The Dynamic Duos – of Yekaterinburg and Almaty


Duo Number One:


Sophie left on Friday for Yekaterinburg. It’s her father Valerya’s 60th birthday and she is going to spend 9 days out of Kazakhstan, back in the bosom of Mother Russia. We three will go up to Yekat via the two day train from Almaty for Orthodox Christmas and New Years at the turn of the year. But for now it was good for Sophie to be able to go and attend this birthday. Sophie is a daddy’s girl – very analytical and direct, probing, always thinking – just like her papa. It’s good that these two great thinkers can get together to wax philosophically and just to be Russian. Kazakhstan is NOT Russia. It is a distinctly Asian-Russian polyglot that has evolved in some ways to be very European or very American and it is NOT Russia. It is the Silk Road with these Tartar, Mongol, Chinese, Russian, American, British influences. Sophie needs the reconnection back to Russia to maintain her roots and that Russian soul. Russians brood and think about gloomy and heavy things sometimes and she and her dad can cogitate on many of these kinds of things for hours.


Sophie is from the school that says life is hard and then you die. I have always taken the Jack Nickelson line from “As Good As It Gets” that life is “all picnics and noodle salad” – you just have to find those picnics and keep smiling and looking for the best. We are opposites and have nevertheless been drawn to each other – moving into our second decade of matrimony.  I know Sophie will treasure the company of her family back in Russia, especially her Papa.


Duo Number Two:


My 4 year old jewel, Ms. Nadia and I are a duo again. This is Sophie’s first lengthy absence in quite awhile out of Almaty. Today was the usual Saturday shopping mixed with our going to Church. Nadia had taken one of her dolls to church to “show God”; I know our Lord and Savior was duly impressed to meet Doll Katiya. Nadia was in the mood to learn about my family after we finished dinner tonight – Uncle Mikie’s Kazak Borscht – not bad if I do say so myself. As luck would have it, I had packed some photos of me at age 5 and my mom and dad circa 1940’s along with our wedding album and Nadia’s birth album. I showed the photos and we had a pretty lengthy discussion on where Grandma Annie and Grandpa Tom were (my parents both deceased) and how could I have EVER been as small as I was in my toothless kindergarten photo? The Almaty duo was locked in a discussion on life and death; not easy to explain to a 4 year old. I assured Nadia that we would all get to see all of our relatives again in the future when we go to Heaven.


Nadia has this wondrous circular  logic that on the one hand dislikes for anyone to grow old and particularly die. She’s not sure about that part of the human contract yet. We of course saw many beautiful brides in the park today as we walked to church. Our weather is holding nicely – no snow yet with temps 65-70 in the day time, so the wedding marches in Pon Pieleef Park continue at a brisk pace. She equates brides to princesses and the grooms to princes. In her world she knows she has to grow older and grow up  to be a princess and to find her prince. Cinderella and Repunzel are her favorite stories right now and the coloring books with girls in beautiful gowns are everywhere in our flat. So everyone must live forever, but everyone has to grow up and be a princess or prince.


For me this is a great time to be with my child. She asks hard questions that demand good answers; kind of makes me think and puts me back in touch with my own mortality. My father-in-law, Valerya bought a clock for his 60th birthday. This clock is all about time and generations and passing the mantle. The clock is really for his grandchildren including Nadia, their remembering grandfather and his legacy of time and tying the generations together. For the Duo in Almaty, it’s all about Nadia wanting to keep my toothless kindergarten photo. My legacy is sealed.


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