Aug 152011

It’s summer time and tall corn stalks are swaying, gently caressed by the wind that brings on its wings the smell of the Danube. The majestic river rolls lazily through the plain, flanked by the reeds, and guarded by fishermen who respectfully and gratefully angle for pike and bass. The sun has set far over the horizon, leaving in its wake faint hues of orange and rose chased by the deep indigo of the night sky. Crickets and frogs are singing in weird harmony as if they had rehearsed elsewhere all winter, breaking the silence that slowly envelops the village.

The women, their heads covered with colorful scarves, mosey home, carrying green and cobalt-blue metal canisters filled with fresh, frothy milk, still warm form the udder. The older men reluctantly finish their chess matches, get off the benches lining the street, bid each other goodbye, and shuffle away through the wrought iron and wooden gates leading to their yards. The chickens settle comfortably in their coops, and the cows munch on straw, rewarded for the milk they unwittingly shared at twilight.

Children run inside, breathless, their faces and hands scrubbed clean. The last one of the bunch hangs the towel on the line to dry and brings the metal pitcher inside. A thick slice of homemade bread slathered heavily with yellow butter churned that morning rests on the plate along with recently picked tomatoes from the garden and a few thin slices of ham or smoked bacon that miraculously survived the winter.

The textile factory is dark having spewed the last workers out of the gates around two o’clock in the afternoon. But the restaurant that feeds the workers their midday meal is brightly lit and filled with people milling back and forth with excitement. The chairs are aligned in neat rows in front of a makeshift stage, ready to accept droves of villagers eagerly anticipating Saturday’s entertainment. The village elders, dismayed by the restaurant’s sole purpose, decided to open its doors at night and on the weekend, too, and offer the hard-working peasants a bit of relief. They invited various bands, theater groups, a cappella sextets, comedians, and magicians.

On this particular night, the stage was set for the orchestra which would accompany an opera singer from the city. Fifteen minutes before the beginning, every seat was taken and the excited whispers were heard throughout the sparsely furnished utilitarian blue-collar establishment. The opera singer was not exuberant about the night’s performance, used to the acoustically appropriate auditoriums and much more dignified surroundings, but he did not hesitate. His shoulders thrown back, his left eyebrow dramatically raised, he sauntered onto the stage, almost resigned, but ready to do the duty delegated to him by whatever higher-ups see fit to position opera stars in villages.

mam 479x600 For Her Ears Only

The girl with honey colored hair and big blue eyes.

As the lights went down, his bored glance meandered along the first row until it stopped and locked on a beautiful girl sitting in a chair a few spaces to the right. She was dressed in a sleeveless, white, button-down blouse and a white plisse′* full-circle skirt that fell just bellow her knees. Her slender legs were crossed, showing off Italian espadrilles with laces snaked around her calves. She kept her hands demurely in her lap while a smile brightened her flushed and excited face.

In that instant, the opera singer received a boost of energy and, mesmerized by her honey-colored curls and big blue eyes filled with trust and hope, he started singing, his powerful voice reaching to every corner of the room. He captured and collected every ear with his tenor, but his eyes never left the girl in white sitting in the first row. Every aria he picked was silently dedicated to her, and he sang for several hours, never once taking a break.

When the concert ended, he smiled as he shook hands with the dignitaries from the city and patted the most prominent of the villagers on the shoulder. The crowd lingered while he approached the girl and her father, a proud man with piercing blue eyes and the commanding comportment of an officer. He politely introduced himself and invited them to have a drink with him in the restaurant. The father politely declined, explaining that they had to walk about four kilometers to their house at the opposite edge of the neighboring village. Not willing to play a desperate prince to this fair-haired Cinderella, the opera singer asked the father if he could accompany them home. The father acquiesced and the unusual trio departed, waving goodbyes and fending off curious glances and raised eyebrows.

The father and the girl knew that both of the villages would be atwitter with suspense and gossip the next day, but they continued into the night, the father smiling as he purposefully lagged behind, his arms crossed behind his back, allowing the couple a bit of privacy some twenty paces ahead.

The path weaved through the rows of rustling corn as the summer wind whispered the sweet secrets that it seems only smitten young men hear clearly. The tall stalks parted as the opera singer let his voice take over the night, silencing crickets and frogs. For four kilometers he sang, oblivious of the sleeping cattle and drowsy children, his attention on the beautiful woman in white walking beside him. For that one hour, the night swallowed everything else but the two of them and his velvety vibrato which touched every corn stalk in its wake.

