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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: January 2014

Chapter 4 - Margit

from Part Two - A Memoir

Summary

I have given this chapter a name for a title. Margit used to watch me many times as I was typing away at my radio programs or whatever I happened to be busy with, marveling at my ability to transfer something from my head straight onto a sheet of paper, without copying it from somewhere. She leaned back comfortably in the green velvet armchair that for so many years had been my mother's preserve, with Margit standing in front of her. The idea that she, too, might take a seat, did not occur to any of us, probably least of all to her.

Margit was our maid, our cook, our cleaning lady, and our nurse. She had been engaged by my mother around 1935, at an employment agency in Budapest. Margit, twenty-five at the time and newly arrived from her native village of Zsigárd, was sitting at the agency along with other peasant girls, waiting to be picked by a lady of the middle class and taken by her to the apartment that was to become her home and workplace—for some months or, if her masters were satisfied, for years. In the event, Margit out-lived my parents and remained part of my life, though no longer in our or my employment, until her own death in 1979.

Before the war, no middle-class family did without at least one maid; my grandmother had two: one to cook for her, the other to clean the rooms.