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:).
This blog post was originally written in Russian about ten years ago. In the information vacuum of nowaday’s Russia, it was reposted multiple times and hopefully helped a large number of young gay people and their parents to navigate life challenges.
I thought that at the present moment, this post is valuable only from the historical perspective. But to my surprise, it turned out that many people are still not completely aware of what it means to be homosexual. And I decided to write this post again, this time – in English. Here it comes.
People often ask me when did I learn about Vlad’s sexual orientation. The short answer: shortly after he had figured it out about himself. Which was a little bit after Anna suspected that it was the case. At that time, he was a couple of months short of being fourteen, and I’ve noticed that he looked sad and concerned for several days. I was bugging him with the questions, what was wrong, but he brushed off my concerns. That could not deceive me; I was sure that something serious is going on. Finally, I got a chance to talk to him one night when everybody else was out.
I asked him to share with me what was wrong. He started: you are going to be very disappointed with me. Perhaps, you won’t love me anymore, but I need to tell you something. I think that I am gay.
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.
In fall 1992, I had two problems to address: finding a second job and enrolling Vlad and Anna into daycare. I’ve already mentioned it briefly in previous posts, but I will elaborate more here. The daycare situation was really weird. Since the very early days of the USSR, it was proclaimed that women are liberated from the house slavery and can in enslaved at work. During 1920-30, women were encouraged to bring their babies to daycare at a very early age. Technically speaking the “nurseries” which would take children starting from 3 months of age existed even at my time. But you would be considered a horrible mother if you would send your child to a nursery. Since women were allowed to stay home until a child reaches the age of 18 months, the groups which would take smaller children have been closing right and left.
I found one nursery which still had a group for toddlers from 12 to 24 months, just one for the whole Gavan, the part of the city where we lived. This nursery was partially subsidized by one of the largest shipbuilding plants in the town, so I guess that was the reason.