July 28, 2010

The Old and the New

Posted in Family, Holidays, Serbia, Traditions tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:46 am by Liliana

Horses

The old ways

The village in Serbia where my father grew up is located in a deep valley with tall hills all around. The hills are covered with thick forests.

When I was a child in the 1960’s, there was no paved road to the village. There was an ancient cobblestone pathway that got terribly muddy when it rained and became practically impassable in spring and fall. The only way to get through during those seasons was with a wagon pulled by strong horses.

My father left the village as a young boy, went to school, and spend most of his life living in a big city, where my sister and I grew up. His brother inherited the family house and land and stayed in the village to take care of their parents and be a farmer.

Our father and uncle were close and loved each other but there was always rivalry between them – city against country, new against old, modernity against old customs.

Every Serbian family has a Patron Saint’s day and ours is in October, the rainy, muddy season of the year. Our entire large, extended family would assemble in my uncle’s house and celebrate. It was the biggest event of the year.

The year I was five, 1964, my father bought a car. He was excited to drive it to the Saint’s Day celebration, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t rain and that the roads would be dry. He wanted to display to his brother the industrial superiority of the modern times.

Well, I will never forget how hard it rained as my father, mother, sister and I drove through the thick forest. It poured. The road was thick with mud and pretty soon, the car stopped. My father tried this and that, but the car wouldn’t budge. He tried pushing it, and we got out to help.

Pretty soon, our fancy clothes were wet and muddy, and my sister and I started to cry. Our father knew that it was time to give up.

He left us to sit in the car with our mother and went looking for help. We sat for what seemed like a long time, afraid of the dark, rainy forest. Our mother sang songs to us.

And then we heard the sound of a wagon and joyous voices. Our father was coming back with our uncle, his wagon and two horses.

Our uncle was delighted. Delighted to see us but also delighted to attach the new car to his old horse wagon and pull it into the village.

The family was waiting as we descended into the valley. Everyone was amused to see that the old ways still had their place.

It wouldn’t last. These days everyone in the village has a car. The old cobblestone road is paved.

And no one keeps horses anymore.

2 Comments »

  1. Dave Harrison said,

    The tale of TRUE HORSEPOWER pervails again.


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