I was so excited! My cousin Mira´s* parents allowed her to come and visit for a few days. We had made meticulous plans in our weekly letters written to each other about plays we would play and things we would do once we were reunited.

She lived on the countryside along with her three siblings (all of them boys). Even if the distance between us was barely 40 km, traveling during those days was not something very common. There was the old bus that smelled like gasoline, traveling twice a day. It took almost one hour to get to the village. Besides, it was always overcrowded, and it was more of a torture than a pleasure to travel with it.

Few people had cars those days. Not only because they were quite expensive, but most people worked in the town and there were lots of buses available. This made life easier without a car.

As our vacations were reduced exclusively to the territory of our country (visiting other countries was almost an impossible mission), and working people always got subsidized train tickets from the firms (that without exception belonged to the state), it just simply did not make much sense to own a car.

I remember the day my dad decided he would take the test for a driver´s license and never get on that country bus again. It was a hot summer afternoon and we were traveling back from the countryside, packed with lots of bags. We had to stand on our feet the whole time as the bus was jammed. I was a small child pushed from one side to the other, in the hot bus, feeling miserable and crying. When we finally arrived in town and were outside of the bus, all my father said was “That was it!” And with that he bought an old Skoda (we were all so proud of it), learned how to drive and never set foot on that country bus ever again.

There was also the mocanita*, which was much cooler. The only problem was that it was so slow, people said that if you were in the front wagon and wanted to pee, you could easily jump off and do so, and still be able to catch the last wagon. Or you could walk besides it and still get to the village at the same time.

So, Mira was coming by bus accompanied by our grandmother. We went to pick them up at the nearest station to our neighborhood, which was about 3 km away. If you were lucky and the bus driver had a good day, he would stop at the town bus’s station directly by the gostat**, but it was very risky to stand there and hope for the bus to stop, as in most cases it did not. It was safer to walk to the official village bus station.

Once we got sight of the bus turning around the corner, my excitement grew: I could finally brag with an older sister, even if it were only for a few days.

Our grandmother had made twin skirts for us. I loved those skirts! They were the symbol of two sisters´ bond. They were dark red with small white flowers on them, and we both agreed to wear them the day we would see each other.

And there we were walking hand by hand wearing our twin skirts all the way to our apartment. Behind us, grandma and mom carrying bags of food.

Grandma went back the next day and left Mira behind, and so, our adventure began.

As my parents worked during the morning (they usually returned around 2.00 – 3.00 p.m) we were left alone in the apartment, however not without getting trained about all the bad things that could happen if we were to leave the apartment or God forbid, if we let strangers in.

And so, we stayed in the apartment and got busy inventing plays. Mira was often a teacher and I a student who had not prepared her lesson, or we were grown up women having household problems. We loved to attack my mom´s closet and put on her clothes and shoes pretending to be grownups.

Often, we were a bridal couple and we dressed up accordingly: she was the groom (as she was older) and I was the bride.

Our most beloved play however was to improvise situations in which misunderstandings were created and carry on with the conversation up to the point the situation got ridiculous. We laughed until our stomach hurt.

Those days were endlessly happy and carefree.

The evenings were always magical to me and to Mira. I had a spacious bed which was declared our kingdom. Thus, when we had to go to bed, the real adventure began. It was the time to talk about scary things, about things that happened to people in the dark so that our giggling always woke my mom up, even if the bedroom was quite far away from my room. She very often startled us by opening the door and scolding us.

It was one of those nights we could not sleep. The moon was bright, and we decided to squat at the window to stare at the mysterious light outside. We continued our talk and giggling.

“Hey Moni, is it you?” The voice came from below our window.

We carefully stuck our heads outside and saw them: Lilla and Timi were also not sleeping.

“Yes! Hi!! What are you doing?” I asked in excitement.

“Telling stories. Did you hear what happened yesterday?”…

And so, the heated discussion expanded to two apartment floors, words flying up and down again, laughter and spookiness changing places and hitting the walls of the neighborhood blocks of apartments.

“I am hungry”, Timi said after a while. “I fancy some bread with lard, but we do not have any onions. Do you have some? I could give you some cooked corn in return.”

“I have to go to the kitchen and look. Wait!” I sneaked out to the kitchen and began searching for onions. In the meanwhile, Mira found a plastic bag that she tied to a rope.

Thus, the onion wondered down to the two girls and two cooked corns came up in its place. We began our midnight feast by the window.

Of course, my mom woke up and interrupted the idyll. We were scolded, Timi and Lilla were scolded. We went to bed happier than ever.



*Mira – name changed

*mocanita – small coal fueled train

*gostat – grocery store