I vaguely remember the yellow leaves. I would follow ants through an endless garden that blanketed the village where my grandparents lived. I knew the way home as I knew the way back to this point, right behind the coffee shop of grandpa, where old men would spend their whole day.
How did I memorize the path? It was easy. Walk out of the old wooden house, turn right, walk until there are no more houses, turn left, keep walking until you reach the wooden bridge, where you can see the water through the boards as you cross it. That bridge would amaze me every single time. There were holes under my feet and I would walk timidly as water ran beneath the bridge. I would feel a small triumph mixed with relief when I finished that race on my own. Then I would walk towards the green trees and the grass that seemed more inviting than the small grey houses I left behind.
Beneath the trees that protected the village and near the black sea, it was calm and I wouldn’t meet many people on the streets. Those I met, I could count them on one hand. The air was nice and the wind was soft on my tresses. I was small but everything around me was small too so I didn’t feel lost.
The coffee shop was close, I would walk over and enter inside as the old men who looked like my grandpa turned their heads, looked at me, and laughed. My grandpa would open a cabinet and take out what he thought I would like the best: a bag of candies and all kinds of sweets.
My grandmother would spend her time at home. She had a big garden full of vegetables and flowers. I say “she had” because I’m not sure if grandpa was allowed to step inside. First thing after breakfast, we would go to the barn to milk and feed the cows. She would clean around as I fed the cows big green leaves. The cow would look at me like “Who is this tiny human?” and I would look at the cow like “You better not eat my fingers”, so we got along.
Afternoons, we would look over the balcony, and then we would go down to pick up green beans for dinner. She would tell me not to pick the dainty flowers because it would hurt them, it was better to let them stay where they were.
In summer, they would take me to the seaside, which wasn’t as near as grandpa’s coffee shop. We’d travel in grandpa’s jeep and I loved it. The sea would rage and I wasn’t allowed to swim in it, but I would play with the sand and wet my feet and hands. They would hold me close if we were to enter the water together. As harmless as it seemed at first sight, the black sea was known to swallow people. I loved staying in the sun better. Salt, soft sand, and seashells. “You can hear the sea in them,” my grandma would say.
“A piece of the sea stays in it, always.”