I took a second bite out of my plumb when Redi said,
“The last time I ate one of these plums, it had bugs inside of it.”
I stopped chewing and stared at him. Did he forget to tell me about the bugs before I took a bite? I looked inside the fruit that his grandfather plucked off of a tree yesterday.
I popped the last piece of the fruit into my mouth.
“You know,” he said, “The bugs were under the seed. That’s where they hide.”
Seriously? How could this boy going in to 8th grade forget to mention bugs before I started eating the plumb?
I turned the seed over slowly, expecting to see hundreds of little bugs waiting to jump out at me.
Nope. No bugs.
I took out my notebook to wrote down a note so I would remember to write about it later. I can’t fit every part of my day into my writes, but I get as many as authentic moments possible.
“I can’t believe you have to do homework when you travel.” Redi said.
I laughed and told him that I wrote because I liked to write. I thought it was a fun puzzle to write about my day as close as I could to what really happened.
Redi asked what I wrote in my notebook just now. I let him read it.
Redi is trying to make me eat little red bugs that live under the plum seed.
He laughed. “I didn’t try…”
I put on my lawyer voice. “Did you notice that you waited until I ate two bites of that plum. Two bites, before you mentioned bugs to me?”
He was laughing so hard he could barely breathe. I love making middle school students laugh uncontrollably.
(Hopefully he doesn’t have asthma.)
We were riding in the back of the car. Their father was driving and their mother, Agnes—a friend whom I teach with in upstate, New York, was navigating. Agnes invited me to spend time with her family in the small Polish town of Annopol.
I readily accepted.
Now we were heading to Krakow, where they wanted to visit for a few hours, then head out on their way to the salt mines nearby.
Getting to spend time with this easygoing and fun family was a definite plus to my time in Poland, and I was grateful for the ride back to Krakow: no more train rides.
Roen, his fifth grade brother said, “Giant toasted marshmallows.”
I turned to him. Was he talking about the bugs under my plum seed, too?
He stared out the window.
I asked what made him think of marshmallows.
He pointed out the window at the rural countryside we were driving through. “Haybales.” He said, pointing to the farmer’s field that was littered with large, round bales of hay. “They look like giant toasted marshmallows.”
I sighed and told him that he was right, that’s exactly what they looked like.
After we parked the car in Krakow, I took them on a whirlwind introductory tour of Old Town, where I’d been living for the past month.
Agnes said, “Now it is your turn to show us around.”
I told her I was ready.
“It’s crazy.” She said. “Crazy that you are showing a Polish person around a Polish city.”
We walked towards the square. I warned them to watch out for the bicyclists who can ride on the sidewalk and will swerve close to you. People walked along the square haphazardly and we joined in the swell of tourists who wanted to see what there was to see.
I walked them to the giant head sculpture. I told the boys they could climb inside it.
They held back, thinking that I was teasing them.
Several young children climbed inside which warmed the boys up to the idea.
They perched right at the eyeballs and looked out.
A perfect photo.
They posed in front of the big church, the cloth market and the square itself.
It was time for lunch. We searched out those long pizza-breads, but couldn’t find just the exact right one that the boys loved.
We were about to step into another restaurant when a woman grabbed me by the arm.
She shook my arm. Her mouth was open in a silent scream.
Wait. This? Was this Paulina?
“YES!!!” she yelled.
Now my mouth flew open too. “How did you find me?”
“I thought you were in Warsaw.” She said.
“I was. I just arrived back here a few minutes ago.”
I met Paulina in Chicago years ago at a party and we’d kept in touch. I knew that she was in Poland visiting the town where she grew up, but her mother lived far from Krakow. Bumping into each other on the street was a crazy coincidence.
I went to introduce her to Agnes, Ed and the boys when someone else tapped me on my arm.
I looked up. It was Julie and Warren, my American friends I’ve hung out with in Krakow several times. They introduced me to their son and his girlfriend.
Sometimes my mind works fast. This was not one of those times.
I shook their hands, congratulated their son on his new job and said it was lovely to meet them both.
And here on this sidewalk in a city far away from home, I stood with three different sets of friends who didn’t know each other.
We posed for a “Holly Knows Me” photo.
Hours later as I write this my mind is still whirling.
Now that I can walk down a random sidewalk and bump into friends, that changes Krakow from a being just a travel destination.
Krakow is my town now.
Buying gas can be complicated in Poland. Usually it is sold in liters. Ed said this pump sold gas in Drams. "I haven't thought about drams since high school science class."
The boys pose at my favorite candy store, Treasure Candy, where the best candies are displayed in treasure boxes.
After we saw the fire-breathing dragon, they boys tried to storm the castle from below. They were able to climb to the top of the hill, but that pesky castle wall stood in their way. They retreated.
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