Unleavened Levity


          The village of Terje had been a part of Hungary that had been ceded to Romania after World War I.  The people living there still felt they were Magyars, and continued speaking Hungarian, as well as Romanian.  For Passover, I watched my grandma make matzos. She placed a ball of unleavened dough on a new linen cloth, which had been dusted with flour. A roller made from a peeled log was used to flatten the ball of dough into a thin circular disc. The tool to make perforations in the matzo was a short length of wood that held a row of ten, pointed, round-wood spikes.  Starting at the east and finishing at the west edge of the matzoth, rows of perforations were pressed.  Added rows of parallel holes were pressed into the flat unleavened and unbaked dough on the surface of the matzo.  In a short time there were piles of unbaked matzos by the brick oven in the kitchen.


          My grandmother told me that she used to make the holes in the matzoth with a twig, one hole at a time, until grandpa-Moses made the ten-pronged piercer.  Ten is the number needed for a minion.  She told me that some people decorated the matzoth with arcs, circles, or designs.  Grandma encouraged me to make some artistic matzos.  I rolled my dough flat and with a twig, I made a small round circle in the center amid concentric circles that spread to the edge of the matzoth.  Around the center circle I wrote Mother within a heart. For grandpa-Moses, I made a picture of the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.  For grandma, who smoked a pipe, I made a short-stemmed pipe set in wavy lines of perforations depicting smoke. A bull standing amid short lines depicting tall grass was for my strong uncle, Morczei.  A crowing cock was for my uncle, Bumi.  With concerted action, I spend the most time slowly making holes in the matzoth for my favorite aunt, Mariska.

          That Passover, I was ten years old and my new developing interests had been stimulated.  Part of the year I lived on my grandparent’s farm, where my untutored education involved observing the sexual actions of the cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry. Human sexual functions were unobserved, but they were vividly imagined in my mind. I had seen Mariska nude, and the matzoth I made for her was very special. The farmhouse consisted of four rooms. A large room with a brick and clay oven was in the center.  This central oven served for cooking and was the only heat for the entire house in the winter. This room was the kitchen, dining and living room combined. Three small bedrooms branched from this center room.  One for my grandparents, one for the uncles, and in one bedroom, my mother and Mariska slept in one bed, while my brother Jeno and I slept in another bed. The toilet was an outhouse in the rear of the house.


          All beds had straw mattresses and goose-down pillows and quilts.  Matilda, my mother’s oldest sister, and Ida, who was two years younger than my mother, lived in America.  Mariska, who was in her twenties, was my mother’s youngest sister. After supper Jeno, my brother, and I would be sent to bed.  We would undress, make neat piles of our clothes, making sure that the socks we wore that day would be placed next to the same shoes they were worn in. We put on long cotton nightgowns, before we went to bed I would then extinguish the kerosene lamp.   Jeno’s place was next to the wall while I slept on the outer edge of the bed.  At times I desperately tried to stay awake and wait for Mariska to come to bed.  I learned to feign sleep, lying on my left side with my head pressed into the pillow and the quilt covering part of my face.  I would keep my right eye closed and my left eye could covertly watch Mariska as she undressed.


          Holding a dimly lit kerosene lamp, she would quietly enter the room and put the lamp next to the extinguished bedroom lamp. Glancing in my direction, she would satisfy herself that I was sleeping.  I kept my breathing even, and both eyes closed until I heard the rustle of her clothes as she undressed.  Except for my suddenly pounding heart, I was rapt and silent as I opened my left eye.  My thoughts and strange desires were aflame with life as I watched her. Sometimes she wore double skirts, but like other women of that area, she did not wear brassieres or underwear.  Her full breasts with puckered nipples surrounded by a wide pink circle, swayed gently as she moved.  Next to her left nipple was a small dark birthmark.  She slipped into her long nightgown and put out the light, and went into her bed.  With turbulent emotion and passion, I fell asleep.


          The matzo I made for Mariska was deviously subtle.  I made a slight dome by adding extra dough in the matzo’s middle.  I pinched a bit of the dough into a miniature nipple in the center of the mound.  Pairs of arcs and half circles radiated from the slight dome in the center of the matzoth.  I took a poppy seed from the spice drawer and made a symbolic birthmark next to the stylized nipple on the aptly suggested slight mound of the matzo.  I carefully baked my artistic matzos. After the second Seder was over, and everyone was feasting, I distributed my personalized matzoth gifts. 


          My grandparents and uncles admired their personalized matzos.  My mother smiled and showed off her matzoth with the perforations saying Seretlec, “I love you,” in Hungarian.  Jeno was annoyed at the donkey I depicted on his matzo.  With fugitive thoughts and a sacred lust, I handed Mariska her matzoth.  She thanked me for the unusual wavy design, and then she realized the implications.  With a scowl of disapproval, she broke the matzoth into small sections. After that unforgettable Seder night, Mariska dressed and undressed in the dark.