I knew something was up last Saturday when I saw people carrying single roses and carnations wrapped in cellophane – kind of like those cheesy gas station check out flowers, but prettier. It was a beautiful day – sunny, no clouds. Lots of people on the square, lots of women having coffee, dads with their kids. Lovely. But I didn’t know what the celebration was about. I kept trying to figure it out with my very limited knowledge of the Catholic calendar. Not Easter, not Good Friday, maybe Lent? The secret was revealed Saturday night.
We go to the movies pretty regularly. I’ve seen new U.S. releases sub-titled in Croatian (the down side being that if there is a second language spoken in the film, like Elvish or Russian – it’s subtitled in Croatian, too – meaning I miss some important clues). The movie theatre – Gandusio Cinema – is an old opera house that seats about 300. There’s a balcony that becomes blisteringly hot during a film and it’s the best place to sit because the main floor can be cold and drafty. I think the only time I saw more than a handful of people there was for The Hobbit – and that was lots of naughty little boys in the balcony becoming bored and tearing around the theatre. It was kind of fun.
On Saturday we saw Philomena with Judy Dench who could be changing her shoes and I’d watch. As we made our way up the stairs there was a lovely young woman dressed formally with a black cape and carrying a basket. She was accompanied by two young girls, also dressed Sunday best, who stood shyly with her. The basket was filled with little origami pods that had quotes from movies pertaining to women in Croatian and English sticking out on slim pieces of white paper, like a fortune cookie. She told us, in lovely English, that it was International Women’s Day and this was part of the celebration. Aha! The cellophane wrapped flowers.
The elegant basket wielder introduced the movie and said something that the other audience members reacted to with smiles and applause. The young girls sweetly handed out white envelopes with two free tickets to the cinema – and charmingly told us in excellent English what was going on. I don’t know why I was so touched by this – perhaps the young girls getting experience at being graceful in new situations, or the sheer sweetness of their using English with us, or realizing the effort that went into the folding of all those ribbon pods and typed quotes – so many more than there were movie goers – but it did touch me in the way that unexpected kindnesses do and of which there seems to have been so many on this adventure.