Inventing the world (excerpt)

Excerpt from the book “Inventing the world” by Jadranka Vladova.

The Grandmother

Oh, no! There is no better storyteller than her. It’s not about fairy tales only… It’s about dreams, as well, and events that took place yesterday, and events that happened a long time ago, when Grandma was a little girl. What makes Grandma special, however, isn’t her storytelling ability. She is special because she can repeat the same story countless times. When children love something, they never have it enough. They can listen to the same story for hundred times!  Storytellers are the problem. But our Grandma would serenely sit in the chair or the two-seater in the kitchen, or lie on her back between the two sets of curious eyes, or sunk tiredly onto the bench in the park – retrieving (from some secret pocket of her heart, of her soul) the Most Beautiful Storytelling Voice and then, then it wouldn’t matter if tiles fell, or the World moved on to another Galaxy, if the broth got overcooked, or all the dust ended up settling on the shiny polished dining room table, if all autumn foliage fell down, overwhelming our backyard, or even if her flowers, witheringly bowed their heads – She, getting into her story with Her Most Beautiful Storytelling Voice listened to the questions of her grandchildren only: how, where, what, why, why, why??? And Grandma would know all the answers. Only sometimes (because she didn’t want to lie), she would say she didn’t know the answer. Then she would ask them what they were thinking about that – and the real answer would be found!

Grandma has been the best storyteller ever since she was a Mother only, and after becoming a Grandmother, she outperformed herself. It is probably the storytelling skills that have something to do with how long you perceive the world, and definitely, it has something to do with the heart.

By the way, storytelling aside, Grandma possesses other terrific skills, as well. She is a master of Sunday lunches. It just… well, she isn’t as annoying as Mom is, she doesn’t insist that one has to eat their soup, but it would be better if she didn’t cook it at all! Because Mom wouldn’t frown from across the table, Grandma wouldn’t elbow them under the table, saying “They will have some soup, however!”, Dad wouldn’t yell at the end “Soup is a must!” and so on… Grandma makes the muffins with sesame and cumin, and with nothing – with a glittery icing of yolk. And Grandma’s cookies! A miracle, a real miracle of chocolate, butter, and walnuts. And her cakes! Especially those in September… Oh! But, OK, let’s not forget the thing called room with jars.


Children are the biggest miracle in the world. They are the only thing that cannot be invented. Even then, driven by strong wishes, the most secretive desires, and the biggest ardor of life, when we think of them with eyes closed, they squeeze away from us. When they arrive on this world, from some distant SOMEWHERE, from some miraculous SOMETHING, from some unfathomable THERE, they get us astounded by their perfection, and all of us, who came here twenty, five, fifty, or eighty years before they did, become aware of our own powerlessness. No, nobody could invent such little perfections of flashy little fingers, translucent, rosy toenails, and fingernails, little hands with gorgeous webs, little legs, bellies, silky hair, amazed little eyes, still looking at the world they have come from, of soft, fragrant skin.

Yes, adults can invent everything. Unusual abodes reaching the sky, thin bridges straddling the widest rivers, flying objects, cars, pictures, books, and useful and unuseful things of all kinds, but everything is different when it comes to children. They are the biggest mystery and secret. After their arrival, they first pretend a little bit that they know nothing, feel cold, and feel hot under the soft blankets their carrying mothers use to cover them with. Yes, children dissimulate by crying, but they are actually being cautious only. They need a will and determination only. And then, one after another, two white teeth start growing, and they laugh intentionally, making adults laugh as well. The only thing they need is decisiveness. Actually, they have fun with adults, and while ostensibly stuttering, they utter their first words: mo-mmy, da-ddy, ba-by. 

Children know everything. They only have fun when adults are present, so they can preserve their dignity. They pretend to be frail and powerless, therefore giving adults a chance to feel important. During their period as babies, children know much, much more than adults. Only they know where they came from. I’m sure, completely sure that for the sake of some confidential pledge, for the sake of some prohibition of telling the secret, they pretend to be unable to speak. But they are. No doubt at all. Yes. And then something strange happens. Little by little, they become forgetful. Or there is some very big secret, maybe that’s how it’s meant to be? Or simply, by the mere fact of becoming adults, children lose their precious abilities and real knowledge, because the world of adults requires caring about some less important things (schools, employment, apartments, automobiles…).

I don’t know. Some great secret lies here. Once I was a child who knew everything too… It’s sad a little bit. Forgetting so many things…

Translated by Simeon Jankov

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