Thursday, July 28, 2005

Five things I miss about my childhood, etc.

As promised, having been tagged by Magda, I'll try to write about five things I miss about my childhood.

1. The time I spent with my aunt and grandmother in Bacau. It was a small apartment, but it was home away from home. I remember spending summers and winters there, making friends, playing soccer in the park or in the alley, getting together for cards with friends, having other kids knock on the door and say "Can Petrisor come out to play?" and doing the same with them. In the winter it was always fun to go out and play in the snow. I remember one particular attempt at building a large snowman... It turned out to be rather larger than we could manage.

My grandmother's cooking somehow remains in my mind. I can't put my finger on what it was, but just thinking of the meals there always brings back wonderful memories. I don't remember that much more, just that it was a happy time.

2. Playing soccer around our apartment building. It was on cement. It was in the interior of a U-shaped building, with stores on the ground level, stores whose workers were not very happy when balls repeatedly slammed into their walls and loading doors. It was fun.

3. Reading. My parents introduced me to a variety of good books and we still have a few Jules Verne books lying around. I still remember being sad when I reached the end of the "Ciresarii" series (The author had one of the characters say something along the lines of "But I don't want this to be over, there are so many other things to do, places to see." And the last line, given by another character was "Don't you understand? We're not in a book any more.") and shedding a tear at the end of Selma Lagerlof's "The wonderful adventures of Nils Holgersson" (where Nils walks with the geese, both reminisce about their past adventures together, but they can no longer understand one another). One situation I find very interesting (looking back) is that other seemed to have the same sort of interest. I read the Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, but I only skimmed The Vicomte of Bragelonne. One day, as I was walking home from playing outside, a couple of kids had something (water baloons?) and wanted to start a fight. Since I was going in, I didn't want to be a part of it. When they asked who I was, I said, Marshall D'Artagnan. They let me go, but one of them said "You know that he got killed immediately after he became a Marshall?" I did know that, and at that time it didn't strike me as strange that someone else would too. Looking back, it seems a lot more impressive.

4. Basketball. We had a coach who kept practices fun, while still teaching us the game. The games at the end of practice were fun. Being little (8-9 years old) and playing with full height rims, baskets were hard to come by. I still remember a rather outrageous 15-foot sky hook that ended up being the only basket in one of those games, and another instance where I drove for a lay-up, got shoved forward (under the basket) but somehow managed to score.

5. Being a troublemaker and finding out ways to get away with it. Well, okay, so maybe I don't so much miss that as look fondly back to a foundation upon which I have built. Locking the teacher out of the classroom during break because she *always* came to class before the bell rang still makes me chuckle. There was no ill-will against the teacher, I just figured I'd try to make a point...

On an unrelated note, today I sent out most of the paperwork for ordination. There are still a couple of things I need to take care of next week, then I just have to wait. Please pray for me, the sinner, that I serve God and His Church in a manner pleasing to Him both now and when, if God so wills, I will be ordained.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Thanks in part to the Orthodox blogging community, the time away from Holy Cross was absolutely wonderful (except for car breakdowns, but you really can't expect everything to go smoothly - life would lose its peculiar charm :).

Both my wife and I loved our brief visit to Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum Heights, MD. I had long had the thought that a meal following the Divine Liturgy could be a way for the parish to know one another and to form the sort of Christian fellowship that the early church experienced. This past Sunday was the first chance that I had to see that take place. It was wonderful to see a parish in which the people "enjoy one another's company" in Fr. Gregory's words.

The parish of St. Philothea in Augusta, GA, was also a wonderful visit. It is a small parish whose parishioners cover a multitude of ethnic backgrounds. It is a mission parish, of modest means, but there is, again, an atmosphere that echoes - at least for me - the early Christians. Perhaps it is the Southern hospitality, combines with Eastern European cooking, and with the intimacy which can easily accompany a small parish. In any case, it was a blessing to spend some time there.

I need to answer my wife's call to speak about five things I miss about my childhood. That, next time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Phone message

I could have titled this "how to be a jerk without knowing it (but having a pretty good idea)."

Our answering machine message for the last couple of weeks has been "You have reached ***-***-****. Please factor the number into prime factors and leave a message." At some point I started factoring the number myself, but after the first couple of prime factors, it was slow going so I figured I wouldn't spend more time on it. Good thing, too. My wife informs me that the number that was left after the initial factoring was the product of just two primes: 10061 and 30689.

Friday, July 01, 2005


As I was reading my wife's frustrated comments about the immigration paperwork (which should finally go out today - everything is in order and postage printed and all that), I went back to the one question on form I-485 to which I answered 'yes': "Have you ever been a member of, or in any way affiliated with the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party?"

That made me think about several things. First off, about how well organized the communist propaganda machine was and how early it all started. The 'pioneers' were the communist youth group. The members wore red scarves/ties with a red/yellow/blue border, representing the flag. It was, to relate this somewhat to psychology, a milestone in life: in second grade you became a pioneer. What was even more well-designed was the fact that children with especially bad grades or behavior were at times delayed in their entry to the group. So it became, in a way, a source of pride: if you were a member, it meant you were good enough.

From there, it is a slippery slope. One poem here, another there, some praises for the leaders of the party and before you know it, the indoctrination process is complete. Which brings me to my parents.

My parents took an immense risk, one that could very easily have backfired and landed them in jail or, perhaps, even worse. They were among the many who would often spend their evenings listening to Radio Free Europe or Voice of America. The difference that I believe was essential between them and most parents of that time was that they let me listen, too. In the apartment, although there were reasonable fears of it being bugged, they also spoke their minds. I had an idea from very early on about what was wrong with the country.

As I said, it was an immense risk - a seven or eight-year old will not always know when to speak and when to keep quiet. So, one day in school I said something about what was happening in the world. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember the teacher looking at me and saying: "How do you know that?" and me answering "I heard it on VoA." She called another teacher to the classroom who asked the same question. I think my parents got called to school - I never really found out what went on there - but things never changed: we all kept listening.

What does this have to do with responsibility? Well, I am very grateful to my parents for opening my eyes to see other points of view. I am grateful that not only did they take a chance, the continued along the same path even after I had made a mistake that could have gotten them into trouble. They were responsible for me and they made sure I grew up knowing how to think on my own, how to look for the truth, how to persevere towards the things in which I believed.

Of course, ours was an extreme set of circumstances: mid to late eighties communist Romania. The principle, however, remains universally true. It is especially true with regard to the Church in modern society: it is our responsibility, if we believe in the Truth that we have, to persevere in that Truth, to set an example for those around us, and, when the time comes, to teach our children how to look for the Truth even when it is hidden.