Mama and Papa ‘Skiy are both from St. Petersburg.
Well, Mama is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Papa is from St. Petersburg, Russia.
As a result, our family extends the length of the Atlantic Ocean and we’ve been teaching our boys how to speak Russian, so much that lately our youngest prefers to attempt Russian more than English. It’s cute because our boys are nowhere near being fluent and certainly don’t understand Russian conversations. But they try and they’re learning.
This past week we had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Papa ‘Skiy’s brother, sister-in-law, and our niece and nephew. It’s been years since Papa has seen his brother; he doesn’t get over here often anymore because he owns and runs multiple stores in Russia. Papa’s sister-in-law comes over at least once a year with their kids, and we try to get together every time they are in the States.
For whatever reason, it was more difficult to part ways this time. As though we’ve all bonded more.
The kids are a little older now and play together beautifully. And even though our niece doesn’t yet speak or understand English (she’s four) she and our sons played together as though they all understood one another. Language barrier? Pfft… Non-existent.
When you’re family — or just close friends — there are no barriers.
We have different beliefs and customs. Although Papa was born in Russia, he’s now been in America far longer than he was in Russia, so he’s more American and has certainly assimilated. Even when he speaks Russian, he has an American accent.
We have different habits. One thing that took Mama a while to get used to was the habit of removing shoes when in the house, which is a strong way of life for Russians. Papa has maintained that tradition, and it’s not a bad one. We don’t impose it upon friends or family not acquainted with our Russian side, and admittedly sometimes we’re in such a rush we forget to do it ourselves. However, Russians also wear slippers in the house and even provide extra pairs for visitors…and that’s just something we don’t do and have never done. We just kick off our shoes and walk barefoot or in socks. As a result, our Russian family members bring slippers with them when they visit.
We have different meal styles. In our home we don’t eat large meals. We have a main course, and usually our dessert consists of fruit, if anything at all. Russians have 3- or 4-course meals, complete with an appetizer, main course (or two), and dessert. If we’re cooking then our Russian guests adjust to how we eat, but if they’re cooking then we adjust to their way.
We enjoy different and similar interests. Our RVing hobby is a little odd to them and probably doesn’t make good sense. However, we all enjoy going to the water parks together — which we’ve done in the past and did again on Thursday — and the beach — which they did when they left our house Friday.
It’s family. Nothing is more important to us than family. And that’s more than just a custom, a habit, or a way of life.
It just is.