Through the delicate web of memories, fragments of my childhood come before my eyes. I see my mother emerging from the bathroom, her hands red and fingers stiff from the cold water. I see a pile of laundry; clothes belonging to my three brothers and me, draped over a board placed on the edge of the bathtub. Mother would usually say, “Let it drain, I’ll hang it up to dry by tomorrow.” And us, children being children, would go outside every day, returning dirty, sweaty, sometimes scratched and torn. Mother would sigh and say, “Take that off, wash up, and come eat.”
I remember being upset with my mother when she would bake a cake on Sundays. It would always be an apple pie or a date pastry. I asked her why she didn’t make a cake like my friend’s mother, filled with walnuts and decorated with whipped cream. There was no answer, just another deep sigh. I remember a piggy bank shaped like a duck, proudly sitting on the black-and-white television that often broke down. Dad would fix it, and it was always the same fault: the PC 282 bulb would burn out. Every time dad got his salary, he would put small coins into the bank. He explained that’s how we save. I asked him, when the piggy bank is full, would he buy me the roller skates I so desired. And without hesitation, he said, “You’ll get them.” Mother just sighed again.
I don’t know how much time passed, but dad brought home blue roller skates. My joy knew no bounds. Mother just sighed again.
I remember they always bought us clothes one size bigger. Mother would say our feet grow quickly and they would fit perfectly next year. I remember us sitting at a large table: mother, father, my three brothers, and me. We were having lunch. In our plates, there was a piece of meat, in theirs, none. Naively, I asked why they didn’t eat meat. They said adults would get warts around their mouths if they ate meat.
I remember the first salary of my eldest brother. He came home with a new radio with a gramophone and a vacuum cleaner. I don’t recall if we children were excited about it, but I’ll never forget how happy my mother was. How beautiful she looked as her face radiated joy. She would glance at the radio, then at the vacuum cleaner. The broom’s reign had finally ended. I remember the next day, mother went to a neighbour’s for coffee, which she rarely did. My two brothers and I were left alone, promising to be good and not make a mess, jump around or fight.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but we decided to try out the vacuum cleaner and began to fight over who would do it. In the commotion, the pipe (they were metal back then) flew straight into the radio, shattering the glass. I’ll never forget the sound of breaking glass. I remember mother’s return and her astonished look as she saw us sitting quietly on the sofa. We were petrified, waiting for punishment, but there was none. No scolding, no spanking. She just sighed again and began to tidy up, carefully picking up shards of glass from the carpet.
Mother is long gone, but for years I’ve been haunted by why I didn’t warm her tired and frozen hands with kisses. Why didn’t I tell her that apple pie and date pastries were my favourite desserts? Why did I ask for roller skates when she should have bought herself double-buckled blouse, like the ones her colleague at work had? There are so many “whys”. But now, as I have my own children and grandchildren, I know I had the best mother in the world and that I had a happy childhood.
About the Author
Gordana Čolić lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She writes poems and prose including short stories. Her writing relies on her inner life as much as her love for the family and the people that surround her.
Throughout 40 years, along with her career in public service and raising her family, Gordana has written a collection of over 200 short stories and poems.