Thursday, November 22, 2007


My first memories of Thanksgiving connect with Moscow. I was perhaps five years old and all our family, three generation of it, was gathered around the table. At the time I did not know that it was Thanksgiving we celebrated, I only knew that we ate a very strange bird that I had never tried before.

Only years later I discovered that my family has not such an ordinary history. My great-grandparents left Russia for America in 1912, where later, in 1914, my grandfather was born. He turned 16 when his family decided to go back to Russia. Gosh, it was 1930; how I wish to know what was behind this decision. But the decision was made, and he studied in the Moscow University as a foreign student, became a doctor and at some point his foreign background landed him in a labour camp. Learning all this made me finally understand why my grandfather was so happy to have a turkey once a year; why he could not distinguished some sounds of the Russian alphabet or why my mother, the youngest of three kids, had a different surname.

By the time I was ready to ask questions my grandfather and my grandmother were gone, and it appeared that some topics were avoided in our family, so unfortunately my mom, her brother and sister could not add much to the picture.

I sifted through the old photos, which gave me some clues; found old postcards. These postcards revealed the increasing desperation of my grandfather’s parents, while they were living overseas. “Mama, Daddy, why don’t you write? Are you ok?” were repeated time after time – and there was not even one postcard which would indicate that the answer ever came in. Considering the turmoil shaking Russia at that time, it wasn’t surprising, but I can easily imagine the anxiety of a person waiting for an answer.

In a philosophical sense I am completing the cycle by returning to the place from which my grandfather left at 16. It is just a pity that people who could tell the whole story - add the missing pieces - are not here anymore.

Well, not everything is so tragic in my family. My grandmother on my father’s side, who is still alive and active, was married 5 times and outlived all her husbands. Actually this was the reason she refused to get married last time at the age of 77. “I don’t want him to die on me”, she said. Ironically, the poor chap died in less than a year anyway. Her first husband, my father’s dad, died in his early thirties. He broke his neck climbing out of his lover’s window at dawn. My father took this lesson to heart and simplified his life by moving in and out of marriages. Considering that Ted’s dad was also on a constant search for perfection and the track records of our siblings, we with our 11th anniversary approaching fast can be considered an odd couple.

And that is where my thanks will go today – to our imperfect families; to those who are here, and to those who are gone; to our friends - to all of those who help us to create our memories.

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