My mom, or how we call her Mamička, raised us girls with love, passion, compassion, laughter and adventure. No game was too silly, no book was too long to read and no day was wasted, not even when it rained. My sisters and I had a childhood many can only dream off.
Growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, we spent our weekends in the mountains at a log cabin retreat center my parents were managing. We walked those hills and never ending forest and expansive meadows foraging for mushrooms, herbs and rosehips. We pretended to be like Hansen and Gretel, like partisans during the war, running from the enemies. We climbed steep mountains to discover meadows full of alpine strawberries and bathed in ice cold mountain streams. I honestly can not say we were ever bored. I wish, that we had pictures of these adventures a home movie or two. At, that time, not everyone had a camera and a video camera was mostly for professionals.
The mushrooms we foraged would be carefully cleaned and thinly sliced. We spread them on large sheets of paper and dried them for use in winter. Morels, chantaurelles, porcine, button mushrooms and portabella like mushrooms, which we would bread and fry were just some of the varieties we found. There were so many more mushroom I don’t know their Englwish names.
Cookouts on the weekend was the norm. Our dad, the Chef, always prepared everything with us helping. He packaged meats and vegetables into foil, seasoned them and when the fire was just right, he would gently place them into the coals. He then took us and we looked for the perfect grilling branches. He carved each one with care at the tip, so the thick cuts of bacon would stay put while we grilled them over the open fire. The drippings would be wiped on thick dark slices of bread and the bacon was dipped into the best mustard. We sat in nature, ate and laughed with either family or friends surrounding us.
In winter, the hills surrounding log cabins would be covered in snow. My oldest sister learned how to sky during her 8th grade skiing trip and so my dad and our friend Laci built us a ski lift. We spent entire days sledding and skiing into exhaustion. Mom would come to the rescue with delicious Russian tea and we made our way back to the main log cabin crossing the narrow plank over barely frozen creek, up the path and to the cabin where hot dinner was waiting for us. Afterwards, we finished our evening in the great hall with the fireplace roaring. We watched movies, played cards and watched the falling snow in the stillness of the night.
I have no pictures of these years, but I can recall them instantly and sometimes smell the meadow with the alpine strawberries and the fresh crisp air in the dead of winter. I can feel the heat of the bonfire, I can smell the earthy scent the ground releases just as it starts to rain. The distinctive scent of drying mushrooms and the taste of the hot tea with a touch of rum.
Thank you Mamička, for giving us the kind of childhood that many dream of. Thank you for sacrificing everything, with our dad, to give us a better life than what was in store for us living in our former country.
I love you more than words could ever do justice and I hope you feel it.