Illustration by Lili Szarvas.

The lady who sings for her flowers

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Like many other students, campus columnist Lili Szarvas is enjoying her newfound freedom in this post-lockdown summer, which reminds her of a lady she often saw when visiting her grandmother back in Budapest. 

The clock is about to strike 3:00 am – you deserved a night out because these past two weeks at the university have been extremely hard on you: exams, assignments, determining the difference between assignments and papers, and praying for teachers not to be moody because of the heat waves. Besides, why wouldn’t you deserve it? Some friends, beers, a blanket, and many many inside jokes flavored with some passive aggression alongside unconditional love, of course. It is a night worth to be had because you get to experience those special minutes when none of you has anything to say but that is completely okay since you have reached the point in the relationship where comfortably sharing silence is just as meaningful as discussing why you received that grade on that highly feared exam – or maybe even more meaningful. After the first few nights of feeling the summer breeze while cycling home and thinking about the freedom of the summer, especially a summer like this one now that experiences outside your studio are possible again, the thought of my grandma’s neighbor has crossed my mind.

Over the past 1.5 years, whenever I visited my grandma’s block of flats, which is located in the outskirts of Budapest, I often ran into this elderly lady. She seems very fashionable for her age as she is always rocking this gigantic hat with many flowers on it, but what is even more remarkable is that in many of the occasions I’ve noticed her she was gardening. Now, let me paint the picture: from a distance, all you see is that, in front of the socialist-looking building, there is this secret enchanted garden with a big hat dancing around in it. Interesting scents, vivid colors, and most importantly, singing that would send the angriest politicians of the world to a peaceful, mesmerized state. This lady not only cares for these plants and flowers with her touch and nourishment, but sings to them with affection and love. This lady, despite having faced a deadly pandemic over the past year, has managed to find the will to sing and care for those flowers in front of her poorly constructed industrial-looking house, no matter how hot, windy, or rainy the clouds have been above her head.

Why does she come to mind whenever I feel the summer breeze, you ask? Because returning to the old, pre-pandemic ways of living, in which I can actually hug my grandmother and not just hover about in front of her door, or have precious late nights with friends at the bar promising to have ”just one more” beer, reminds me of this lady. The summer breeze of the 3:00-am bike ride is like the lady with the hat: feeling their presence and hearing their sounds both calm you down and refresh you with possibilities. As if they both made you feel more alive and remind you that even if the world perishes, at least there’ll be flowers for its grave.

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