July 31, 2011
“Her smile will never fade in my memory,” I thought, looking at the picture of a slim woman with modern glasses and a girlish face. Except for her short grey hair hanging down around her ears, nobody would guess she is 70 years old.
Everything about her was simple: her casual clothes, the face without make-up, fresh hair with sweet scent, and her calm voice. Her name is Marianne.
She was like a bee. I could see her everywhere (writing long into the night, painting houses’ walls, hauling dirt and planting vegetables, building her own masterpieces in the workshop, and playing piano in the afternoon time). Whatever she did, she would carry her head highly, giving an impression of a woman who knows what she wants.
“Welcome to Germany,” she said with broad smile as she entered the apartment she rented us with a pile of plates and pots in her hands. The three words struck me like lighting. How beautiful her words sounded after a year of roaming through strange houses, unfriendly eyes, and cold voices. Standing at the door, she looked like an angel whom I had been waiting for a long time to come and save me.
She came at the right time when my heart was broken and world was falling down like a house of cards. I was tired of cleaning hotels, houses, and offices all day long, scared for my parents, and suffering for a country where I had felt secure and loved. But every knock on my door and invitation for a small talk from her mouth would push me a few steps forwards.
Our casual chat became regular. One day I suddenly burst into tears in front of her. I was ashamed that something like that happened to me, but I had to tell someone what I felt.
After a few minutes, I said to her, “ I hate to cry.” Every day since I arrived in Germany I cry. It doesn’t matter where I am and who is with me, I cry. At my words, she smiled and said to me, “Don’t be ashamed to cry. It is human.”
“But I am twenty years old. I am not supposed to cry at that age,” I answered.
She shrugged and told me with her warm and calm voice, “Many people are afraid to show their emotions. Crying people free their negative energy. There are many people who cannot cry and very often they end up in hospital. It is your weapon and use it until you have overcome it.” And nothing is left to cry.
Once, I met her at the door. By looking at my face, she saw something was wrong. I couldn’t hesitate to tell her. After two years working in the hotel, being a responsible and reliable worker and never being late, my manager refused to give me my earned holiday to go home and see my parents. I saw her pale face - she was really sorry to hear it.
“This is life. It happens to us sometimes,” she said and continued, “Darija, people sometimes are very cruel. In this situation you have to stand for yourself. You will encounter many people who use other’s sincerity and generosity. It is fair to fight for the things you feel are worth it.” She hugged me and vanished out of the house. Hearing it I felt surge of anger and next day I got my holiday. It was the first time I had stood for myself and fought for things I thought there were worth.
I liked to see her how she was efficient with the work tools as she was making simple chairs for the garden or some innovative pot for her flowers. She liked writing; she liked flowers. Her garden was full of flowers (zinnias, marigolds, and roses).
Sometimes, she would whirl in my apartment telling me in excitement, “I am going away for a couple of days. Please, could you look for my garden and flowers?” And, I knew where she was going. In Switzerland, an isolated place where she would not see any human being. “I need to be alone to charge my battery for my patients,” she would say.
And the day came. She hugged me, gave me the same smile she usually did and uttered,” I wish you all best. We will write each other.”
Only ten hours after that I found myself in a new country, among strange people, and with new language. She wrote me a long letters (she would write me about herself, her job, and her garden). I wanted to respond in the same way, but my German started fading and my English was weak.
One day, I got her letter in English. “Why don’t you respond to me in language that is easy for you? It is also good for my practice.” Immediately, I sat to write her, but I found myself stuck - the words could not pop out of my head and find the way to the paper. I felt miserable and angry. I wanted to write her about everything (my children, life in Canada) but I could not. “It is so shameful. After so many years living in Canada, you don’t know how to write a letter,” I told myself. “Now, it is time to go to school.”
I enrolled in English class and started reading books. After a few months came a letter from her. “Darija, your English has been improving immensely since you started going to school. I am so happy for you. I always believed in you.” Inside the letter was a photo of her. She was smiling at me - the same smile she used to do many years ago. I looked at that smile for a long time and uttered quietly, “It is nice to have you in my life. And your gorgeous smile.”