Monday, July 9, 2018

In a memory of my grandma Lidia

About a month ago my third child, Anastasia, was born. Shortly after, my dear grandma passed away leaving me with countless memories from my childhood. As I reflect on her legacy and the impact on my life,  I want to share with you several  areas of her influence on me as a person. Some of these things I do with my children today, 30 years after I experienced them myself.

When I look back in time, I ask myself, what was my favorite thing from my childhood. Without a doubt it was the time spent with my grandma. She had three granddaughters (including me) and she always accepted us the way we were. I don’t remember her judging any of our decisions, even though they weren’t always the best ones. She included us in her everyday life and we especially loved watering the garden, picking fresh raspberries and making delicious jam. My grandma would let us play any wild games we wanted and always laughed hard with us. She had a rule of napping after lunch, and we joined her, but never actually napped. Instead we would take our diaries and record the craziest and funniest stories we witnessed throughout the day. The freedom she provided to us taught me to respect my children’s own space, understand their good and bad days, love them unconditionally, play with them and ignore my dishes, cook with them and not worry about the mess, let them be kids, and run freely. They need to do something with all that unlimited energy, right? My grandma never criticized me or compared with other children, even though I was far from perfect.

 The following is a recollection of my best memories with my grandmother Lidia:

Grandma generally shared authentic stories of experiences with her and her loved ones instead of fictional tales to us as kids. She adored her family very much and always taught us to take care of each other. Thanks to her stories, I know our family history. These days, my husband and I tell stories to our kids about our lineage and roots often. 

Cooking and cleaning
My grandma had the best recipes for Ukrainian dumplings (vareniki) and borsch (Ukrainian beet soup ), and as her little granddaughters,  we participated in cooking by picking fresh dill from the garden, or by rolling the dough. As we sat in her kitchen on hot summer days, we would talk and sing while she listened to us and encouraged us to continue singing . At the time I thought those moments would last forever but they do not. It taught me to enjoy my children at any stage of their development, whether they are newborn babies and get up five times at night, or they are learning how to eat and drop every piece of their meal on the floor many times throughout the day, or they build the same Lego city for the hundredth time and ask me to help with the missing pieces. 
Sometimes I forget about the world around me, as I am so engrossed in my little ones. 

Tea time or a mid-day adult beverage with the locals 
My grandma Lidia was the kindest person I have ever met. Everybody in her village knew they could come over to her home and share a meal . Sometimes people would help her to do some housekeeping work because she lived by herself and always had side projects in the works. All the neighbors would visit my grandma and watch soap operas in the evening, then drink tea with sweets. I still remember some of their conversations because my grandma always included us, little children, in those talks. I learned some of the most important life lessons during those tea times. Today, my children sit at our dining table and share their stories at the table, as well as listen to the adults. I ensure my children feel as members by serving them out of the same bone china plates as I would my guests.

My first ride on a two wheeler bike with dad 
When the wheels began to spin and I gained my balance on the bicycle, my grandma was there to cheer me on. I emphasize quality time with the family a lot in my articles. The main reason is because I experienced these moments  with my grandma and they meant so much to my development. When I was with her, she devoted all of her attention to me, and was always ready to listen and give me a hug, without plugging in a moral lesson or  any, unrelated to the moment, parental advice. The moment I started to ride the bike and felt my dad let go, I heard my grandma cheering and clapping so loud, that the whole street could participate in our joy. She knew this was a huge milestone for me, and she didn't care about what others would say. Growing up in the former Soviet Union, the opinions of others was a big deal for most of my family members.  The key takeaway is to not care about others’ opinions, their comparisons among other children. I am the parent of my children and I know what is the best for them. My maternal instinct does not prove me wrong.

Watching movies and the local evening news with my grandma
My grandma’s television showed only in black and white, and often we would watch the long Mexican and Brazilian soap operas which would go into the thousands of episodes!  These favorite moments of mine taught me to dream big! My grandma would discuss with us, little girls, why Pedro cheated on his wife, what could happen to the main character’s lover and many other so called important parts of each episode. These days I read books with my children and with my oldest I manually crank slides from an old film projector as in my childhood days. As we watch and read the slides, I talk to them about their fears, the fictional stories they created, and solutions to overcome the fictitious “enemy”. Any topic my children decide to share with me, I acknowledge it being important to them, so I listen intently. Lastly, I join them in dreaming big dreams together. 

Jumping in puddles and digging in the dirt
Each summer I spent at my grandmothers home in her village. At the end of each day,  I was dirty and dusty. Grandmother would send my sisters and I to the outdoors summer shower for a cold splash and rinse...  I could get quite dirty working in her field through the day, but in the evening we washed and tidied up. I shower three of my children every night, and they love our family bedtime routine. During the day, none of us are worried over becoming wet or dirty.

Free to roam in the outdoors
Being free to run in the forest, climb trees, and lay down in the cool grass under the shade of a tree are my most vivid memories and scents. 
My grandma would let me be out from sunrise to sunset. She cared about my desire to spend time with my friends or build a fortress using her kitchen rugs. My happiness was her priority and oh boy was I truly happy!

Analyzing  these memories in my adulthood, I have come to the conclusion that  none of the mentioned interactions  require spending much money or extra effort from us, modern parents. As a child, I didn’t care if my house was tidy, or if the dishes were clean. I didn’t think about my family income. In fact, my grandma was not rich at all but it didn’t stop her from investing her time in some deep and loving conversations that I still remember. TIME seems to be the most precious and memorable gift we all can give to our children. Will it be quality time? Now that is up to us.  It can be an hour a day with our children and they will remember every minute of it or it can be the entire day spent giving them moral lectures on what to do and how to behave, which they will end up hating.. 

By observing my own children, I see many similar games and activities they enjoy doing which remind me of my own childhood experience.

There is nothing better on this planet than cuddling in bed early in the morning with the whole family or dancing like crazy and singing your favorite songs. These moments build trusting relationships full of love, care, and respect. 

When my children grow up, I wish for them have the same positive memories of their childhood as I have of mine with my favorite grandma Lidia. She is physically no longer with me but her words, deeds, and our shared memories will last forever. 

Today, I’m wondering what will my children’s childhood memories be?

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