I placed my scarf along the back of the chair and sat down. My second cousin introduced me to her friend, who accompanied her to the funeral just an hour earlier. I looked over to see an older woman, with a friendly smile. A thick, Eastern European accent fluttered out with her greeting.
In those few minutes, I also learned that this woman with her many years of life, was a retired professor of Slavic Languages at a few universities. As a parishioner of the Greek Orthodox faith, she befriended my cousin, who is the church’s organist. We chatted at great length during our mercy meal of chicken and ziti while our bottomless coffees grew cold. We didn’t mind, we became quick kindred spirits.
Born in the Soviet Union and educated in Kraków, my new friend found her way into the United States to finish her PhD and teach a variety of languages. She mentioned that she was blessed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis before they were popes. She lit up when I said I come from a Slovakian background and she asked if I knew any of the language, which I do not know a single lick of.
But, of course, the food! Food brings everyone together, even in conversation. We talked about the perfect mushrooms for Christmas Eve soup, pastries and cookie dough laden with sour cream and filled with fruit spreads. Potatoes, noodles and mushrooms—the staples to any Eastern European meal.
Then she asked the question, placing a hand on my arm, “What do you do?”
I placed my coffee cup back onto the saucer and without delay, told her my life story. It has been hard to figure my latest identity (am I an entrepreneur? a writer?), so I laid it all out. My education, the consideration of being an educator, to owning a bakery, to writing a book and now developing new entrepreneurial efforts.
She was interested in my writing. She was once asked to write a book about her life, but has since refused. “Why open old wounds?” she says. “I don’t want to do that to myself.”
We talked more about education, travel and my favorite topics as of late: faith and fate. She pulled me toward her and planted a kiss on my cheek, grabbing my cousin’s arm to get her attention. “I absolutely love this girl!” she exclaimed. “You speak with so much passion!”
My cousin nodded. “Your face lights up when you talk.”
I romanticize everything.
I want to do and experience things on level that pushes me to be this force that is something fierce. Quite appropriate after a funeral, yes?
“I’m so glad I met you today!” was said multiple times by both of us.
When it came time to leave, she gave me her email address to stay in touch. “I do keep up with technology,” she laughed. “I even use Skype!”
When I stepped away for a moment to get my jacket, out of the corner of my eye I saw her hand reach for my dad’s arm. “She’s definitely going places,” I heard her say to him.
“Yes, she is,” he replied.
Image by Malika Favre