Sunday, long weekend. Outside the window, a blue sky pierces the thicket of leaves. I hear a szuru buru from my bedroom – how would that be in English? – this is my husband who smoothes the walls before painting. He has just come to me to show me the tool for this project. He proudly stretched out his hand in which he was holding a strange sponge, described it and explained that it can smooth even the smallest irregularities, then added – made in Switzerland. (I knew what he meant – Switzerland, not China. I suspect that he will buy a few more such sponges the next time he visits Home Depot.) Of course – he continued – when stuck with a special glue, plaster or whatever we call it, holes and cracks will have a wonderful, smooth surface, but the walls still will be slightly rough. When our building was built, almost a hundred years ago, it was not possible to make perfectly smooth walls… And after explaining all this to his wife my husband went on, on scrubbing, smoothing, brushing the walls of our bedroom.
Meanwhile, I am sitting on the library project, a quiet Mozart comes from the Bowers and Willkins loudspeaker, I nibble on Spanish almonds from time to time. Every now and then I bump into Facebook for a minute, and Facebook memories remind me of the following note from almost three years ago. I look at the photo which prompted me to write these few words – it’s too good not to put it here. But this photo and this note, written three years ago, also reminds me of another world that has gone forever … We are painstakingly rebuilding it …
JUNE 21ST, 2019
Going to work today, I thought about a beautiful photo that my husband took a few days ago in the park: at the base of a green corrugated leaf sit two representatives of the species Graphocephala coccinea, or insects from the family of stink bugs, commonly called a leafhopper or grasshopper. If they are really grasshoppers, they are freaks! Who and when has seen a red-and-blue grasshopper, without long legs and protruding tentacles, such as we have seen a million times in the meadow or in the illustrations for the Brzechwa or Ludwik Jerzy Kern children poems?
In the picture taken by my husband – the old iPhone 7 – the leafhoppers touch each other with the back parts of their bodies. Well, I do not know much about Graphocephalae’s sexual life, but it looks like – as my husband said – they are up to something. Whatever they do and however strange they look and whatever they are called by entomologists – for me they are simply worms – “robaki”.
So I was thinking about this beautiful picture today and I remembered that “robaczek” (a small worm) was one of the first Polish words that my husband knew. “Robaczek”, not “robak” (a big worm) because at the time of the first infatuation I was at the stage of speaking to my future husband in diminutives, so characteristic to the Polish language and so often overused by Poles. Thus Michael learned Polish words like “leg”, “hand”, “eye”, “dog”, “cow” in their cute, hypocoristic forms… The next one was “worm”. I do not remember in what circumstances I found it appropriate to introduce this word into his dictionary, but he accepted it painlessly, in contrast to, for example, numerals “four” – “cztery” or “nine” – “dziewięć”.
My husband does not speak Polish. I could not teach him more than about 100 words, and he cannot construct the simplest of sentences. I regret that I did not put in more work and I was not more stubborn and persistent in teaching him my language. But when I was thinking about this average, ordinary “robak” today, I also thought about “robal” – a fat, podgy, hideous worm, “robaczek” – a small sweet, cute and lovable worm, “robaczysko” – an old, tired, almost an old friend worm, and “robaczyna” – malnourished, poor worm with a broken leg and a cane…
I love my mother tongue, roaring, buzzing, swishing, growling and snarling and so difficult for foreigners. I love the variety of endings and the fact that the numeral “two” has seventeen meanings and forms. But could I expect that someone would learn all these weird sounds and variations?