Something is lifting. The days have been running together in a mix of rain and sparkling cold, and the trees are not quite sure if they should commit to their leaves, but the angle of the sun is winning. There are shoots of green on all the branches, and when I go for a walk I pass little puddles of blue and yellow flowers in unexpected places. The bulbs Jake planted last fall have quietly become rainbows. Something new is happening.
I wonder if Tree Moms feel any sense of longing when their saplings grow taller than them?
I wonder how many times the world has died and been reborn, and how many more times it will have to do so before we realize our lifetime, and our questions, answers, and religions, are not the only ones?
Spring in Bulgaria is tied to flowers, eggs, sweet bread and symbols, just like so many other parts of the world that welcome and celebrate spring. The bakeries sell soft, orange-scented pannetones, and honey cookies frosted with ladybugs. Bulgarians use dye and wax and all sorts of elaborate things to decorate eggs, and we visited one church that made a giant Resurrection diorama in an egg.
Baba Marta is a holiday celebrated on March 1st, the First Day of Spring, when friends do a ritual exchange of red and white bracelets called “martenitsa.” The bracelets can be elaborate or just simple woven threads, and are accompanied by wishes of good luck for the coming year. The tradition is to wear the martenitsa until you see a stork or a budding tree, then tie it to the branch to give the tree health and a good harvest. The randomly decorated trees throughout Sofia almost makes it feel like Christmas!
The boys and I celebrated by wearing our martenitsas on a trip downtown to Starbucks. COVID means most of the cafes and stores are closed, but Starbucks is still open.
Spring also means rainy Saturdays and weekends at home, as Bulgaria stumbles through its third COVID lockdown. We make Indian food and tacos and bake cinnamon rolls on Sundays, and at least once a weekend get together with our friends for hiking, board games, and BBQ. Boggle, Hand and Foot, Trekking, and video games with our Vienna friends keep us busy. We’ve started watching The Flash and continue watching Brooklyn 99, and have put together a few 1000 piece puzzles.
Outside, the weather still can’t decide if it’s spring or a lingering winter. We go on road trips to the mountains and pass farmers selling homemade wine, jam, honey, and pickles. I think this is raspberry wine, and I like it.
For Easter there are Orthodox traditions of going to church for prayers, icons, and blessings. The eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ, and the hard shell symbolizes the tomb.
My Bulgarian friends say the eggs are actually dyed during the church service on the Thursday before Easter, while the priest is reciting liturgy and the iconostasis is glowing with incense. It’s neat that they dye easter eggs during church, but we thought it was funny that all the vinegar and paper towels were left next to the eggs, along with a roll of toilet paper. I guess to clean up spills.
The eggs are then are cracked against each other to celebrate the resurrection and eternal life. We came at the wrong time so we missed the service and the blessings, but lit a candle for everyone we love. For breakfast, our hotel gave us eggs and easter bread called Kozynak. The sweet, soft Easter bread is a lot like challah or hot cross buns, and can be filled with jam, chocolate, or turkish delight.
These Easter rituals bring waves of other easter memories, when we lived in Kyiv and also celebrated pussy willow Sunday in a country with no palm trees, and bought round paska bread and dyed easter eggs with our babies for the first time.
Sometimes it mixes me up, to be back in a place doing things so similar but different, with kids who are also similar but different. They are not babies anymore, but they still humor me by acting excited over bunnies and easter baskets, and I still do it because I don’t want it ever to be over, this time when small rituals and chocolate eggs are enough to make something special out of life. It is nostalgic and surreal, to think those days seemed hard, only to see now how easy it was to turn a moment into magic.
It should not be a surprise that something new is happening. The magic is harder now, but the moments are better, and my little saplings are still mine even if they’re taller than me.