“O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,” father sings in a loud
voice. Tears roll down his face: “I am crying for my mother,”
he says. Oma Rosalia, Opa Alexandru, eleven siblings,
live behind the Iron Curtain, Hungary and Romania.
It is winter in my childhood. When it snows, snow falls on the
cement steps in the roofless hallway. The old airport Neutraubling:
Halle 7. A war refugee town in the foothills of the Bavarian Forest:
school. Church. Bayer’s grocery.
“Make a list for St. Nicholas,” mother says. I write: fairy tale book
and dark blue ski pants. Der Weihnachtsbaum sparkles with bright
red candles. Angel hair, icicles, gold and green glass ornaments.
Sugar houses. Toboggans.
Hidden in the branches: Lebkuchen, ginger bread, walnuts,
tangerines, and apples. Hazelnut milk chocolate. Five children sing
“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.” My sister Erna gets the ski pants.
Christkind brings me a book, Hänsl und Gretel.
Grandmother sobs broken-hearted on her bed. A common
room furnished with a wood stove for cooking, a table,
a few chairs, and two single beds. A pine chest stacked with the
family’s hand-embroidered tablecloths and pillowcases.
My short, plump grandmother Kisanyuka: silver braid fastened
with four metal pins into a bun. Floral housedress. Sturdy shoes.
“I miss my mother.” She wipes her tears with a handkerchief:
“My mother’s birthday is 24 December.”
Photo is Wikimedia Creative Commons
“Weihnachten” – published (Blue Poppy, Coracle Press, 2009)
Guest Author Bio
Ilona Martonfi lives in Montreal, Canada. Editor, creative writing teacher, author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy, (Coracle 2009.) Black Grass, (Broken Rules 2012). Forthcoming, The Snow Kimono (Inanna, 2015). Publishes in zines and anthologies. Producer of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings. QWF 2010 Community Award.
Follow Ilona On: Facebook