The Adventures of a Damascene in Europe – The Reading Session


Rosary rose,

Spread your vibrant petals,

Let's welcome

the darling pancake of my heart :



The Adventures of  a Damascene in Europe -

The Reading Session


Mariam learns how to read in Romanian

"Mamaie  [1], mamaie, where are you?" Mariam ran around the table in the dining room looking for her grandma.

"Here I am, draga mea. You seem impatient," replied her grandma while urging Mariam to follow her to the reading room.

"Yesss. All my friends are out and about, playing. I want to go out and play too," Mariam anxiously replied.

“You will, you will. As soon as you have finished reading the pages assigned for today. We shall go on with the second part of Amintiri din copilărie,” mamaie reassured Mariam.

But mamaaaaaie, I don’t want to. I want to play with my friends, just like I used to play in Damascus,” Mariam insisted. “If we go on with this tight schedule I will only remain with ‘amintiri[2]of my childhood. Why do I have to read? Everybody is outside playing,” Mariam puffed.

“Do you want me to be happy?”, her grandma asked.

“Of course, mamaie. I want you to be habby. Always.”

“If you are habby, I am also habby,[3]” her grandma replied and they both burst into laughs and gags. This was their trick.

“My darling, you have plenty of time to play. We have to read. Otherwise, you won’t learn how to read in Romanian. You are used to Arabic letters and to reading from right to left. It will be very difficult for you when the school starts if we don’t do this now,” mamaie went on trying to convince Mariam.

“Okay. You leave me with no other choice,” Mariam accepted.

They read for a while.

Amintiri din copilărie by Ion Creangă[4]

“Gata! Mamaie, I swear to God nu mai pot. Enough is enough!” Mariam burst and started running around the round table, making circle after circle.

“Mariam, I kindly …”

“Lak mamaie nu mai pooot. I can't anymore,” Mariam said and ran even faster.

“I kindly ask you, let’s finish this and you will go out soon. Will you do this for me, Mariam?” mamaie kindly insisted.

“Of course, grandma. I don’t want to upset you. Besides, a promise is a promise. You told me we’ll have clătite tomorrow. I can’t wait. I just looove your pancakes,” Mariam replied and sat back on the chair to go on with the reading session. “Ok, Domnule Creangă [5], let’s do zis,” Mariam replied smiling with all her teeth.


Eleven years later

“Mamaaaie, I am home,” Mariam said loudly and entered the house.

“Welcome, Mariam! How hungry are you?” grandma asked her niece.

“A bit. Not starving hungry, just hungry,” Mariam replied.

“So you are just hungry, hungry?” mamaie imitated her niece in their special code and they started laughing at the same time. “Tell me, Mariam, how was your day?” her grandma asked her while she made her way towards the kitchen to heat up the food she had prepared for her granddaughter.

“It was just lovely. As you know this semester we are studying the Victorian Age. I am thrilled. Our professor said she’d give us a pre-exam to check whether we have read all related books before the finals,” Mariam replied. “And” she went on “guess what? I am reading

Wuthering Heights and I like it so much,” Mariam happily replied.

“Oh, my beloved granddaughter, have you reached the paragraph when Heathcliff leans on the tree, let’s say. That’s a very meaningful paragraph, my darling niece. We’ll talk about it when you have reached it. Now go on, enjoy șorba de văcuță[6] ", mamaie urged Mariam.

And this was only one of their long chats on books, literature, love and life.

Inspirational Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

As far as the paragraph Mariam’s mamaie was referring to is concerned, well, Mariam was reading it and thinking dearly of her grandma:

" 'And I pray one prayer-I repeat it till my tongue stiffens-Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you-haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know the ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always-take any form-drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!'

He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast (...) I observed several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was a repetition of others acted during the night. [7]"

While  mamaie used to read it like this:

"— De s-ar trezi în chinuri! strigă el cu o vehemenţă înspăimântătoare, lovind cu piciorul în pământ şi gemând, cuprins brusc de o suferinţă pe care nu şi-o putea stăpâni. A fost o mincinoasă până la sfârşit! Unde e? Nu-i "acolo”... nu-i în cer... n-a pierit... unde-i? Oh! Ai spus că nu-ţi pasă de suferinţele mele! Eu n-am decât o singură rugăciune... şi-am s-o repet până-mi va înţepeni limba... Catherine Earnshaw, să n-ai linişte câtă vreme sunt eu în viaţă! Ai spus că eu te-arn ucis... atunci vino şi mă urmăreşte! Cei ucişi îşi urmăresc ucigaşii, cred. Rămâi cu mine întotdeauna... fă-mă să înnebunesc, numai nu mă părăsi în abisul ăsta unde nu te pot găsi! O, Doamne! Nu găsesc cuvinte! "Nu” pot trăi fără viaţa mea! "Nu” pot trăi fără sufletul meu!

Îşi izbi capul de trunchiul noduros al copacului şi, ridicându-şi privirea, începu să urle, dar nu ca un om, ci ca o fiară străpunsă de cuţite şi suliţe. Am observat pe scoarţa copacului mai multe dâre de sânge; mâna şi fruntea îi erau, de asemenea, însângerate. Probabil că scena la care am fost martoră se repetase şi în cursul nopţii. [8]"

For every single inch of their house breathed love.

Either that conveyed by her grand grandparents from Moldova on her tataie’s side or by her grand grandparents from Muntenia on her mamaie’s side, or the passionate one conveyed by her grand grandparents from Damascus...


One of the most important legacies mamaie had left Mariam was:

"TU să citești!"


"You shall read.

Open up your mind.

Open up your heart,


                                        Mamaie forever.

She was born in Buzău County, the region of Muntenia, Romania.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

[1]  Mamaie = grandma in Romanian.
[2]  Amintiri = memories in Romanian; it is a word pun.
[3]  It's original form: "Dacă tu ești ferișită, și eu sunt ferișită" .
[4]  Childhood Memories by Ion Creangă. Ion Creangă is a famous Romanian writer, acknowledged as one the four great classical Romanian writers together with Mihai Eminescu, Ioan Slavici and Ion Luca Caragiale.
[5]  Domnule Creangă (Romanian) = Mister Branch; it's a word pun.
[6]  Ciorbă de vacuță = traditional Romanian beef soup; șorba - the spelling of the word with an Arab accent. 
[7]  Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, Penguin Popular Classics, 1994, Chapter 16, pp.148-149.
[8]  La Răscruce de vânturi, Emily Brontë, capitolul 16.

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