In our neighborhood, as in any other community, tragedies existed. They were an inseparable part of our lives, however as children we did not always understand the degree of tragedies. I guess that is a beautiful gift that is given to many of us in our childhood (not all of us, obviously), so I mostly remember the beautiful times we had together rather than the tragedies.
Long after I grew up and we started talking about the old times in the neighborhood while having a glass of wine during dinner, I started to become conscious of many of the little things we heard as children and started to put the puzzle pieces together.
There were lots of family and personal tragedies in our old neighborhood. Some of them were clumsily hidden or reticent, others could not be hidden and were lingering with us for a while, such as fires bursting out in apartments, domestic violence, or accidents.
And so was the story of Imola and Noémi*.
The girls did not live directly in our vicinity. Their apartment was two blocks away, so they had a different neighborhood. Still, everybody knew everybody, so I also knew them as I had seen them very often.
One might say that they were two very special girls. They both had long blond curly hairs and big blue eyes that were unusual enough to be considered special. Most of us had brown hairs and brown eyes.
Imola and Noémi grew up in parallel with us. They went to parallel kindergartens and schools, played on parallel playgrounds, led a parallel life in a parallel world. But still, we all knew them even if only by sight.
Their parents were educated people and had a different aura around them than the one we found around most of the neighborhoods’ people. They had certain fine manners that they gave to their daughters. They were simply delightful.
Sometimes Imola and Noémi spent the whole summer at their grandparents’ house on the countryside, so we did not see them for a longer time. However, they always made their appearance in the area in September when the school was about to begin.
The year the tragedy happened we did not even realize that they had not come back. We did not consciously think about them as we always thought them to be in their parallel universe. Only after we heard the rumors did we realize that we had not seen them for a long time.
That year, their parents took them as usual to their grandparents. Their grandmother was a mushroom connoisseur, so collecting mushrooms was something she did on a regular basis. Also on that particular occasion, she took her two granddaughters to the forest with her. In the evening she made a feast out of the mushrooms they collected without realizing that one of the mushrooms was poisonous. And it took only one small mushroom to erase the life of two beautiful young children and their grandmother. Their grandfather was not at home at that time.
Imola and Noémi went on a happy vacation and never returned alive. They died in the ambulance that took them to the hospital.
I remember long months after their deaths seeing their parents. Even if I was a small child, I could still see the huge difference in their appearance in their black clothes, the pain visibly leaving marks on their thin pale faces. Until this day I cannot imagine the pain those people went through caused by the death of both their children.
Five years later they had managed to process the tragedy and the woman gave birth to a baby girl. That was the last thing I have heard of that family.