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  • Both my parents had emigrated to the US from Hungary. My mom was 4 and my dad came over when he was 37. They instilled in all 4 of their girls a love and pride in their heritage. My parents worked very hard but we grew up poor.

    One summer it was decided that they would send me and my older sister Marianne to spend a summer in Hungary visiting relatives. My parents had scrimped and saved for this. It was the summer of 1969. Hungary was still a Communist country. I remember it was the summer that the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia.

    I was 13. Tall, awkwardly gangly,and very shy. Marianne would be turning 15 in July. This was a new experience in many ways. We had never flown before and we had never been away from our parents. We knew a few of our relatives but most we were meeting for the very first (and last) time.

    We spent a bit of time staying with our Aunt Ethel on her farm in a small village in northern Hungary, called Viss. She told us they used to have much more property but the communists came and took much of the land for themselves. She was all excited because just a month prior to our arrival she had gotten electricity installed in her house!

    We stayed there for a week and then she drove us to another relatives place in a neighboring town called Esztergom. We had several cousins in the general area. My father's one brother had 5 boys and we were making the rounds visiting them. They were all older than us, married, and many had young kids. One of the cousins lived in a very nice house but we had to go outside and walk quite a distance to use the outhouse. I was just grateful that it was summer and daylight. I couldn't imagine doing that in the winter or at night.

    Another cousin lived in a neighboring village. The house had clay floors and I remember being amazed to see chickens freely running in and out of the house!

    I had to use the bathroom and my cousin pointed in the distance to a small dilapidated wooden structure located on a hilltop some distance from us. His english was bad and my hungarian was non-existent. He handed me some newspaper and pointed again to the little wooden structure. My sister was nearby and I asked if she would accompany me. She walked with me through some overgrown grass and weeds to the wooden structure and when we got there we found that it was an outhouse with 3 sides, but no door! There was a seat but it was open to all the surrounding area. I just about died. We decided that we would use our bodies as shields while we took turns using the "watercloset". I went first and my sister stood in front of the structure and barricaded it with her body as best she could.

    When I was done, I couldn't find the toilet paper and commented in frustration to my sister Marianne. She told me to use the newspaper.

    "You're kidding me!" was my astounded reply.

    Her grasp of the native language was clearly much better than mine.
    "Why do you think Lajos gave you the newspaper?"

    That summer, I quickly learned to appreciate the little things that I had taken for granted.
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