On Friday, my Mom turned 85. I started to think about how we will celebrate that day way-way in advance.
Most of the time when somebody is celebrating the 85th birthday, there are lots of friends and family members who can take part in the celebration. But Mom immigrated to the US less than two years ago. Moreover, she is extremely reluctant to develop new connections, and she firmly believes that she does not understand people around her. There are very few of my friends with whom she interacts on a more or less regular basis
I knew that an essential part would be having all grandchildren there, and because of that, everything depended on Vlad’s schedule. First, he said he will be able to do Saturday, but turned out that January 11 was going to be his first day back to work after nine days off. He suggested that we do Friday night, and I said it had to be in Palatine. After all, it turned out great, because it was easier for everybody, including Anna.
It was almost a surprise party for Mom. I told her that we would do “something” for her birthday and that she should be ready by 5-30. She did not know until the very last moment, that all of her grandchildren and her great-granddaughter will be there.
I finally found one picture from our first Christmas Eve in the US, which I described here. I’ve already added the picture to the original post, but for since in was published a week ago I thought it’s worth to show this picture separately.
I do not know where are the rest of the pictures, I only have this one – Val posing with Anna and Vlad.
You can see our tree with paper ornaments, and a star, and a string of lights, and a garland. The holiday outfits were given to us by my co-workers with older children, and the hat was made of plastic (came from some game set), but Vlad loved it:)
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.
Knowing that I was born in January 1963, you might think that my first Christmas was on December 25, 1953. But in fact, my first Christmas happened only in 1996, keep reading to find out why – this is going to be the longest post you ever read in my journal.
Before the October revolution of 1917, Orthodox Christianity was an official religion of the Russian Empire. The Julian Calendar which is two weeks behind the Julian Calendar, was used both in Church and in civic life.
After the revolution, the Church was separated from the state. Several months later, by a decree of the Revolutionary government, the country was switched to the Julian calendar. Christmas was denounced, along with all religious holidays, and Christmas trees were forbidden. That situation lasted until early 1930 were when the government decided to allow some of the fun to come back. Granted, there should not be any mention of Jesus. All the festivities were reassigned to the New Year celebrations. There was no more Christmas tree; it became a New Year Tree. The Bethlehem star on top became the Red Star. The Grandfather Frost remained more or less the same:).
The reason I received this email (which means that I am on alumni list) is that I am a monthly donor. And the college has a beautiful way to say thank you – sending personalized video messages from the students who benefit from the college fund.
Last week, there was a 23rd anniversary of my coming to the US. Since I already told the story of my coming here, I am not going to repeat it. However, it reminded me that I almost stopped writing my historical posts, which I consider the most important part of this blog. So I promised myself to post three of them in the next couple of days, all related to three different periods of my life. Meanwhile, I was going over my youtube videos in search of one very old interview of my kids were talking about their Mother:). I didn’t find it, but I found three recordings of Anna talking about politics. That was the time when she was working in the GQR consulting during the second Obama campaign. Most of my friends didn’t have any idea what her work entailed but was ready to stamp all politics as ‘a dirty business.” In this interview, Anna talks about what political consultants do, and I think it is very relevant nowadays!
BTW – I think that the bast thing I did for this country is that I brought Anna here 🙂
Anna and Nadia were staying with me last weekend. The main reason was “All kids’ birthday,” but we were also hoping to spend some time together and to do some girls stuff. Which we did, and while the girls were here I was thinking (as I usually do in such cases) about how much parenting had changed since the time I had small children.
It’s also worth noting that I was in the process of listening to the audiobook “All the rage.” In addition to the fact that this book makes you think about gender inequality at home like never before, there was something else.
I always use my own life as an example of “you can have it all.” I used to say that if you plan everything carefully and can distinguish important things from unimportant, you can be a successful parent and a successful professional. And I still believe it is true, but it depends on how you define a successful parent.
My older son birthday is on September 28, and my twins birthday is on August 23. And since for the past ten years it was challenging to get everybody together in one place, we stopped trying to do it twice, and ended up having one big “combined” birthday. This year the day was September 22 – we had the most lovely brunch at Maison Parisienne in Lakeview.
You might ask – why I needed a second job? As I’ve mentioned earlier, the pay in the University was close to nothing and often paid months later than it was due. The next question would be – if that was the case, then why I would stay at this job? Why I won’t find another job instead of looking for a second one? Oddly enough, the job in the University was the only one I could consider “a real job,” the others were “ways to make money.”
This presumption goes back to the Soviet Union. At that time you were supposed to have only one job, less some rare exception. Also, since there can’t be unemployment in the socialist state, you should have always been employed. Also, it was extremely undesirable to change jobs; you would always need a solid, respectable reason to leave your job. Our employment history was a physical object. It was called “a Labor Booklet.” When you start a new job, an HR person would ask for your Labor Booklet and would put a record, indicating your place of employment, your position and title, and the date you started. You could not start any new position anywhere without presenting your Labor Booklet, which would have a record of when and for what reason your previous employment was terminated.
Another follow-up for my visit with my daughter. I’ve realized that I ran pretty fast through the first months of Vlad’s and Anna’s life, focusing more on what was happening with the country. I didn’t write much about our everyday lives, and how it was – raising baby twins amid the economic collapse.
There were many aspects of parenting, where I would make decisions in the survival mode, not because I liked a certain approach better, but because that was the only option. I do not have a lot of pictures from that time. I didn’t own a camera, and taking pictures was not an everyday activity. Boris would occasionally bring his camera with him, and then we would have a photo session.
Anna was asking me how Nadia is different from her at the same age. I replied that she is different because all human beings are different. But I am finding it hard to pinpoint, what are the exact differences.
Our parenting styles are different. When Anna was two, her life was undoubtfully more structured than Nadia’s. There was no question about what clothes to put on, whether to have dinner or not, and what will be served. There was no throwing away food. There were no reading books on the potty. Part of it was survival, me being a single working mom of three in an unstable economy. But part of it was a starting point.
I was an incredibly liberal parent by Russian standards those days. I didn’t spend all day disciplining a child. I would let them do tons of things other parents won’t. But by the nowadays civilized standards, it was still very rigorous parenting.