When they reached the house on the edge of the other village, the opera singer took the girl’s hands into his own and thanked her for allowing him to sing for her. He bowed slightly to the father, wished them both good night, and disappeared into the corn on his way back to the restaurant. The girl remained outside for a while, smiling, her eyes reaching into the night beyond the corn, the mighty Danube, the neighboring village, and the big city while the wind swirled the white skirt around her legs, lifted her golden hair, and whispered into her fine ear the moonshadowed echoes to which only smiling young girls are ever privy.

It was the summer of 1959. The luminous girl in white was my mother. The opera singer touched her life with a magic wand of beauty and hope, and having finished his mission, returned to his arias and stage. She never stopped dreaming. She still sees beauty in everything and clings to hope even in the most dismal situations. So many years later she is still that beautiful woman in white, surrounded by light and armed with a smile and hearing the music laden on a magical summer wind blowing from a night suddenly not so distant to lift her golden hair and fall upon her ears only. And when she hears Core ‘Ngrato on the radio, that smile spreads across her face and the diamond of a tear sparkles on her cheek as her bright blue eyes flash and flash back,  and she is teleported through time and space to her village and that night of rustling corn and dreams yet to come.

*plissé, a French word for a fabric that has a lot of tiny pleats all around; it was fashionable in the 50s and 60s, but it is coming back in style

**Core ‘Ngrato, the Ungrateful Heart, is a Neapolitan song composed in 1911 for Enrico Caruso.

18 Responses to “For Her Ears Only”

  1. This is beyond words, Lana. An extraordinary evening and woman. Your mother is beautiful still. Thank you for sharing your striking prose.

  2. Koliko ljudi je tako ostavilo snažan utisak na mene a da mi nisu deo svakodnevnog života, slučajni prolaznici. Volim da verujem da to sve nije igra slučajnosti i da sudbina ima nekog udela u tome. Kada se dve duše prepoznaju na bilo kom nivou onda se dešavaju najlepše stvari. Prelepa priča Lana. Nastavi serijal.

  3. Oh what a beautiful story and she is gorgeous! You must have taken after her!
    Little touch in life, here and there, make a big difference in our lives..and sometimes keep us wondering …”what if”s :)

  4. Lana – you brought a tear to my eye.

  5. A lovely tribute to your mother Lana; I was transported for one moment to that place and time. Stay strong now for her as I know she was for you for oh so many years. XOXO

  6. Lana, first of all, I am catching up on 3 weeks of not visiting blogs, nor blogging. 2nd, I am EXTREMELY jealous of your writing talent. I want to take a creative writing class after reading your posts. 3rd, this was a wonderful story and warmed my heart. The imagery is so vivid…again, extremely jealous. I hope you had a good safe trip. hope to write you soon.

  7. Lana – what a fabulous post. Such a great memory so beautifully shared. I hope she is doing ok and that you are staying strong. Love from California.

  8. *sigh* Lana this story of your mother is such an inspiration of what family is all about. Thinking of you during these bitter-sweet days. Enjoy every moment with her!

  9. Hi Lana, what a beautiful post, you really do manage to transport the reader :)

  10. Lepo. Nadam se da tvoja majka nema primedaba na foto.

  11. Lana, such a beautiful tribute to your mother. And such a beautiful woman and I see that you take after her. I’m sure she is proud of you and what an honor for you to spend time helping her especially at this time. You will cherish these days forever. “Talk” to you soon.

  12. Your mother is so beautiful and this is so a touching. Stories about our parents were when they were young can so poignant.

  13. I felt your story so are very, very talented lady! Your mom is very beautiful on that picture. I am first time on your blog and I will check other posts..zaista predivno pises!!

  14. Even I am transported! You write beautifully there is magic in your pen!
    This story about your mother is really a nice tribute!! And I must say, she’s extremely beautiful!

  15. wonderful words, they flow so freely, a wonderfu tribute!!

    cannot wait to see your 7links

  16. Amazing tribute to your mom, Lana. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your mom. I’m praying for her recovery. (Hugs)

  17. There is so much beauty in every breath of this post. GREG

  18. Your writing is so beautiful and I so enjoyed the story of your mother. What a lovely photo!

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