My mother is a first-generation immigrant from Russia who came to America in 1996 after marrying my father, who she had met while he was on a business trip in Saint Petersburg. She is the only person from her family who currently lives in America. Therefore, our household was very Russian and she raised me in an Eastern European manner.
Growing up, my experiences tended to be quite different from my peers. When I first started school, I could not speak English because Russian was my first language, and I often did not watch the same cartoons or know all of the fairy tales regular American children did. While all the little girls wanted to be like Princess Jasmine or Ariel, I wanted to embody Tsarevna Vasilissa, in all her beauty and wisdom. On Christmas, I received presents from Santa Claus, but on New Year’s, our home was visited by Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. In the car, my mom would play 90's and early 2000's Russian pop music, so I often only knew some American songs based on Kidz Bop commercials (or my mom’s Backstreet Boys CD). More often than not, my peers did not understand my humor because it was based on Russian anecdotes. My best friend in school would become my pen pal over the summer because I would spend those months in Russia with my mom’s family.
Because of my mother’s young age and the way she raised me, we have always been very close; she is borderline a mom and a best friend for me. Currently, she is in Russia helping take care of my babushka (grandmother), who just had surgery. I miss her dearly; therefore, I wanted to dedicate an article to her and her many Eastern European quirks.
1. She gets mad at you for sitting on cold objects.
There have been numerous instances where I have sat on even just a semi-cold rock or chair, and my mom has right away ordered me to get up. She tells me that by sitting on cold surfaces, my ovaries will freeze and fall off, I will get a UTI, my menstrual blood will turn black, etc. I really wonder if any of this is actually true.
2. She nags you about wearing slippers in the house.
I cannot be barefoot for even a minute before I hear a firm reprimand and a reminder to wear my “tapotchki.” Slippers are almost a ritualistic gift in my family now. She even has my dad trained to wear his 24/7 around the house. Calm down, Mom, I will not get sick just from walking barefoot in the house.
3. She is obsessed with the zodiac and horoscopes.
Every time she meets someone new, she tries to determine their sign. In fact, her love for horoscopes has rubbed off on me immensely. When someone does anything, it’s always because of their sign. Whenever my mom is mad at my father, she blames it on him being a Gemini. She also says I’m lazy because I’m a Taurus and have too much chill.
4. She is extremely superstitious.
If you return to the house to get something you forgot, you have to look into the mirror before leaving. You have to sit down and contemplate life before going on a long journey. You can’t announce good news until it is set in stone because of the “evil eye.” These are only a few of the weird superstitions she regularly enforces.
5. She practically lives at Ross, TJ Maxx, and Nordstom’s Rack.
It seems like a lot of Russian mothers I have met enjoy flocking to these stores. Is it because of the reasonable/cheap prices? Is it because of the possibility of finding random junk they didn’t know they needed? All I know is to not be surprised to see a Ross sticker on one of my Christmas gifts.
I love my mother dearly. As a young mother and first-generation immigrant, she made many sacrifices and endured many hardships in her life to insure that I had a good childhood. Even so, she was still able to put herself through college and graduate as valedictorian of her class in Cal Poly Pomona all while putting me through school and helping me get into Scripps College. Even though I enjoy poking fun at her accent, her occasionally strange sentence structure when speaking English, and her weird superstitions, I love and respect her so much.