Monday, September 14, 2015

#39. Grandma

Write about your grandma. Was she a good cook? Did she tell you stories of her life? Did she yell at you or spoil you rotten?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

I've only known one of my grandmas, not counting two of my great aunts that I've also met - two sisters of my other grandma whom I never had a chance to meet, as she passed away at the early age of 45, having only seen one, the eldest of her grandchildren, as the next twelve, me included, arrived later.

Babushka Tonya, or as I called her, simply Babushka (grandma in Russian) was my father's mom and spoke with a unique and funny to me, as a child, accent. You see, they moved to Siberia from  central Russia where around the basin of the Volga River, in the north of Russia, people speak the so-called Northern dialect. I learned about dialects later, when I was in my second year of the university where I studied languages and literature as my major. Back in my childhood days, I did not know that, and the only person I knew who spoke with that funny accent was my babushka, since dedushka (granddad whom I adored) died when I just turned seven, and I don't really remember him all that well. I remember that once (I was about 13 or so) babushka's sister Olya came for a visit from Kazakhstan where her family relocated from their original home in central Russia, and she looked so very much like babushka, and spoke with absolutely the same accent. It was an experience out of the ordinary for me, for sure. 

I remember I have asked babushka about her youth, her family, and written down her answers into a thin school notebook, thinking that some day I will have all the information for my family tree, at least on my dad's side. But that notebook somehow disappeared, and even though I know where all my other journals ended up, I could never locate that one.

"Were there pretty women in your family?"
Of course, what other questions a young girl could possibly ask her grandma.
"We were red-headed."
Red-headed traditionally was not considered pretty in Russia - as it often means your skin has spots, and it just all looks too different. Not many traditional cultures recognize beauty in different. Beauty lies in tradition to them. The unfamiliar becomes the thing to fear or ridicule, or both. And Russia is extremely traditional.

Grandma was a great cook. Growing up with my mom, a very creative, strong individual (and a great beauty, by the way), who never took any interest in cooking, I got used to bland tastes. But grandma's food was always exceptional. She was a simple woman with only one year of basic school education - then she had to help her family with housekeeping and the farm they had (they were successful farmers, up to a point when the new government in my country decided that successful means bad and confiscated all or most of what hard-working, successful people had). So babushka learned how to work hard since early childhood. And cooking was definitely one of her gifts. 

I remember her reading a children's book, which to me, back then a university student, was unbelievable. But that was something she could understand easily, my grandma. Papa told me that at some point she read a biography of Boris Yeltsin and was very impressed by him - she had a great respect for this guy. And I was rather impressed by my babushka, who only had very basic reading skills, for her accomplishment.

We did not have an especially warm relationship, rather distant. I think my mom, my brother and I were a bit of an enigma to her. Papa would bring babushka for a long stay (a few months) from the town up north where she lived with her other kids and grandkids. We were somewhat city kids to her. She even treated our cat differently - I remember she once said that she wanted to cook and needed potatoes, but our cat was sleeping on the box with potatoes, and she did not want to bother him. That's exactly how she put it - "bother him." She called him an "intelligent cat", as you'd expect to hear about people, meaning "intelligentsia".

Babushka knew how to do it all - sewing, knitting and even yarn-making (spinning). Papa made special wooden hand-spin tools for her, and my cousin came to take lessons from my grandma - but I did not learn, thinking that it was so absurd in the modern world, as you could just buy the yarn in the color you wanted, instead of spinning lamb's wool which stunk. City kid!

I spent a lot of time with both of my grandparents when I was little, and babushka loved telling anecdotes from my childhood, but they are probably a subject for another writing session.

25 minutes

Rise and Write 36-42

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