A few days ago I returned from a family reunion at our house in the countryside of Croatia. I am still mulling over a vivid memory of my last afternoon there. On that Friday morning, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew left for Barcelona (where they live). My mother and I stayed at the house alone. Come afternoon, we went out to run some errands in the village.
First on the list was a visit to my father’s grave at the cemetery of the 13th-century village church. I dropped by to say hello to my dad and grandmother, and further down the slope, my great aunts and great-grandparents. And I stopped to admire the surroundings of their resting place – the green vistas of undulating hills all around.
The next stop was the village shop. We stocked up on groceries here and had a chat with the local old-boy flirt and the village head as he was mowing his lawn. Then we visited a family friend, a lady who was once the old priest’s companion (and more, the rumor goes). I have crystal-clear memories of my grandmother and her three sisters – all four vehemently atheistic – in our kitchen playing cards into the night with the late priest and his lady friend. It’s been years since I saw her, now an old lady. So we sat down for a chat, a glass of wine and a bit of reminiscing.
My mom and I were after farm fresh eggs so next we were off to visit another village lady where we packed ten eggs into newspaper and chit-chatted for a minute. Off we were then to get more eggs from the man next door whose wife allegedly just packed up and left him.
Armed with twenty fresh eggs and plenty of local gossip, we walked through the village center as the sun was fading, back down the slope towards our house. As we walked and talked, clouds moving across the verdant hills, it dawned on me I was just treated to a brief but juicy slice of village life. A bit different than running errands in New York City, that’s for sure!