My grandparents’ house has remained unoccupied since my grandmother’s death ten years ago. Nothing was moved or taken and the Romanian house became more a museum of Teoderașcu’s family memory. After all these years, I went to the house in April 2019. In June I returned with my father and then with my two aunts. They hadn’t been there in all these years. During my process, I’ve discovered that the past of my grandparents might be changed and used to satisfy and justify the present of the still-living ones. If the physical evidence is something real and, in most cases, it speaks the truth, the memory is prone to the imagination and overtime the past is involuntarily romanticised.
Gheorghe, my grandfather, used to work as a weigher, weighing and checking the quality of agricultural products. He worked in shifts of 12 hours, day or night. ‘I remember how I was standing with Dănuț in front of the porch and waiting for our father to come. When he appeared we used to ask him: Dad, did you bring us candies?’, one of my aunts told me.
According to a letter found in their house, Maria, my grandmother, did not get along very well with my grandfather, once she left from their home and her husband sent a letter to ask her to come back. Furthermore, not long before her death, she told the family members and to my mother that she was forced to marry Gheorghe, she was not happy with him, and, finally, she asked her children not to bury her in the same grave as her husband, but in the one that her cousin was buried.
In October 1967, my grandfather wrote a letter to Maria, his wife:
‘… maybe you have forgotten you left another baby at home, maybe you have forgotten that you left both rooms in a mess, especially the one we slept in… That’s all the time I had to write to you and maybe it was as long as our life has been together.’
Ten years later, I have asked my father and my aunts about their family’s past, having these questions in my mind: ‘Was my grandmother happy? Did they have a happy life together?’. My aunts told me nostalgic stories about the moments when their parents were still alive, nothing about the sadness of my grandmother or about her final decision. My father said ‘yes, they were happy, we had everything we needed’. Their version of the past is different from the one I know, the one that my grandmother told me about. It might be a romanticised one, based on forgiveness and reconstruction.
My grandmother had the power to make changes. Annette Kuhn (2002) speaks in her book “Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination” about this kind of power. She described how her mother used to cut their family pictures and to write down details on the back of them.
“But the strength of the feeling really has to do with the fact that these acts of my mother’s seem to me to be gestures of power, at once both creating the evidence that fits in with her version of events and destroying what does; and also negating the skills and aesthetic choices of the photographer, usually my father” (p. 65).