A Lesson from Childhood


When I was 13 years old and lived in Romania, my mother decided we would take a vacation over the summer with friends. To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, she said, so bring lots of books.

We would not be leaving the campgrounds much, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility. The parents would be resting, talking. Fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.

You can imagine my confusion. I loved books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer to read?

“We spend too much time watching TV, talking on the phone,” Mom said. “We live in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation will make up for that.”

Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly-infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea.

Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I met kids from Bulgaria and Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea and wind — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we found common ground in our English-speaking skills.

What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. We listened to sounds the wind picked up from afar — broken sounds, but easily heard.

We listened to the lapping of the waves, the sea whispering its own language or that of creatures inhabiting its depths. Sitting on the beach for hours, we tried to decide if the whistling sounds came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.

Since then, I’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer, when I learned to go from crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.

This post is part of the WordPress DailyWrite, where the prompt is to share a story about learning something new.



25 responses to “A Lesson from Childhood

  1. What a wonderful memory, Silvia. And I love what your mother said about living in a world ‘of sensory abundance and bonding poverty.’

  2. Smart woman, your mom. When I was young, people didn’t have TVs yet, so we had to read. That was OK; I loved reading, still do. I’ve long wanted to see the Black Sea, though not during fly season. What a wonderful experience — must have been a peak experience — you had that summer, Silvia. Beautifully written, evocative. I felt like I was there on the beach with you listening to the sounds carried on the wind and of the sea.

    • Samantha, thank you! We spent a lot of time camping by the Black Sea, but that particular summer is the most memorable, perhaps given the duration. Nothing like reading by the beach, is there. :)

  3. Silvia, I don’t know why, but this resonated with me more than any of the other beautiful things you have written. I love it so much that I was moved to comment. That says a lot. Please keep up the storytelling!

  4. Camping is delightful.What a summer that would be! I wish I could go camping for a whole summer. :-)

  5. What a fabulous experience, Silvia! More kids, these days, should have this opportunity instead of playing with their iphones, ipads, computers, TV, etc. Learning to enjoy nature and one another is critical on so many levels. You have one SMART mom!! Plus, I felt like I was sitting in the tent with you. I loved your post!

  6. Ah, childhood memories. Loved this post Silvia thank you, it brings back happy camping times in my childhood …

  7. Thanks for sharing a lovely memory with us.

  8. Marvelous post, Silvia! Awesome of your parents …

  9. Silvia, I get a lovely vivid picture of your early life and important opportunities to grow your spirit and your mind that your parents provided!

    Like two tuning forks near each other, I resonate with your experience and by what I describe here. I know of fiction where the setting is Odessa on the Black Sea, and tales about Cossacks and Gangsters in olden days. Also, George Gamow, whose book, Matter Earth and Sky that I owned in 1958, was born in 1904 in Odessa, Ukraine. My fertile imagination makes me hear sounds of steamships and whistles, and bustles of a Major Port today on the Black Sea, where Gamow lived. I think of my mother who lived in Kishinev in 1905, a place originally in Romania and now in a subsection of land called Moldova. The countryside of Kishinev was lovely for growing trees that bore fruits and smaller plants that gave delicious berries, often used in baked cakes. Kishenev, when driving south-easterly is not far from Odessa.

    Scientific books and Literature have transported me to enter the feeling tones of all these places in my imagination!

    • Ah, Joseph, love your beautiful words here, and the pictures you paint with them. I know about Kishinev from stories about Moldova — a beautiful, beautiful place. History at every step. Have never visited, unfortunately. One day, I would love to, if ever life offers good reason to find myself in that part of the world. Odessa, too, is a literature gem.
      The Black Sea, with her tumultuous history and many countries claiming her shores, but more so with her beauty and peace, takes me back to those days in childhood. Such treasured memories. A truly unique place.
      Thank you for reading, Joseph. It’s always delightful to read your comments.

  10. Hi Silvia – your parents knew what was important in life … and gave you the skills to get the greatest benefit for your future. Lovely remembrances – and I too can hear the sea, that earthly pulse – what a lovely phrase … and then as kids adapting to those around you and learning …

    Beautiful … cheers Hilary

  11. Beautiful! So so important to do that.

  12. What a great opportunity. Good for your mom to insist on this.

  13. This post has me mesmerized, and I would not be surprised if my wife and I end up visiting Odessa! The New Yorker Magazine, June 13, 2013, wrote of this place as “City of Writerly Love.” Odessa also has the State Literature Museum, and in 24 Halls pays homage to 300 Distinguished Writers. I thank you, again, Silvia, for telling your story as you have done here.

  14. That is SO true…even when we “get away” now, we still have our devices and we’re watching TV when we’re in the hotel room. Do any of us ever really truly unplug?


  15. Firstly, well done for crediting the picture. The little things :)

    Great post. I love revisiting places and making new memories.

  16. What a smart mother you have! We did this with our kids – took them to a dude ranch with no wifi or TV. They learned to play kick the can and a bunch of other games with the children at the ranch and had a wonderful time. My folks sent me to a Girl Scout camp in the New Hampshire mountains which I recall with great affection – shared work, lots of singing, and fun activities.

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