Update from the home front: my aunt comes from Russia and my mom flies free from logic

Today, a two-for-the-price of one story treat.

My aunt

After a three-hour drive to Moscow, an 8-hour flight, 3 hours waiting in passport control at super-efficient and terrorist-free JFK and a four-hour drive to my parents’ house, my aunt, my dad’s sister, is here.  She brought lots of goodies and stories from Russia, including, for my mom, pictures and a letter from her best friend for 25 years.

There’s nothing like a visit from her to really put my life in perspective.  Not only does she make me feel 110% American (or maybe just reflects a mirror on who I really am as opposed to who I think I am,) but her stories also manage to make me feel extremely depressed, without fail, namely because every male that my dad has ever known in school is either dead, out of work, or divorced.

The first rule of the house when she comes is to always speak Russian since she doesn’t speak English.  You would think this rule would only cause problems for myself and Mr. B.

However, to my surprise, my parents struggle as well because we’ve all become experts at Runglish. As I valiantly try to purport that treffik is awful on the Beltvai, my mom explains that she went na shopping to buy sneakersi and my dad says that his friend got into an aksident in his Dzheep.

It is virtually impossible to speak perfect Russian after 20 years in immigration. Our lives are filled with driving na highwayah (which is not at all the same as vodit’ mashinu po prospektam), cooking tyurka for Thanksgiving, and  paying taxi (not nalogi) that we all hate so much.

While I tend to be more of the language purist and can usually suss out words that my parents need to translate, the issue is that I switch completely into English, but my parents use the Runglish crutch words.  How do you explain that you went to excercise v’gyme to someone who has never been in a gym because it’s not the norm in Russia? How do you explain going out to lunch for someone who lives in a homecooked culture and where going out to a restaurant is a lavish occasion that costs a hefty amount of a paycheck?

Me, the parents, Mr. B, Mr. B’s parents- we’ve all fooled ourselves. Here we are, living in a Russian emigrant community, having Russian weddings, listening to the latest Russian music, watching Russian shows, proclaiming obnoxiously on our blog banners that we are Russian and named after a strawberry, and we are all 100% American. But when we are with Americans, we feel Russian.   But it’s fun to feel American.

My mom, ornithologist

The other interesting piece of news around the house is that my mom has become the Birdman of Alcatraz.

It started with a call last week.

“I’m in the bathroom watching the bird right now,” my mom told me over the phone with an intensity she usually reserves for watching coupons.

“What bird?  What are you talking about?”

“There’s a bird in one of our pine trees (to the very left in the picture) and she’s sitting on some eggs.  She can’t leave, so I’m watching her. ”  Conveniently, this tree is located right next to our first-story bathroom window, so my mom observes the bird daily from the bathroom.

I was updated on the status of the bird for about a week, until Mr. B and I ran out of clean clothes and went to my parents’ house to do laundry, as per usual. However, when I went to turn on the dryer, my mom went Cloverfield on me. “Don’t turn on the dryer!  You’ll scare the bird and she’ll fly away!”

My mom became Overly Ornithological and there was no way I could stop her.  Only my dad could overpower her and turned on the dryer, much to my mom’s dismay.  My mom immediately ran into the bathroom to see if the bird would fly away.  Somehow, the bird persevered.  Although whether her eggs will hatch remains to be seen because, according to my mom, she has been at it for a week now, which is three days longer than another bird who was sitting on an egg in our bushes earlier in the week.

My mom doesn’t know when the bird’s eggs will crack, but I have a hunch that someone else’s eggs already have.

P.S. I know I still owe you Los Angeles, but I just can’t think of how to tie in the fact that our hotel was socialist/anarchist with a story about how I visited the locales of Ari Gold, so stay tuned.




10 thoughts on “Update from the home front: my aunt comes from Russia and my mom flies free from logic

  1. I had to laugh at “driving na highwayah”…You see I actually did not know how to possibly say that in proper Russian, although I always knew that that there HAS to be a way. A few years ago my husband bought a TomTom GPS unit. Turns out it ‘speaks’ several languages including Russian and although Andrew does not know Russian (yep, after 17 years with my family he knows only enough to be very dangerous) he sometimes turns the Russian guide on, just because he can! And when he did that the very first time is when I finally heard “после 50-то ярдов выходите на авто-магистраль”!! There is was! Yet it seems ridiculous to say to my parents when they call as I drive to their house from Pittsburgh on the PA Turnpike “я еду по авто-магистрале”…so it is “мы в дороге, вышли на хайвей”

  2. Just couple of thoughts: homecooked culture is much superior to the american eat out get fat culture where you have no idea what’s been added to your “meal” in terms of msg, all kinds of artificial fillers etc.

    Also, it really depends where in the former Soviet Union people are. One of my former classmates in Kiev has recently started a private gym business with her husband so portraying all russian people as not having a clue is not quite accurate.

    1. Re the eating out: I completely agree and it’s something I unfortunately find myself succumbing to too often ,but the convenience is the main reason, obviously. If I had to make two to three soups every week, I’d shoot myself, I think, although my mom still does on a regular basis.

      Agreed on the second point, too. In the big cities and among younger people it’s normal to work out, but in Yaroslavl, a town the size of Nashville or Pittsburgh, etc, not so common at all.

  3. ну да, спорзалы частные появились давно, еще в середине 90-х. Помню, сама на шейпинг ходила (была такая мода, не знаю как сейчас). Ну а на счет homecooked v fast food, last time I was in Moscow and Piter, they had plenty of fast-food places and all were well-attended. Plus we all know что на заводах в колбасу и пельмени кладут.

    1. Думаю, что есть большая разница между поколениями. And cities. Depending on where and when you grew up, working out/going out to eat will either seem natural or completely foreign.

  4. Vicki, you are very young, the whole cooking thing may change for you.
    I know it did for me. I used almost exactly the same words as you up to my early 30s probably but now I love to cook. Having children will help too, you’ll want to make sure you are giving them the best you possibly can..

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