Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Illiterati

When I lived in Russia, and before I started school, I had an illiterate nanny who took care of me while my parents worked.

One day she arranged to have me baptized behind my Jewish father's back, because she did not want to be taking care of a child possibly possessed by Satan. I don't remember that, of course, but all things considered, I am grateful. Mostly because she opted for baptism and not exorcism which seems, to me, at least, to be a bit more to the point. I didn't frown on illiteracy back then, my own great-grandmother, Pauline, was also illiterate. Baba Polya, as I, and everyone else called her, was approximately a million feet tall and stocky. I was mildly afraid with her and semi-dreaded the overnights that I had to spend with her, mostly because my papa's parenting technique included telling me, as he dropped me off, that if I did not listen to Baba Polya, she would die in the night. Somehow my father knew that sleeping next to a corpse topped my pediatric list of things that I wanted to avoid.

So one evening, Baba Polya asked me why I was looking so petrified.

"I DON'T WANT YOU TO DIE!" I blurted out, even though I'm pretty sure that papa warned me that telling Baba Polya that I was afraid that she would die would also lead to her instant death.
She started to laugh. "I have no plans to die, why are you afraid of that?"
"Papa told me that you'd die if I didn't listen to you," I told her and I watched her expression changed.
"I'm going to die when I am ready, and I am not ready yet." She reassured me. And then, when her granddaughter, my mother, came to retrieve me the next morning, I overheard Baba Polya telling her, "tell that idiot husband of yours to stop traumatizing Marinka. What a precious angel she is."

Because despite being illiterate, Baba Polya was an excellent judge of character.

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27 Comments:

Blogger Julie B. said...

Do you take requests, Marinka? I want to know about how Papa explained the whole subject of death to you and at what age.

September 2, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Pop and Ice said...

I think it's sweet that your Great-Grandmother allayed your fears and told your father to straighten up.

September 2, 2009 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger OHmommy said...

The patron saint of teeth is named Pola. Pauline. Apolonia. My name is Pauline. My husband is a dentist. I was baptized.

We should move in together.

September 2, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger anymommy said...

Best last line I've read in a long time, you precious angel you.

September 3, 2009 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Sophie said...

Quite right!

September 3, 2009 at 1:39 AM  
Blogger Mwa said...

I'm always thinking my mother must have secretly baptised my kids by now. LOVED that story.

September 3, 2009 at 2:37 AM  
Blogger ♥ Braja said...

Can I get a chilled Vodka Martini here?

September 3, 2009 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Does your husband know this story?

September 3, 2009 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Kabbalah Rookie said...

"Somehow my father knew that sleeping next to a corpse topped my pediatric list of things that I wanted to avoid."
Your Papa is verging on psychic...

September 3, 2009 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger King of New York Hacks said...

Indeed she was Marinka....thanks for sharing that.

September 3, 2009 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger A Mom on Spin said...

And where does it fall on the Adult list of things you want to avoid???

Do you check Husbandrinka's breathing during the night???

September 3, 2009 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

My very wise grandpa had to leave school in Belfast to work in 6th grade. Wisdom is seldom related to education, or literacy, right?
Great story.

September 3, 2009 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Keyona said...

So are you trying to convince us or yourself that you are an angel? Yeah. Good luck with that. :o)

September 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

A baptism on the sly... Oh, you crazy Russians!

September 3, 2009 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger daydreamymama said...

I love this story. And also Baba Polya.

September 3, 2009 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Carolyn...Online said...

Oh my god I love your dad.

September 3, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Awwwww! You make me miss my Baba. My two Babas were like polar opposites. One was the nicest person you would ever meet. The other was, let's say a bit more demanding and stern.

September 3, 2009 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Just to let you know, that you've probably been baptised a Mormon by now also. Saved in three religeons.

September 3, 2009 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Vodka Mom said...

how do you do it?

it's the punch line- and YES you do it every damn time.


it's a talent.

September 3, 2009 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Anna See said...

I would have to agree with her!

September 3, 2009 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger the mama bird diaries said...

whenever i think of you, precious angel is immediately what comes to mind.

September 3, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger blognut said...

I still love your papa, but I kinda like your Baba Polya too.

September 3, 2009 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Amen. Baba Polya's wisdom far outpaced her educational level, and after all, wisdom is better. Sheesh, what a thing for your dad to tell you!

I love your blog. It's the kind of reality check and humor change that gets me through every day.

September 4, 2009 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger bernthis said...

Baba may have been illiterate but she is not stupid, sorry, was

September 4, 2009 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger Jeanne said...

And she was absolutely right!

September 4, 2009 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Heather, Queen of Shake Shake said...

Of course she was. You inherited that from her, right?

September 4, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger p-huong said...

I haven't laughed out loud like that in a while. Good shit, Marinka, good shit.

September 7, 2009 at 6:26 PM  

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