Kat, a visiting Australian friend has asked for a Polish feast and of course my daughter’s mother-in-law obliges. On Sunday, J goes out early to buy customary guest’s flowers from the Dolna flower stalls: an old lady with a few meagre bunches of calendula waylays him and insists he buy from her. So no cellophane and ribbons, but money in a needy pocket, and yet another proof of J’s soft heart.
As we get off the train at Pruszków, rain spots as big as a thumb-to-index-finger circle begin to plop. Gradually they cover more of the ground, first becoming star-shaped and then joining to completely blacken the bitumen. We scurry towards Ola and Jurek’s apartment and are settled in front of our cucumber soup before the storm really hits: wild wind, rain angling furiously at 45°, and deliciously cooled air. The soup is followed by spiced plums; two kinds of falling-off-the bone meat; a beetroot and orange salad; dilled potatoes; and pierogis crafted from scratch by my Polish daughter. The cousins arrive with their parents and cheerful smiles for us. The vodka begins to flow, and the challenge becomes keeping fizzy water for the kids separate from firewater for the adults. Especially when strawberry nalewka joins the party.
Conversation is vigorous despite the need for translation. Kat asks Jurek about the grandfather clock in the dining room, and we discover that he restored it using his carpentry skills: we’ve have already seen the results of these skills in the house at the dzialka and my daughter’s restored dining table. But that’s not all. We also learn that he crafted the intricate wall clock from an image he’d come across somewhere.
By now it’s time for dessert – a creamy concoction topped with raspberries and blueberries, and my daughter’s banana chocolate cake, egg free for Jaś, topped with strawberries. The gathering is loud and good-humoured and I feel almost tearful at being in the midst of this other family. Just back from Gdańsk, I ask Ola and Jurek where they go when they collect Baltic amber – Hel is one of the places – and Jurek produces a large bowl full of amber chips. He scoops out two handfuls and gives one to Kat and one to me. Ola comes out wearing a pendant, featuring a Potato Point beach pebble. I gave it to her as a brooch, but she rejects brooches now because a politician she despises wears them.
The storm outside has receded, and we head back to Warsaw replete with food and family.
The next morning we see the extent of storm damage in Warsaw when we walk through Park Morskie Oko to pre-school. The ground is littered with branches and Maja and Jaś ditch their bikes and begin dragging the smaller ones around, as they do when they’re assembling a bonfire. Looking at the devastation, we decide not to dally in the park next time we see a storm approaching.