The sense of adventure and of experiencing something new has always been my life companion. This is nothing particular to me, I am sure: all of us humans are curious creatures, a trait that is very vivid especially during our childhood. Our phantasies are colorful, and we push our limits to see how far we can go.
This was true for me and for many of my companions in those very remote communist times. As there was no television or internet to quickly find answers to our curiosity, we were forced to be resourceful: we were inventors of plays, we were little chemists and physicists experimenting with whatever got in our hands, we were actors and gymnasts, we were conquerors. We were everything we wanted to be.
I still think from time to time about the evening ritual I had as a child before going to bed. I even kept some small parts of those rituals up to today: they have become a part of my personality.
Each evening when the time came to go to bed, I imagined the bed as being a train compartment. I knew I had to hurry up not to miss the train and when I was in my compartment I had to make sure I had everything I wanted and closed the door tightly so that I would not fall off. It was a whole ceremony for me: taking the blanket and wrapping it around my body as if I was a mummy and finding the perfect position to feel comfortable, which would sometimes take so long that I´d be exhausted at the end. My mom would constantly get angry about this ritual since I shared a bed with her for a long time (I had my own room but was afraid to sleep in it alone). “Be done already!” she would say.
I went to sleep imagining the whistle of the locomotive was blown and our train began to move and let it take me to dreamland. The next morning, I would wake up somewhere else and I could have new and exciting adventures.
The days were always very long for us children and it was plenty of opportunities to run riot all over the place.
Going on expeditions was one of my favorite things to do and one of the things that my mom was always against. I would always get very clear instructions. “You may be outside for as long as you please if you stay in the courtyard where I can see you.” I did not get it. She saw me day and night, she knew very well how I looked like!
Another set of instructions evolved on the topic of strange people I should avoid, people who had presumably nothing to do all day long but to lurk around in bushes and capture kids. I had never seen or heard about any of those mysterious strangers having ever done any child capturing, so I was very much in doubt of their existence.
Anyway, I obeyed my mom´s wishes most of the time. Sometimes though the temptation of finding and exploring a new place made me weak. And when the longing took over me, I started persuading my friends to join me. We would be only gone for a few minutes; our parents would not even notice us missing (that was very realistic considering that we were a bunch of shouting kids).
So that is what we did, and the story always had the same ending.
First, we only went to the next block where we could explore the trees and bushes: fantastic places to climb up to or crawl underneath.
High up on the trees we were imagining to be on skyscrapers we only heard about. Underneath the bushes, we were able to find whole new worlds of underground bunkers and dark hiding places. And as soon as we knew each branch of the trees and each dark corner of the bushes, we expanded our journey to further places, such as even to new neighborhoods across the main street. Forgetting the time was preprogrammed.
We were so deep into our adventures that we got pulled back into reality by the darkness that had begun falling. By that time, it was already too late: organized armies of parents were searching for us, screaming our names.
Suddenly I was struck by the fear of punishment, and yes, it was too late for every possible apology.
I remember running back to the neighborhood as fast as I could. My friends were following me, also pushed by their fears of their parents, blaming me again for the whole situation. As if they did not want the adventure and were forced by my gun. No sir, they were all in.
The first person I saw when I got near the neighborhood was Tibi, a kid that was three years younger than me.
“Moni, your mom is looking for you… and she has a stick in her hand!” he shouted when he saw me.
Ooh boy, I really was in trouble.
And then I saw it: the scared and angry red face of my mother. She looked at me and said in a calm voice: “You just keep walking, mademoiselle!”
I began crying and begging and explaining. She kept quiet all the way to our apartment. When we entered, I noticed that my father was not at home.
“You gave me the scare of my life! We searched for you everywhere for over an hour! Your father is still out there!”
I feared being beaten. I had only received a few strokes on my butt with two occasions in my whole life, but I understood that my mom had been seriously scared for me.
So finally, she did the unexpected: she held me in her arms. Her relief was much stronger than her anger.