Friday, April 1, 2011

Emilia Romatowska


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.




I woke to the memory of a name: Emilia Romatowska. Sometimes it comes to you this way, sudden and contextless as the scent of salt on the wind when you are not near any ocean.

The scene followed in a rush of detail. Curled up in the big leather armchair in my grandparents' formal parlor, hugging my knees, downcast over a romantic reversal. I'm fifteen. My grandfather Max listens to my story and counters with one of his own. The name of my heartache is long gone now, but the name of his remains: Emilia Romatowska.

She was dark-haired and dark-eyed, he tells me, a real beauty. A heartbreaker, I loved her once. But alas, he says, it wasn't in the stars for us. Good thing too or you wouldn't be here!

Is is not in the details that I find comfort--of his days working at great-grandpa Benjamin's tailor shop in Brooklyn, long evenings of night school, fortuitous hours that yielded the prize of Emilia, of the girl and her pretty ways, how he took so boldly her young immigrant hand--not so much in these details, but in the telling itself. He says her name again and there is a note in his voice, a certain delight in the tale of his downfall, as if he has just unwrapped a caramel, and eaten it, and his mouth is still full of the taste.

Sixty years after the fact, there is a fresh feel to it--the hunt, notes passed and walks taken, a pleasant yearning, the very loss of love itself--even at fifteen, I hear my grandfather's words, see his smile (half rueful, half wry, no part sad), and am reeling from sudden epiphany: these old pangs are what keeps one really alive.






p.s. don't forget to check out more Sepia Saturday posts HERE

18 comments:

mapstew said...

Just beautiful! You have a rare gift dear Leah. :¬)

xxx

Leah said...

Thank you Stew, really. I haven't been blogging at all and decided to go crazy and post every day in April, a memory for each day...

Jimmy said...

Descriptive, refreshing, nicely worded and very well written. An endearing period piece of which others should sit up and take actual note.

Leah said...

Well thanks Jimmy! This month is dedicated to you.

Tracey said...

This made me smile. I am not sure why exactly. Maybe because it captures something...true. Is that is? It does not ring hollow. Thank you for sharing.

Marilyn said...

This is a very beautiful tale so lovingly told.

Jinksy said...

An exceedingly well written memory. You have created a little gem in honour of Emilia Romatowski. :)

Baino said...

Leah you have described everyone's first love. Some are lucky enough to keep them but like you're grandpa, mine still has the mouth full of the flavour of caramel. You write beautifully.

Karen S. said...

What lovely words those in poem form and the others in story telling. Isn't it funny how we hold dear those talks and stories told to us by grandparents especially! Wonderful memories to share! Have a blessed weekend ahead!

Betsy said...

What a sweet memory! And how lovely you wrote it!

Alan Burnett said...

That process of memories and half-imagined names and places is a perfect description of what it is sometimes like gazing into an old photograph and trying to fix reality like you would fix an image in a darkroom.

Kristin said...

I really enjoyed this and the tiny photo of your grandfather. and the photo of the street and the memory of lilacs.

barbara and nancy said...

Such a beautiful remembrance - so beautifully told.
Nancy
Ladies of the grove

Christine H. said...

Beautifully written. It created such a lovely image of her and your grandfather in my mind. I know she would be honored.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

Indeed a great piece of writing. I love your stories. I scrolled down to some of your other post. Great blog.
QMM

imagespast said...

A strong memory which you will never forget, and such beautifully crafted words :-) Jo

Bob Scotney said...

You have a way with words; a beautifully written account of a memory. I forgot about the photo.

Pat said...

Not for all the tea in China would I ever be a teenager again.
How marvellous and rare to have a Grandpa who actually told you stuff about himself without turning it into a moral sermon.
You must have had a great relationship.