My mother's stories
My parents' wanderings around the country
Listening to my mother's tale about her escape from the village I used to admire her nerve and bravery. I have never travelled without company myself and even now it's difficult for me to imagine without a shudder a young rural girl, alone on a train, going in an unknown direction. Although, it was not completely unknown. Two of my mother's uncles visiting the village invited her to live with them and their families after she finished school. They lived in the opposite sides of the country and after some hesitation my mother decided to go south first. There in the city of Sochi her father's cousin lived with his wife.
The city was stretched out enormously, squeezed between the Black Sea coast and the wall of the Caucasus. I loved my mother's description of beautiful subtropical greenery and a huge mountain overwhelming the scenery. It would be so exciting to see with my own eyes all those exotic plants, which would never survive in our climate. But I wouldn't dare, of course, to sleep in the city garden like my mother was going to when, trying to save a bit of money, she failed to reach her uncle's house on foot on the day of her arrival. Luckily for her a woman, who was passing by, stopped near her bench and explained how dangerous it was for a young girl to sleep in the park. Realizing what danger she was in, my mother gladly accepted the woman's invitation and spent the night sleeping on the floor, while that kind woman and her husband occupied the only bed that they had in their humble dwelling.
My mother didn't tell me much about her living at her uncle's – only that her uncle and his wife were glad to see her - but she didn't stay long with them. Perhaps she felt a bit ashamed because she tried to work on a tea plantation and failed in spite of her quick hands and experience of hard work in the fields. She really liked the picturesque nature of the place but the hot sun and humid air made her too languid.
So without regret my mother moved in the opposite direction to the distant northern republic of Bushkiria where her mother's brother lived with his big family. Surprisingly, long snowy winters with bitter frosts suited her much better. She told me a lot of funny stories about that year that she spent in Bushkiria. I loved snow and snowy winters were a rare treat in our steppe region. It sounded so fascinating for me when my mother used to describe piles of snow reaching the roofs of the houses. People had to dig passages along the streets, which looked like a maze of white corridors with high walls.
The town, where my mother's uncle settled down, started as oil workers' settlement. Oil fields were found in that region in 1937. By the time my mother arrived there fourteen years later it was a growing industrial town with international population. Some of its inhabitants, as well as my mother's uncle, were sent into exile to Bushkiria, but mostly people were attracted there by high northern salaries - even long frosty winters and lack of fresh fruit and vegetables couldn't frighten them off.
One of my mother's acquaintances, who married a native Bashkirian, invited her once to spent the night in their house. Her husband was absent for some reason and the woman didn't feel safe alone with her children. My mother made a lot of funny discoveries that night. The first one waited for her just on the threshold of the house. As it turned out aboriginal houses had low holes instead of entrance doors. Actually, it was not so stupid to save warmth in that climate, but of course my young mother was laughing her head off crawling into the house on all fours. That strange house gave her a lot of opportunities for fits of laughter, but she found especially amusing a long bed stretched from wall to wall where the whole family slept together. Later, after she knew the natives better, she learnt that they found our habits no less funny than she found theirs.
I loved listening to all those stories and just couldn't understand how after having such adventures, seeing all those amazing places, where people's customs were so different, my mother preferred to limit her life to our yard, markets and shops. It was a rare luck to persuade her to go to the beach. As for the cinema she stopped joining my father and me, when we were going there, before I even started primary school.
It seemed to me at first that my father was more persuadable. We used to spend a lot of pleasant evenings discussing our only trip to the village or dreaming about different nice places where we could go together. I loved his stories about Georgia where he served in the Army for three years and then stayed there for some more years as an extended service man. I longed to see with my own eyes beautiful mountains covered with woods, and rivers, and waterfalls. It would be really thrilling to walk along a suspended bridge swaying frighteningly under my feet, trying not to look at the turbulent mountain river rolling its swift waters far below.
My parents tried to calm me down saying that I had been to Georgia because they got married there and there my mother spent most of her pregnancy. Actually, I liked the idea but still it was a small consolation considering the fact that I obviously couldn't see anything at that time.
I used to listen enviously to my friends' tales about those places where they went to on holidays. I could respond to them only with my sole trip to the village, but even those recollections were inevitably fading away. During my school years I remember only once that we had an excursion to the neighbouring town. My mother didn't allow me to go, referring to my poor health and frequent colds. She was summoned to school and my class teacher tried to persuade her that she was wrong in her attempt to keep her daughter wrapped in cotton wool.
My mother didn't change her mind, of course, in some matters she never did. And what a triumph it was for her when she learnt that the sea was rough on the day of the excursion and most of the pupils vomited over the board of the ship. “Now you can see how right I was not to let you go!” my mother exclaimed gleefully. Nevertheless, watching my classmates discussing excitedly the details of their adventure I couldn't get rid of an uncomfortable feeling that I was deprived of something that was really important.
To be continued ...