Thursday, November 17, 2016

My name is Bond, James Bond..arescu

On November 10, I gave birth to my second son. He is seven days old now, and smiles and laughs in his sleep. I know it is just testing reflexes at this age, but Edward and David enjoy watching him smile. He also tries to grab the tortoises when placed next to him, and made a sound like a ‘ja’ when asked whether he liked them or not.  He showed no interest in chickens, Terrapins or in the dog as of yet, but the children are convinced that this is only because it’s cold and we spend most time indoors. 

A serious James
James is the first child of the family to be born in Lugoj, Romania. Andy says that the has two sons: one born in Pennsylvania and one in Transylvania. James and I were assisted by one of my mother’s former students who leads the hospital here. She and her staff were amazing. The hospital was warm and clean, and they allowed the birth to go like I wanted. I went for as natural as possible without medication, and they respected that. Once I entered the hospital, they put me on the table and started the delivery process. I did not have to fill out forms while in pain. I did that after I gave birth. The baby came sideways, which caused back pain and a slightly slower delivery.  He had a good heart beat all the way through, and we were allowed to come home a day later. More than six years have passed since Edward was born.  I had forgotten how painful it is to have a baby, and how challenging breastfeeding is in the beginning, but James and I are slowly getting over all obstacles. 

Before coming into the world: last few months of pregnancy
I had a safe pregnancy with James. I could travel and work. The lease for my apartment in Zurich ended on June 30. So, before that the furniture and most of our things left for Romania and we sub-leased a furnished two-room apartment (in Oerlikon) from some students.  Then school was over in mid July and my mother, Edward and David (not yet 6 and 9) moved to Romania, while I continued to travel back and forth.

In August I went to the US. I figured it was my last opportunity for work-only travel. I gave seminars, and drove between Cornell and Penn State. I also spent some time working with my collaborator, Prof. Jayashree Balakrishna, in St Louis, and took the bus to NCSA, where I saw Linda Lorenz again, and Cornel and Doina Costescu, their daughter, and grand-daughter. They were all as kind and amazing as I remember them if a little older. Linda and Ed Seidel had been my advisors as an undergraduate. Without her I would have never been able to graduate from UIUC's engineering program in one year and half (out of which I was a full time student for only one semester).  I, of course, also saw Ed Seidel and Gabrielle Allen,  gave a seminar on atomic clocks and started a new project with former collaborators on boson stars. I came back to Zurich for the LISA meeting in the beginning of September, which we were organizing.

 I officially moved to Romania on September 30. I could have kept things simple, and stayed in Timisoara, but instead I started renovating two houses that have not been lived in for the past 16+ years: one in Lugoj and one in Chizatau (a village that is 18 km away). Andy jokes that it only matters that they are both in Transylvania and that the children and I shared them with bats when we first moved in.

With Mihai in the school yard
We first moved to Chizatau. It took some time to get water into the house through pipes that did not leak and the power is still in a partial short-circuit, but it works. It was lovely because the summer was extremely warm and the house is on the Bega river. So, the children played a lot on the river bank and in our huge yard. They found praying mantises (green and brown; the first one landed on Edward’s neck), crickets, and some green bugs that look like thorns.

In Lugoj, we hired a neighbor to help clean the house. My grandparents had had the house painted by artists with hand-made colors. He painted some of the walls in a sloppy white, left some unpainted, and added some plugs with some thicker wire, which he did not connect to the main circuit.

my Zurich farewell dinner 
Edward and David started school in mid-September. As the rains started, it became pointless to drive from Chizatau every morning and afternoon instead of living close enough to walk to school. Also, there was no heating system, and it was cold at night and in the morning. So, we moved to Lugoj while the wood floors were being worked on. They had been damaged years ago when the next-door neighbor had a plumbing problem that had badly leaked over. There was lots of noise and dust. On our first overnight stay in Lugoj, the power blew out due to a severe short circuit. The plumbing was clogged. My mother fixed it by removing the sand and rocks from it by hand. Hot water and a central heating system were non-existent, but we had wood-stoves.

I hired an array of people. Some have been expensive and extremely unreliable (and partly toothless), while others were kind and trustworthy like Traian,  the electrician, and Ioji, who still solves most problems that come up. Edward and David enjoy following them around and asking lots of questions.

By the time I gave birth, we had electricity, heat, water, plumbing, and clean, slightly shinny wood floors. The central heating system has been flaky, and so we light an additional fire now and then and/or supplement electrically. We have finally learned how to clean a furnace, and I now think we’ll manage well enough after it will get cold.

