“I’m going to America and you can’t color with my crayons while I’m gone” he said while we were at the table in Buna’s kitchen. I immediately stopped my drawing and told him I was 100% going with him to America and that our parents wouldn’t separate us. Later, I would find out it was indeed true as I got my first bitter taste that the world is not as it should be. Dad and Andrew were the only ones who could leave. Mom and I would have to stay in Romania. I couldn’t understand why the government would not want to let a family travel together. It made no sense. Especially since they were going to “America” the mysterious land I’d heard about where chocolate came in blocks, oranges were eaten everyday—not just on Christmas—and cartoons were on all . . . day . . . long.
Soon they were gone. I was left behind with a mom who couldn’t build the epic forts Dad made with us. And, when I say epic, I mean these forts took up an entire room with tunnels that lead to other hidden forts. The best part would be Buna, my grandmother, walking in to tell Dad he was more of a child than us then laughing on her way out as she reminded him she was not cleaning this up . . . again. He’d stay in there with us for hours at a time; telling stories, using a different voice for each character. And, after he left, if I woke up not wanting to go to kindergarten (which was a daily argument with Buna) I would not have Dad around to whisk me off to Pocola to spend the day with him at his doctor's office. I’d find a place under his work desk and listen to him talk to patients. Sometimes they’d want to show their gratitude with cheese, milk, or eggs. I kept hoping someone would surely show their appreciation with chocolate . . . !
Once Dad and Andrew were in America, during our rare phone conversations, Andrew would tell me about the amazing things he’d seen, eaten, and done but all I could tell him was “just so you know I’m using your crayons.” Then I’d go next door because my cousin, Dani (a.k.a. angel child), lived a courtyard away and I’d recruit him for random shenanigans, because it’s no fun to get in trouble alone. Dani, however, required a lot of “special” encouragement to join me. And by “special” I mean physical force. But, alas, one day my Uncle Peter happened to see this. To this day I’m not sure if he was more upset at me or at Dani for getting bossed around by a girl.
I did my best to keep busy until the other half our of family would return. After a few months we found out that Mom and I would be able to join Dad and Andrew in America. However, those few months turned into almost 2 years! 22 months to be exact before we were finally reunited. Fort building resumed and I had more oranges a day than I could possibly eat.