It is always times like these that I remember my own mother back home in Canada and think of her life to come on the new frontier of retirement. What will she do with her years of freedom from hard work? What will she do with all her free time? Visit me I hope!
Mom starts retirement December 14th this year!
This story is for her!
I met the most extraordinary person.
Last weekend our entire street had a party. It started at 17:00 on Saturday evening. Everyone took tables and chairs and set up on one end of the street and brought plates of homemade food and alcohol to share. The wine, palinka and jagermeister were flowing until well past midnight.
It was here we met the residents of the other end of our neighbourly street where a good mix of people from all walks of life and different occupations reside. We have the mechanic, the carpenter, the musical director, the accountant, the IT person, the salesman, retired folks and not to mention the gang of little children all the way up to university students home for the weekend that joined in the fun.
Since we moved in to our home in Solymar we noticed a little old lady who lives in the house next door. She is about 90 years old, tiny wee white haired lady who putters around her garden and house, in all her adorable cuteness. Whenever I see her I call over a hello to her.
At the party she introduced herself and invited us over on Tuesday at 17:00 the following week.
So over we went with a big bag of sweets, because I assume all little old ladies love sweets…
She was so cute as she hobbled to the gate when we buzzed in, and she met us at the door of her little wood house.
We walked through her manicured gardens, rose bushes and daisies. Every evening she waters them, but I have seen gardeners mowing the lawn and attending the plants and trees too.
She asked us to call her by the Hungarian version of auntie usually bestowed upon family and close friends. We had no trouble with this at all, as she was the most adorable person I had met since moving to Hungary and the fact that we have little family of our own to call anything at all.
When we entered the first thing I noticed was the wall to wall bookshelves everywhere I looked; three deep in books. Books in Italian, Hungarian, and English. This lady is well read on topics like music, teaching, travel books, religion from what I spotted.
Aniko Neni was not just a little old lady full of infinite amounts of smiles for us but also she had quite a history; a love story, living through two wars and a revolution and in spite of all the turmoil, a happy life to share.
There she was at ninety years young, beaming and grinning ear to ear as if she had the answers to all the questions of life, the hidden meanings and the gifts she has learned along the way.
She told us that her brother, his best friend and herself were an inseparable threesome. And after the war she married the best friend and they all went to university to become who they were supposed to be.
And so it went.
When communism came it was very difficult for her to find work as a Greek and Latin teacher, so she went back to school to become a music teacher, even though she had two little ones by then, an incredible feat in those days. She had a third child 12 years after the second, also a very different thing in those days too! This woman followed the beat of her own drum.
They spent their life teaching and making beautiful music together.
She also has a passion for Waldorf schooling practices and went to learn about that too and eventually wrote a book on it. She was the first person who brought the entire concept to Hungary and opened the first school just up the road from here when communism finally left in 1999. Before that it was practiced in secret; as alternative teaching method were frowned upon by their Russian captors.
In 1999 she made teaching teachers the Waldorf method her passion and continued to sing in many choirs, directed many choirs, taught piano and taught in many schools. She also had the opportunity to move to New Zealand for her husband’s work, but instead they visited the beautiful country and decided to enjoy their life and grandchildren here in Hungary.
She is now over 92, still full of energy and she said, if only I was 70 again. I started to laugh. 70 not 50, not 30, but 70. And she said yes. At 70 she was retired and could truly enjoy her children and grandchildren. At 70 communism was finally gone and she could enjoy freedom that she could not before. She didn’t want to return to the time before that, but she didn’t say a single negative word as to why. She only shared her most joyous moments, only the positive imprints and memories of her beautiful life.
She is a person who has a message for all of us; to see the silver lining on every grey cloud, to focus on the good in life and not to let the negative take hold. She lives her life so joyously, gratefully, gracefully. A woman of deep devote faith, she knows for certain that she is here for a reason, and that her life has ever lasting meaning and measure. Such faith. Such wisdom and understanding.
She said she had a very difficult time moving with arthritis and little ailments before retirement and took up yoga and stretching. It has gave her the mobility and the health that would carry her on to her later years.
She inspired me.
She made me realize that the best may still be yet to come.
She reminded me that life goes on after retirement with the same passion and lust for life and knowledge.
She was amazing. This white haired sweetheart, a tiny wee woman had the spunk of people half her age. An inconspicuous person that most would overlook yet she had so much love and knowledge and lessons to give.
After her husband passed away, she decided to sell their large family home in Zuglo and gave her children their inheritance. I asked her why. And she said she wanted to see them enjoy it. Then she decided at 87 that she wanted to build herself her dream home next to her daughter’s home here in Solymar. So on the property between her daughter’s beautiful large estate and our’s she built herself a wooden home. It looks like a mountain chalet; a log home you can see on mountain on ski resorts with red roofs and stained wood exteriors and interiors.
The inside is simple but all custom-built to her speculations and drawing plans. The middle room is for her piano and when her choir comes over to sing from Germany, Austria and parts of Hungary once a year. Here they congregate to sing, laugh and talk the entire weekend. Many former students come to perform, and to visit her. I am sure she was their favourite teacher.
Each knick-knack tells a story of all that she has done. She has a main bedroom on the cool side of the house where she sleeps and two guest rooms for her many family members and friends that love to visit her.
She designed the kitchen small just for herself so she doesn’t have to reach too high, or move too far to get from one side to the next. No detail was overlooked.
I asked her if we make too much noise next door. She said she loves hearing all the noises from us. She also said she can hear us singing throughout the day, especially Angelina in the room above her kitchen window. She told us that she has a good ear for music and that some of us sure can sing in our home. Even though these days her hearing is going, she continued to tell us that she loves that we now occupy the house which was empty for so long.
The place she likes to sit looks onto our yard, and she has a good view of the trampoline too. She said she sits there and watches the children do their amazing flips and can see us watering the garden and talking on the porch. She love the sounds of a happy life and the distraction while she writes at her desk.
When I reach my own future and feel my life changing and dreams fading, I am going to think of Aniko Neni. I am going to remember how she didn’t have many choices living through communism, yet her ideals and character didn’t change. She didn’t grow bitter and resentful, she simply was ready and prepared to make her dreams come true when she could, and she sure did!
Inspirational lady. I feel extremely grateful to have meet her; my lovely little neighbour, our Aniko Neni!