Dear Mom,


I had to think of you the other day, not just because your birthday is coming up. After work, I was walking down Londýnská Street, near the radio station, and passed the plastic surgery hospital that used to be a women’s hospital 63 years ago.

Last year, when you visited me, we walked past and you remembered that you were born in that very hospital. I joked that it would be a very cyclical turn of events if you went back to the place now to get a face lift. You knew how to take it and laughed. After all, you often compare your cheeks to “sagging dog jowls”. I’m still glad you can’t afford plastic surgery, because the thought of you having that typical post face-lift expression of constant excitement on your face makes me shudder.

A lot has changed since you left here in 1978, but that grotty old beer place you used to live above in Karolíny Světlé is still there, and some of the regulars look like they haven’t left the bar since the late seventies, except for a few hours every night to catch some sleep.

Even though you’ve only been back three times since then, I still think of you as a typical Prague resident. You may disagree, but living here, I’ve come to realize that half the Czech words you’ve taught me are slang words, not exactly safe vocabulary. Mom, you curse like a sailor! And isn’t that what they say about Czechs from Prague, that they’ve elevated swearing to an art form?

Living in Germany, you’d quite often erupt in impressively creative swearing cannonades, confident no one would understand them because they were in Czech. Unfortunately, you were proven wrong on our summer vacation in Bulgaria in 1988. After a young man had hit you with a ping pong ball by accident, you showered him with an outburst of obscenities. He replied - very politely - in Czech: “I’m sorry about that, Madam, but it’s not necessary to be so rude about it!” This of course was much to the amusement of dad, who had always warned you of the pitfalls of treating Czech as if it were a lost dialect spoken only by a few representatives of an otherwise extinct tribe.

Now, when I hear someone curse, I feel oddly nostalgic because it reminds me of my effin’ childhood. Thanks for that, mum, and have a Happy Birthday, even if it is your 63rd!