Category Archives: Memories

Let’s enjoy the ride

We came back yesterday from our Easter vacation in Germany with my husband’s family. It was a wonderful vacation: colourful, vibrant, engaging in a house where five children and six adults gathered to see each other after a long time.

Today, while taking care of my sweet baby Emma, I switched on music, to which I listened before we took off for Germany. This was The Greatest Hits by James Taylor, Volume 2.

A short back-story: A friend introduced me to James’s Taylor music many years ago. I fell immediately in love with his soothing music, gentle voice and wonderful lyrics. Since discovering his songs, I wanted to see him live in concert. In the beginning of the last year, I found out that he was coming to Denmark, to Århus, just a bit more than one hour car-drive away from Aalborg, where we live. I am the only James’s Taylor fan in my family, so no one was keen to come with me. Earlier I would then decide that I couldn’t go alone, be bitter and blame the others for me not being able to do what I wanted to. But that time was different. I already discovered by then that taking responsibility for my own life can be real fun and that no one can live my life for me except myself. So, I decided to go alone.

Actually, I wasn’t quite alone. I was pregnant with Emma: big, round belly nicely showing. I attracted many curious looks followed by smiles when I met the gaze of people passing by or neighbours in the row where I was seated. I danced, sang along and enjoyed the concert immensely. Since this concert I have a key-chain with the title of this concert’s tour and a picture of James Taylor. I bought it to remind me that it is up to me to achieve or not my dreams. That I can go wholeheartedly where my instinct and my life take me instead of resisting and spoiling the adventure.

Last week, while packing for our Easter journey to Germany I recalled that babies recognize sounds and music they hear in their mother’s womb. So I made a test and played James’s Taylor music to Emma. I was delighted to discover that she stopped crying, looked around, as if trying to remember, and then slowly drifted into sleep while I was gently dancing with her in my arms to James’s music.

Today, while listening to the album again together with Emma, the following words caught my attention:

“Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.

The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.”

From Secret O’ Life

I smiled, searched the lyrics on-line, pinned it to my favourites bar, and wrote this post.

Picture: Niklas enjoying a train ride at a fun fair in Magdeburg this Easter Sunday.


A surprising memory

34It occurred to me today that I haven’t shared my memories since October. So today I decided to look into old pictures and see which one and what it would prompt me to write.

I chose this one:34

This picture was taken in 1980 or 1981 somewhere in the Algerian Sahara. The tent behind me belonged to a nomadic family making a stop there. There were several tents of this kind in this temporary village. Neither my mother nor I am sure where this was. My guess is that it was not far from Ghardaia, which is situated about 600 km further south from Algiers, the capital of Algeria, and more than 800 km toward south from Annaba, the city on the Mediterranean coast, where my parents and I spent three years from 1979 to 1982.

This nomadic family or community opened their homes to tourists, so we could take a look at their homes inside. They left wonderful memories of walls and floors covered with colourful carpets with intricate ornaments. I remember feeling at home there and not quite wanting to leave. Some of the tents were empty and in one there was a dog. This dog followed me outside and posed for the photograph above.

I always had respect for dogs and still do. I don’t think I was afraid of them, well, maybe of the really big ones, but I was always aware that they have their own will and I preferred to let them decide whether they liked me or not. I don’t know why but I thought that the latter was mostly the case.

But not for this dog. He (somehow I thought that it was a ‘him’, although I would never know) followed me everywhere we went around this nomadic village until we climbed into our car and left. I remember waving to him as we left. He didn’t chase our car. He just stood there and watched.

This last sight of him came up today when I looked at this long forgotten picture. What a sweet surprise to recall a friend whom I knew for just a very short while.

Two strangers, two smiles, two unforgettable memories

Algiers Airport,

Summer 1981

One bench. Many people. Among them two mothers and two girls. Mothers speak different languages. Each girl can understand the language of her own mother. Not of the other.

One girl is me. The other is blond with big blue eyes.

She looks at me. She shrugs. And smiles.

I smile back.

She shows me what she has in her hands. It’s a small toy.

I look down at my hands and see small unused stickers of animals with moving eyes. I show them to her.

We exchange the objects in our hands. We examine them and make playful movements with them. We exchange glances. We smile.

An announcement. My mother stands up and gathers our bags.

Another announcement. My friend’s mother stands up and gathers their bags.

The blue-eyed girl and I give back our toys to each other.

We smile. We wave. We go away.

I still remember you and your smile, my dear friend of several minutes.

Copenhagen Airport,

Spring 2009

I walk through the busy hall. Small, colorful shops at my left. I pass a stall with soft drinks and snacks at my right.

Someone looks at me.

I raise my head and see a woman with dark long hair in red sari.

