In front of our building there was a kindergarten. We liked to jump over the fence that was surrounding it, hide in the bushes, and wait for the man that was watching the property to finish his last round. It was way before dark. We could still spend time outside. We were making castles in the sand or playing on the playground.
When the weather got warmer, we climbed trees and did gymnastics there in the grass. I loved the fresh smell and feel of the overgrown grass. Sometimes we just rolled in it and laughed. It felt like rolling on a very soft rug.
I would have loved to go to that kindergarten. Even later when I got a bit older I liked to peak through their windows and looked at the toys and the colorful walls. I envied the kids that attended that school. It didn’t cost anything to go there. I begged my mother so many times to enroll me in their program. I could never understand why she refused to do so.
One day, I saw this girl playing there. She slowly came towards me. There was a chain fence that separated us. We looked at each other for a while without saying anything. I noticed how pretty she looked in her light blue dress uniform with white collar and red bow. When I started school she happened to be in my class. We began a friendship that lasted until the end of high school and slowly faded away in college when things started to change for us.
A child’s upbringing was very important to people. Coming from a highly educated family had a great significance to your reputation as a child. My friend’s parents had college degrees. At that time, there were not that many highly educated people in our neighborhood. Teachers always preferred to have a child in their classes coming from such families. My parents did not have a higher education but they were hard working people that tried to fit in through their children’s education.
During those times, it was very difficult to raise children. We were three children in our family. Two of us earned a college degree. To get your teachers’ attention you had to come from a good family or had to work hard so they could not deny your abilities. Also, children coming from highly educated families preferred to hang out with those with similar background.
My family and my friend’s family lived at different units in the same building. They knew each other from a distance. Her parents also knew how smart I was in school. They liked that. I guess that was one of the reasons why they allowed their daughter to be friends with me.
They were very smart people as well. Her dad was an engineer and always showed interest in my progress in sports. At that time, he was one of the fewest adults that carried conversations with me every time we met in the street. They could afford a car and somehow were allowed to spend summers in countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia.
They would buy her and her sister the best toys. I loved spending time at their apartment. It felt homey and inviting. That was the first time when I saw lots of books arranged on shelves that took the entire wall space in the largest room of their apartment. Sometimes I would borrow books from them.
In 7th grade, her parents moved her to a different class because the Math teacher was very good and most of the kids’ parents were highly educated people. They wanted their child to get the best math knowledge that would get her admitted in the best high school that happened to be located behind our building. I asked my mother so many times to move me to that class. She didn’t want to and never gave me a good reason. I was very hurt because there was no other child in my class that could take my friend’s place.
Officially, students were not allowed to move to a different class. I guess the family status allowed them to have the necessary connections to make this move. We continued to talk but it hadn’t been the same. She started making new friends. That bothered me. However, she still considered me her best friend.
She liked to come and watch me at track meets and wrote me letters when I went away for training to different parts of the country. When we trained at the seaside she would go to visit her grandmother there which made it easy for her to come and visit me as well.
We spent a lot of time together when we were not in school. We did homework, played outside, talked on the phone, listened to the Beatles, went to the movies and shows, rode bikes, went ice skating, read books, went swimming, and took walks around the neighborhood. She was the most brightest and talented child I have ever seen. She could do just about everything in school with such precision and perfection with the exception of singing. None of us was good at singing. We begged the Music teacher to accept us into the school’s chorus because we wanted to do it all.
She excelled at Romanian Literature and Math. She also had a talent for drawing. She drew these elaborate portraits of girls on small pieces of paper and sent them to me in the mail when I went away. I considered myself so lucky to have a friend like her. None of the other kids I knew were even close to having a relationship like ours at this age that lasted for so long.
She was my motivation to do well in school. I wanted to be just like her and do the things she could do. I admit that I got jealous sometimes at how smart she was. She knew it, too. Even so, she had always tried to help me and be there as a friend. Unfortunately, our paths started to take different directions when we opted for different high schools. We still kept in touch and met occasionally to go out in the city.
We rarely spoke when we were in college. I don’t even remember how or why our relationship ended up so abruptly. I guess we both grew apart from each other and had different agendas for when we graduated. She was one of the fewest people I told that I would not return from my trip to the United States. I tried unsuccessfully to look her up not long ago. Maybe she will get to read my writing and recognize me. That would be really something!
For more on my childhood in communist Romania also see What It Meant to Be a Busy Child, Unforgettable Childhood Memories [home alone – March 4, 1977 Earthquake], I Made It to My First Real Christmas in America, and Taste I Could Never Forget