AnOpenLetter to the Boy I Was (and the child I do not have)
I can see you there, staring out with a mixture of wonder and fascination. I see the light behind your eyes, shining through and illuminating the color with the intensity of youth. I know your face because it once was mine. Your eyes are my eyes before the wrinkles of laughter and the lines that tears have slowly eroded on the sides of them.
This is anopenletter to the boy I was. When the stamp comes that can carry these pages backwards through the timeline of my life, stretched like clothing on the line, I will send it. This is a letter to be read by those shining eyes, or to those innocent ears if the tears start early and threaten a smear to the ink seeping into the paper. Here are the rules I was never given and the shortcuts I never got to take. Here are the secrets and the lessons you will learn when you are here and once again writing this letter to yourself, just waiting for that stamp.
In Hungarian Cubes, Roters documents those countryside row houses during Kádár’s reign, after residents started freewheeling with colors and shapes to make it so no two houses looked like. Roters noticed the painted “Magyar Kocka”, or Hungarian Cube, houses in 2003 after moving from Germany to a small Hungarian town. Some of the homes have trompe l’oeil paintings around the window, like facsimiles of shutters or trimming. Others look like abstracted images of sun rays, or harvested crops.
“Today you can buy a car you like, you can do everything you like. In this uniform world where people were not allowed to have some individuality, you had to wait for the same car as your neighbor,” Roters says. “The facade is what I can show to the outside to the world. This was a free space at this time where the people can show and express their individuality.”
Roters has spent years photographing the Magyar Kocka houses. She’s met some of the original owners, but also is watching as the Cube houses undergo renovations and new paint jobs. “The intellectual elite in Hungary they hate the kind of housing and the period and the ornamental decoration,” Roters says. InHungarian Cubes, she writes: “In the eyes of the rural population, these houses are simply no longer up-to-date and are therefore…these witnesses to a way of life are slowly but surely disappearing.” The houses are a relic of some rare individualism during a time of homogeneous, community-centric thinking. (by Margaret Rhodes)
Hungarian Cubes is available here, through Park Books.