A friend or a relative of hers in green sari is busy searching for money in her bag.

The woman in red looks at me. And smiles.

I am confused. I feel my forehead unfolding and corners of my mouth widen into a smile.

I walk by. Still smiling.

The woman in red sari accompanies me the whole day. I see her eyes and her smile, every time she appears in my thoughts.

She still appears time to time in most unexpected moments. And then I smile.


Two strangers. Two smiles. Two unforgettable memories. They warm my heart through the years. Every time they appear. And they always appear when my smile makes other people smile.

Picture: My sweet little stranger I discover every day. “Mama, make a picture of me, when I look the other way.”


Men’s friendship

With this post I am starting a new category in my blog. There are some jokes that I very much like and cherish, and would like to share with you and at some point also with my children, grandchildren and so on. They are too funny and too wise to be forgotten and are always wonderful to be rediscovered. I am sure that I will revisit this category many times to reread various jokes I have heard and learned over the years.

I first heard the joke, I would like to share with you today, when I was a teenager. And it is one of the first to come to my mind when somebody asks me to tell a joke or if a girlfriend exclaims: “Men!” when men are holding together in a discussion.

Here it comes.


A man is very late when he comes home. His wife is waiting for him and asks where he’s been.

“Oh, I went to Pit’s place and we had a beer, then another, then one more. We completely forgot about time. You know how it is. Then I had to wait long for a bus. Sorry, honey, for making you worry.”

Right after that, his wife calls Pit: “Hi, Pit. How are you? Yes, yes, I am well too, thank you. Listen, tell me, was my husband at your place today?”

The answer comes promptly: “Yes, sure! He’s still here!”

Picture: My father valued friendship a lot and he was of opinion that friendship with a man was the strongest. Later I have learned that friendship does not depend on gender. Here is a picture of my father in 1962 in Odessa, shortly after his wedding with my mother, who was probably his only best friend among women, his greatest love and his soul mate. I have also posted this photograph on my home page today. I love my father’s relaxed and happy gaze on this picture.


Sense of smell as time travelling machine

I am amazed again and again about the dimensions with which we can percept the world. We can see, we can touch, we can hear (maybe not always listening), we can taste and we can smell. We can also feel the world in many other ways too, outside of what is considered to be traditional five senses. But even the five already blow my mind how they provide us with five dimensions (four additional to the three of vision) to experience the world around us. Simply amazing!

Every living being has one or more leading senses. My father had incredible strength of vision. Once as we were driving on a not illuminated road in Algeria in the middle of night, he suddenly stopped the car on the side lane, walked out of the car and went some distance so that my Mom and I lost him out of sight. He came back holding a black umbrella, which we brought back with us to Moldova and which we used for many years to come. We still keep wondering how he could have seen a black umbrella in the middle of the night.

My sister’s hearing sense is close to miraculous. When I was a kid, I hated it, because she could hear every single complain I had about her to my Mom. And I loved complaining. I will not exaggerate too much saying that my sister can hear through walls and closed doors without any intention and without any special tools. I was not the only one not liking it. Her students were not quite comfortable with it either. They had no chance to gossip behind her back during her lectures. But ultimately, they didn’t have to. They loved her too much. She still stays in contact with quite a few of them after so many years.

My mother has also a good vision, but more in a photographic sense. I remember when we went sightseeing in a town we had never been before. On our way back to the holiday apartment my Mom found the way immediately, while my sister and I argued which turn to take.

My niece is brilliant in hearing and listening. She and also my husband are the masters in concentrating on a task at hand and focusing. I am still to find out what my son’s leading sense is. Right now, it looks like all five. Or more.

I’ve been blessed with a sharp sense of smell. When I tell this to somebody, many start wrinkling their noses sympathizing with me having to experience the bad smells stronger than others. The interesting thing is, I don’t remember having been shocked by some really bad smells. I surely disliked one or another, but those that remained in my memory are all about wonderful experiences.

And the best thing about these smelling highlights is that they transport me into the world of wonderful experiences I have made long time ago.

I probably won’t be unique to say that I used to suppress my past and tried to negate it in one or another way. I used to think that after my father’s death most of it was negative. But my top three smelling experiences I have had after leaving Moldova have proven to me that the time after my father’s death was full of many wonderful memories about it and that not all in the “Soviet times” was that bad.

Sicily, summer 2007. My husband and I had spent that summer vacation in Sicily. One of the highlights of our vacation was the eruption of Etna on our last evening there. We were watching it from a safe distance from the hotel terrace and calling our families who were watching it through a live-cam on the Internet. Another memory is connected to the taste senses, when we walked into a small pizzeria on top of one of the mountains outside of Taormina and the owner of this little business has served us the simplest but most amazing dishes we have ever tasted. Dipping fresh bread into olive oil was like a beautiful song.

