Our plum tree not only had a collective identity; it was itself and not interchangeable with any other trees of its kind. It was something larger than its name or anything one could say about it. Like every tree in the garden, that which it was could not fit into a name.
[The trees] were part of our lives. Around them children would play games until late at night, and under them people would sit on benches and talk late into the night.
In conversations with people from different ethnic groups one accommodated according to the language skills of others. Simple words and gestures expressed our shared experiences quite well even among those who did not speak each other’s languages.
In summer people left the village hours before dawn so that the early morning light might find them at their destination ready to work. The wagons returned late in the evening, bringing the smell of hay with them and raising the dust on the road.
I soon noticed that people changed and became distant; some were unfriendly. They did not smile and they greeted grudgingly. Instead of being themselves, they suddenly became Serb, German, Hungarian, Slovak, Jew, and Gypsy.
Her empty house, turned inward, like all the other abandoned houses, bore a reflection of the missing. But such houses were no longer part of anyone’s home, and not even the carelessly drawn star could claim them. Like accusing monuments to the violence that diminished us, they recalled the lost integrity of the village.
Longings for the past would often emerge unexpectedly. On weekend rides in the country, for instance, I would want us to stop at a farmhouse; I wanted to meet “real” people, and I was convinced they would have sheep cheese and yogurt for sale. On late autumn days, the crisp air would conjure familiar scents, the excitement of a disznótor [pig slaughtering, followed by sausage making]. Though such memories were comforting, invigorating, they informed, at the same time, that the feeling of home was elsewhere and far away.