THE MOVIES


   I was born in 1930. Back then sugar came in large chunks, but even so it was a rarity. For tea Mother gave us each a piece the size of an apricot kernel and always said: "Eat every last bit, and make sure you don't drop it! The bird of kindness left it for us."
   After finishing our tea we would sit outside in the sun with our backs against the house and wait for the bird of kindness to come. Mother had seen it, if only on rare occasions, but not once did we ever get a glimpse of it.
   We had never even heard of such things as chocolate candies in wrappers, much less of silver- or gold-foil ones. That's probably why we find it so incomprehensible when our children leave half-eaten chocolates lying around the house.
   The movies... Nowadays, even a toddler is able to flick the television channel dial tý search for an interesting program to watch. I was already a schoolboy when I saw my first film at the movie theater.
   I can remember our bullock cart, ready to take Father, Mother, Annali-aga and his wife to vote at the regional elections.
   "Take me with you!" I begged. "If you don't take me along, I'll follow behind you!"
   Father was in a good mood that day.
   "All right," he said. "Put on your hat and boots and your new coat."
   We pulled up in front of the village Soviet. Right outside the building people were cooking soup and pilaf in enormous copper kettles. The other children were scampering around and munching on biscuits, but I stuck right by my father's side. They gave him some slips of paper, and he dropped them into a red box.
   "So now you know how voting is done," my father said cheerfully.
   I hadn't understood anything, but I was too shy to ask. Father took me by the hand and led me into a darkened room. On a white wall there were people moving about. They were opening their mouths and their lips were moving, but I couldn't make out a single word.
   "Papa, what were they trying to tell us?" I asked my father about the people on the wall.
   "That was a motion picture, son. A silent movie. They say they've already made talking movies. When they reach us, we'll go and see them."