The highlight connected to my sense of smell happened when we walked along one of the old narrow streets of Taormina, which we did quite often during that vacation. At some point I told to Michael: “Wow, can you smell it?”

“No. What?”

“Freshly cooked tomato sauce with fried onions! Can’t you really smell it? It’s so strong!”

“No, I can’t.”

After walking about twenty meters, Michael said: “Now that you say it, I can feel something, but it’s quite weak.”

I was in awe that I could experience this wonderful aroma from the very beginning to the end of the long street. I sighed with pleasure and said: “Just like my Mom used to do!”

It was the year before my sister, my niece, my husband and I, and a bit later my mother moved to Denmark and my closest family was reunited again after twelve years apart. Since 2008 I could taste many meals with that famous sauce from my Mom.

Darmstadt, Germany, Fall 2000. Indian restaurant. I worked as a post-doctoral assistant at the Technical University Darmstadt during that time. One of our guest PhD students from India has recommended me an Indian Restaurant in Darmstadt, the meal in which, he claimed, tasted just like at his home in India. He said that usually the Indian restaurants outside of India were often very different from what they were at home. But this one had the flair and the meals just like in India, where to locals would go, not the tourists. My colleagues and I were intrigued. So we went there.

When I entered through the door, I was struck by both vision and smell memories. It wasn’t the smell of a particular meal. It was an overall smell of the room. And the hand-woven carpets and rugs lying on the floors confirmed what place I had been reminded of. This restaurant smelled and felt exactly as the houses of my relatives in the villages around fifty kilometers away from the capital we lived in. When we couldn’t go on vacation, my mother sent me to my great-aunt for a couple of weeks. Or we went to the village and the house my mother grew up.

I somehow thought that I didn’t like those times because I always thought of myself as a city girl. But being transported from the Indian restaurant to those places, made me remember that there were wonderful experiences with animals our relatives had, with flowers, picking cherries in summer, getting warm near the old stoves in winter. And walk over all those hand-woven carpets and rugs. Simply wonderful.

Outskirts of Bonn, Germany, Spring 2005/2006. Bonn and its surroundings offer a lot of great hiking routes and Michael and I used to hike many times there just the two of us and with friends. On one of the hiking tours with our friends I caught up a familiar but long forgotten smell. I stopped, turned around. And saw them. Rose bushes! Tall bushes with gigantic light pink flowers open completely to the sun, showing their yellow middle to the world. These were tea roses. You would not usually find them in a flower shop. They are not quite suitable for bouquets and flower arrangements. These flowers are used for perfumery, medicine. And in Moldova they are also used by many in baking and in confectionary.

I ran to those bushes and called all the friends who were with us and made them smell. “This is the true smell of a rose! Not the one you buy in a shop. Smell it! Smell it!”

All girls on the tour joined me and agreed. They loved it. “But how do you know?”

“Ah!” I was thrilled to be able to share one of my childhood stories. “The students at the Universities and sometimes the students finishing the ten classes, equivalent to high school, were taken to collective farms to help with the harvest. While at school, I remember two such harvesting trips. One was to gather apples. And the other was to gather petals of tea roses.”

We had to gather baskets full of petals and we had to be very careful with them, in order not to damage them. Therefore the work had to be done with bare hands. We ended up with many scratches. But I was simply bathing in that wonderful tea rose aroma. It was like from the little rose oil bottle my Mom got as a present, but was much more gentle and embracing.

The boys first protested doing this and claimed it to be girly work, but later were taken by the competition who could gather the most baskets in the shortest time. I don’t think I managed to finish one.

All these experiences and many other have transported me to the time after my father died and reminded me of wonderful times I have had with my family, relatives and friends, while growing up. I am in pure wonder of the way how fast and how exact the sense of smell leads me to the exact memory in a flash. Immediately with a wonderful experience I am transported into time and space of my childhood or my teenager time. There is not a glimpse of thinking or wondering where I could have experienced it. It is just immediately clear. And all I can think is: “Wow! That is wonderful and what I have experienced is so amazing and uplifting.”

Whatever your favorite and leading sense is: let it transport you to the wonderful times and moments, I am sure, you have experienced in your past. Past is not something to worry about that it could repeat itself. It is something to include, to take pride and pleasure in. It led to where you are today. To the beautiful moment of now.

What was your latest time travel to your past?

Pictures: With my strong sense of smell I simply devour flowers. You can find me quite often with my nose poked into a flower, however strong and dizzying its odor might be. I can’t get enough! A clematis in my parents-in-law backyard, Germany, and a young rhododendron bush at the zoo, Aalborg, Denmark.

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