My plans for the usual family gathering for Memorial Day weekend were completely turned around in just one e-mail message.
A great-great-granddaughter of my great-great-grandmother’s sister asked whether her family could come visit mine. She has come many times to the USA from Saint Petersburg, Russia, but we haven’t been able to arrange a visit in the four years we’ve known each other.
Without hesitation, I dropped my plans for a visit from my 4th cousin whom I only know from pictures and e-mail messages. I was excited for many days.
The excitement escalated when my Russian flag arrived in the mail from Amazon.com. Then the anxiety kicked in. Will they be comfortable in my home? Will their daughter get along with my kids? What will we do? What will I feed them?
Luckily over the years our families were separated, we have kept similar heritage. My great-great-grandmother married another German Lutheran from current day Poland; my great-grandmother married a Russian; my grandmother married a Ukrainian and my Ukrainian-born mother married a Russian. My 4th-cousin’s great-great-grandmother’s descendants were all Russians.
So the anxiety about hosting Russian cousins over a weekend could have been worse. There wasn’t a language barrier to stress over. Anything they didn’t know in English was spoken in Russian, a language that I learned as a child and maintained as an adult.
But then I got anxious about making sure everything went well. I forgot to put the Russian flag in the bay window of my living room as promised but my sons welcomed them with the Russian flag. We rushed home from their school after my cousin called to tell me she was in our driveway.
Then everything went the same as many friends with kids who have visited. My 6-year-old son Andy is crying his Russian 3-year-old cousin is taking his toys. She dumped a big box of Legos and my sons acted as if they never do that on a regular basis.
The girl knows Legos, Spiderman, Darth Vader, Mr. Potatohead and the Toy Story movies. She was excited to meet Andy because she knows Andy from the Toy Story movies. She called my sons мальчик (“malchick” boy in Russian), the same habit my oldest son had when he didn’t know a boy’s name.
She doesn’t want to eat much nor go to bed. She’s banging on a door at bedtime because she wants to play with two boys whom can’t speak Russian.
This child is no different from my children even though they live in different countries, speak different languages and are growing up in different cultures. The parents ate the same food as I, used the same technology, learned to speak English and complained about the same problems in life.
We are the same people with some differences, thanks to the Iron Curtain crumbling and many people of the former USSR opening themselves to the world on the Internet. But never forget that even if it’s 90 degrees outside, Russians will still need their hot tea.
I spent more time worrying about things that didn’t matter before their arrival than appreciating the fact that our families haven’t seen each other in 115 years. Even if the clock was turned back to 1900 and the same visit happened, the same feeling of family would be there.
Family always will be family, no matter how much time has passed or what century people are living in. Some people won’t care about their close relatives nor their 4th cousins. Those who do care will be the family worth finding.
The mystery of a great-great-grand aunt gets solved