Tuesday, August 19, 2014

home bageling, for now

One of Martin's earliest memories of living in America was when he was 3. His parents had just moved to Austin, they were living in an Apartment complex on the second floor. Little 3 year old Martin thought it would be a good idea to ride his tricycle down the flight of (metal) stairs that connected the first and second floors. As he hit the ground his eyebrow, that spot so prone to cuts, popped open and blood started spilling everywhere. His father found him covered in blood, holding his eye. Head injuries bleed like there is no tomorrow, which is to say, a lot. I've been there with my own sons, I know the fear his dad felt. His father assumed he had lost an eye. The story goes, as he was running up the stairs to clean him up and take him to the hospital, that his father's first thoughts were along the lines of ... "why did I bring them to this country?!" Which, after hearing this story told about 8 or 9 times (it never gets old, none of my father-in-law's stories ever get old, I love them, I love them all, especially the one about the nun and the bones...), sounds more and more absurd...

What do mean, "why did I bring them to this country?!" It's not America's fault that your 3 year old made a conscious decision (Martin remembers choosing to do this) to ride his bike down a flight of metal stairs. Why are you blaming America? Hmmm? I seem to remember an incident involving an open window and a toddler that happened in good ol' sunny Nowa Huta...where was America on that one?... stuff happens everywhere... etc. etc.  You know, all said with a hint of seriousness but mostly jollity.

Until this past week.

Now I know exactly how he feels.


 And no, there was no blood involved. No trips to E.R.'s. And no one was the least bit hurt. At least not physically.

My story goes... eating out at one of our favorite quick and delicious eateries in hippie dippie Kazimierz when I look up and see... something. Something that I should not have to see. Something that my children should not have to see. But I saw it. We ALL saw it.

I panicked.

Well, first I informed Martin, quelled my very young and innocent children's curiosity with bold faced lies about what was really going on, and swiftly buckled them all and drove off.

*Then* I panicked.

HOW?! How could I have brought my children to this place?! To have brought my children here, to this place where they can see such things, in public! Not but a few yards away?!! How can we live in this place where people think that's ok to do, in a park, in plain view of everyone, on a Thursday afternoon?! Such boorishness, such crassness! Such a horrible display of...!!!

But really, it doesn't matter what we saw, does it? My kids see things here every day that I wish they didn't have to see. Men dragging themselves into and out of the 24 hour alcohol stores (open every day, rain or shine, Sundays, holidays, and especially Holy Days!) wasted out of their gourd, sobering up just long enough to shoot the finger at the truck that had the audacity to try and drive on the street where they were stumbling (or trying to ride their bike - so sad).Or the graffiti that not only spells out the most horrible words used to describe the co-creative act but then proper anatomy for visual aids, just in case. Mother's yanking their children by the arms, dad's telling their kids they're dumb. Older people, mentally unstable, harassing them, my children, who try and be nice, and then become afraid so that we have to duck into a nearby church to escape. Cursing! Loud, loud cursing, followed by lots of lengthy, drunken,  public urination. Women/Men wearing nothing but underwear (or see-through clothing, looooots of see through clothing), because, you know, it's 30c/86f out!

Drunken men.
Crazy old women.
Bad parenting.
Mostly naked youths (or not so youth)
Public displays of... you name it.

I just panicked.
Why did I bring them here?!

I missed our little home school community and the safety of the middle class American suburbs more than I ever have before. It's so different there! So normal, so clean, so simple. So NOT all this, this...this WORLD... that is constantly being shoved in our face, without our permission, in spite of our protestations!


It wasn't good that young Martin fell down those stairs and cut his eyebrow. It could have been a lot worse. And he will forever have the scar. But he survived. It was not good that my young children saw something that they cannot un-see. I will never forget it.  But we will survive. My love for Poland has been dented a little, it's true. But over time I'm sure I'll get a good chuckle out of all of this and be reminded time and again that Poland had nothing to do with it (at least not directly, I mean, it has more to do with it than just a flight of stairs that *happen* to be in America, I mean stairs are everywhere, what we saw doesn't just happen everywhere...but I have more reason to be upset with a whole country digress).

I will not however be going back to trendy, hipster, gross Kazimierz for quite some time. At least until my mental image of it is somewhat altered, by a blanket of pure white snow perhaps? Therefore I've been forced to make my own bagels.

And that's just fine with me (and her).

photo (7)


  1. and so to add to your story -- I will tell you one of my own.

    In 2012, we went to NYC (we've been many times, matter of fact we tried living there, but I threatened my husband with a divorce if we didn't move back to SAFE, NORMAL Michigan)...anywho... in 2012, we were visiting NYC with my best friend, her policeman husband and their 6 year old daughter.

    We were wandering around Grammercy Park (with is in the south end of Manhattan), and came across the second set of "Occupy Wall Street" -- a story all by itself ... these people were lewd, crude and smelled like they hadn't showered in 4 months. The police presence was incredible, I'd never seen such a display of awesome force, nor smelled that much of an opposite force...

    Across from this assaulting display of humanity was a Whole Foods, and the 6 year old needed to go to the bathroom, so my friend and I started walking to the store... when we got to the crosswalk, and as we started to cross, we saw it... by the time we realized WHAT we were seeing, the 6 year old had already seen it -- it was too late... both my friend and I physically covered her eyes, and walked faster....

    we knew what it was we were seeing, but we were too late... and when we came back from the bathroom, we approached one of the NYPD officers and asked how come she wasn't arrested for walking the city in the nude, like Eve... and they said it was legal!

    Legal?? TO WALK THE STREETS COMPLETELY NUDE?? How can that be LEGAL???

    I don't love New York City any less -- granted, I never want to live there, but -- I just can't embrace that aspect at all...

    (on another note, earlier this year, before we went to Poland, I decided to see if there were any weekend trips in Ohio ...good old Ohio... my current home... I came across a beautiful home perfect for a weekend getaway, it was reminiscent of a bed and breakfast in the forest... after much clicking around, I discovered it was a nudist camp -- yeah no thanks -- some things cannot be unseen...)

    Thank you Ohio... Thank you New York City.... my mental image filing cabinet is dented and permanently changed...

    1. New York City?

      That's the place where" stuff I wish I had never seen" breeds. ;)

      It's just more people, in a smaller space. And so stuff gets seen.... it's just so tiring sometimes. If that makes any sense.

  2. Olivia, from what I remember, nobody goes to Kazimierz:)

    1. It's a very popular place now. Whenever Martin and I want a night on the town we go there. It has the best variety of food and selection of bars. We don't go to clubs anymore but it has those too. And if we could afford it, we'd buy a flat there (or Podgorze) but that's a whole other real estate decision...

  3. Is Kazimierz a district in Kraków? Our daughter arrived in Poland three weeks ago and will be living and studying in Kraków soon. She's got an English degree for a small liberal arts college in WA state and now she'll be studying Polish, the language of her grandparents, and me, her mom who never taught her... ;) Anyway, if Kazimierz is in Kraków, perhaps I should mention it to her. And I'm sorry your kiddos had to see things you wish they had not...

    1. Oh, Liz, pay me no mind. My children are very young.

      Kazimierz is the old Jewish District in Krakow, it is filled with beautiful buildings and some amazing (and sad) history. She will love it and think it is beautiful. It is also a trendy part of Krakow's Old Town, with lots of bars and restaurants and clubs. Very fun. She should not avoid it. I'm just picking on it. ;)

      And if she ever wants a home cooked meal, or needs some help while visiting please feel free to contact me!