James’ birthday and family history

James almost shares a birthday with my PhD advisor, Prof. Ira Wasserman. We missed by a day. Instead, he has the same birthday as my great-grandmother, Ana. I hope he will grow to be as smart as Ira, and live as long as Ana or more. She entered this world 138 years ago, and lived through two world wars, and the Holocaust period.  Yet my mother says she had been the most cheerful person she had ever known. She lived to 95 and kept her good humor up to her last day, when she assured everyone she felt fine, but asked if somebody could stay up with her at night because she was passing away.

Ana had one of the most beautiful voices in the county. So, when the head of the Romanian church came to visit, they'd asked her to sing for him with a boy, called Aurel Curuti, as the male-lead. She fell hopelessly in-love with him when they were both 18. While he acknowledged both fondness and attraction, Aurel refused to marry her. With the impetuosity of youth, he explained that she was too simple for him, her blood was not blue enough and her family was inferior to his. 

Ana and Teodor at their wedding in 1897.
The next year, in 1897, she married my great-grandfather, Teodor, instead.  He had piercing blue eyes and a breath-taking smile. He was also not musical and poor, but had mind-blowing intelligence and enthusiasm about most things and people around him. In school, he tutored a friend who later became one of Hungary’s ministers.  Yet throughout her life, Ana retained a fondness for Aurel. When her first babies were born (twin daughters), she named one of them Aurora. Unfortunately just like her romance, these babies did not live.

Some 15 years later,  Teodor and Ana moved to Murava (or Semlacul Mare), a remote village in Transylvania that lays close to the Serbian border. By 1918, he openly supported Transylvania’s union with Romania, and this turned him into a wanted man. When the authorities came to arrest him, he hid into a secret loft over the kitchen. So, they arrested Ana instead. Their youngest daughter, Octavia, remembered how she ran after the soldiers that were taking her mother away. One pointed a gun at her. She was four years old. She grew scared and stumbled into the mud. The village women told her that if she had cried louder, and begged more, maybe they would not have arrested her mother. It was her first time failing to stop unreasonable events. 

In prison, Ana was not physically tortured, but to persuade her to give her husband's hiding place away they started killing a person she knew in front of her every day. She would retell the dialogue:
Officer: “Tell us where he is!”
Ana: “How should I know? He never tells me where he goes. I am a simple woman.”
Then they brought in and shot Almajan, and his blood soon started flowing at my feet.

Back in Murava, one of her sons came home in vacation, and found his mother gone. His four year old sister was in the attic of a neighbor with her hair full of hay and feathers. She told him what happened. He immediately called his uncle Adrian, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who had studied in Paris with Charles de Gaulle. Adrian demanded Ana’s immediate release or else he'd come with his battalion of soldiers and demand justification for the arrest of an innocent woman from an army that should have a moral code above this. They took her home the next day in a beautiful carriage and apologized for her arrest and any inconvenience caused. Her release was more efficient than her arrest had been at convincing Teodor to surrender. He did not want other people to suffer because of his beliefs or choices.

Teodor and his children in 1922
While Transylvania's union with Romania happened soon after, Teodor’s guilty verdict did not change. For two years after he surrendered, he was imprisoned on a ship. There he developed tuberculosis. He returned home ill. Under treatment he lived for another 8 years. He used to say he wished to live to see his youngest child, Octavia, in highschool. He died in 1928 when Octavia turned 14.

Ana and Teodor on the livingroom wall
 When Ana and her now grown children returned to the Lugoj/Caransebes area, they met the next generation of Curuti. One of them offered to marry Ana’s daughter, Octavia. She refused. Octavia did not like the idea of being married to somebody called “Curuti” (the name translates to small butt; and people referred to his musical performances as “curu-ti canta” or your butt is singing).  

my pipes in the basement
When I returned to Romania this year, I was 8 months pregnant with James. In Lugoj, I moved into the house where Ana had spent the last part of her life. It had been my grandparents home after their retirement, and Ana was living with them. Out of the array of people I hired, the plumber turned out to be a Curuti. Interestingly enough, he inherited the musical talent of his ancestors and offered to sing at James’ baptism. I do not believe Ana's story was passed on to him. He did do the plumbing and the water pipes for my second bathroom. The cold water pipe is bow-shaped and tied with a wire, and the warm water pipe leaked. The latter was installed by a friend he recommended.

I am not having a baptism for James and I am not paying for musicians. I consider such events come with too many people and viruses for a small baby.  I would, however, like to have a functional second bathroom soon, and will try to make this happen.

I do worry over the future with Brexit and the US election results. I hope my children will be safe, and not have to live through the kind of experiences that Ana and her children had.

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