourite was when my mom used to carry me to school on her back or in her arms, I felt so loved and cared for. One day she fell really ill and I had to take care of her. I did….and thank God she got better.
Everything I learnt was from observation, my grandmothers have had such fundamental role in bringing me up.
So in South Africa once we moved into this new house, I began to go to a new school yet again. My parents began to work hard and now without any grandparents to care for me, I had to go to after school.
The most familiar cooked meal, the quickest my parents could make was, meatballs (kefte) and fried chips (hence my love for them to this day) and salad, which I never really ate unless it was just cucumber and lettuce with lots and lots of vinegar.
I started taking care of my family by washing dishes (which was really not something I enjoyed, but I do now), ironing their clothes, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, the garden, the pool, the car and all I ever wanted in return was to go to a movie with the family.
My first Experience with Death
After my second year of school in South Africa I begged my parents to send me back to Bulgaria so that I could visit my grandparents. I assured my parents I would get good grades and that I would be a good little girl if they would allow me to do so. They eventually did buy me a ticket and I went back very hopeful that the first 2 people I would see would be my grandmother and my great grandmother. Little did I realise what was waiting for me.
I arrived by the familiar flat and as we were climbing out of the car with my grandmother I began shouting “Mother Vaska, come out I am here! Mama.” There was no response at the window, I screamed over and over again only to face my grandmother now opposite me crying. I knew, I just knew something was wrong.
“Where is she?” I innocently asked. “She is gone” she replied. I was broken.
I can’t remember anything from then on, the whole holiday and trip back is now a blur.
Did anyone say German?
And some time went by when my mom decided that I should be going to a European school. Now in South Africa, there was only one European school – Deutsche Shule.
This would now be my 5th school and I was not even in high school yet.
All this moving around exposed me to a lot of bullying, being the new kid always is. I swallowed these events and became more and more secluded. Learnt to entertain myself and not need much else. My body also began to change and more embarrassing things I had to cope with that I didn’t understand, peer pressure made me start shaving my legs, hiding the fact that I had my first period which came with so much pain that I passed out, boobs and bra’s and things I was trying to get used to having to deal with.
Until now boys and girls were equals, but in this school they seemed to play in different groups. The new language wasn’t helping me, because it made me to be one of the worst performing kids in the class. I didn’t understand anything that the teachers were saying. I could hear the words, and I thought to myself if I can hear it and I concentrate hard enough then I will be able to understand it. I really didn’t!
Over time I began being able to speak more, but my grades were always low and my parents were getting fed up with me. Their pressure on me made me want to start lying to them. My whole life they abandoned me and now when I finally started living with them they began abandoning me because I wasn’t performing like they had wished? What other choice did I have.
Don’t think that this lasted long, because I was eventually caught out and had to do extra lessons at school, which at least helped me pass my grade.
Unfortunately during this time I also was diagnosed with pneumonia.