Though we live on Piata Lahovari, on Strada George Enescu, the easiest way to guide taxi drivers and friends to our apartment is to simply say, "Next to Sex Shop." There are a variety of Sex Shops across Bucharest: "Amsterdam Sex Shop," the redundant "Sexy Sex Shop," and our very own Plain Jane, "Sex Shop" which is usually guarded (fronted) by a friendly, rather upstanding chap who often tossles our kids' hair. (Though there is his counterpart who often sets up drinking camp beside Sex Shop's doors--a grizzled, irritable, glue-sniffing, and dwarfish guy, likely a junkie. Generally harmless, but he often tries to scam a beer or some Lei out of us.)
Thus far we've managed to keep Sophia's interests firmly on the ever-changing billboard outside our apartment's gates (one week an add for Nivea, the next week, a strange suspended orange and red faux-bubbles-ball ad for Orange Fanta). And we also kept her convinced that the way to recognize home was to look for the giant green "Plus" sign of the pharmacy located on the other side of our building.
Alas, Sophia, now the adept and sophisticated reader, sounded out the Red Neon "Sex Shop" the other day and identifies home as "Sex Shop." Granted, she has been imitating her father as he hails and instructs taxis. "Ta-xi!" she barks, hand raised in the air. And when we tumble into the cab, she says with equal authority, "Sex Shop!" When we were in Maramures last weekend, she asked (in her cranky moments), "can't we just go home to SEX SHOP?"
But today, as we we passed Sex Shop's door, usually firmly closed, she discovered it had been left ajar. Sex Shop has thus far remained a mysterious structure--its window's blacked out in red paint and covered over in black grates, the door always, always closed. But now, ajar. And over my shrill demands that she "Step Away From the Door!" (or because of them) she peeked and then stepped inside.
"It's a toy store, Momma!" she exclaimed in wondrous delight. On the wall? All the expected magazines and adult toys unwrapped and on display.
"No, honey," I said. "That's a toy store for grown-ups."
"No, Mommy," Sophia corrected. "See? There's a toy car on the wall."
I couldn't imagine what she was mis-seeing or perhaps really seeing--some sort of miniaturized, motorized four-wheeled gadget?
Thankfully, Sex Shop's guardian, who was laughing, gently shooed her away and pointed to the sign on the door: "No one under 18.: (in Romanian but still understandable). That seemed to help me tug Sophia along and through the gate of our apartment. But then, smart kid that she is, she turned to me and said, "But Momma, I can't wait eighteen years in Romania to go back inside! Can't we go in now?"