Russian family in America
Yesterday I Visited Paradise
or Paradise on Earth
My student and friend Lyuba invited me to her 60th Birthday Celebration. Before continuing my story I’ll tell a few words about Lyuba. She studies English in my class of immigrants. She is the kindest, smartest, very hard-working person, and a very good and loyal friend. For her family she is a mother and a grandmother. For me she is like a mother. She feeds me. She brings soups and salads, self-made food preserves and other dishes to class .
When I feel bad and my heart is heavy with life’s injustices, I can come to Lyuba. She’ll feed me full, she’ll give me tea with sweets, she’ll listen to all my immediate complaints and mishaps, walk a full person to a cozy sofa, sit me on her side, open her laptop and start showing pictures and narrating about her children and grandchildren. With a full stomach and a calmed soul that has just sunk in love and kindness. Now I can even take a sneaky nap on her shoulder while listening to her tender twitting. Although the topic is always the same, her family, but because there are a lot of them, twenty-four, and all of them are of different ages, and characters, I never get bored listening to her stories. As a professional, for whom memory has a crucial meaning, I would always catch myself thinking with reproach “What bad memory I have: I am being told already seven times all the names, and ages, and all the details, and I cannot retain even half of them!” I remember once I came to her when I felt offended by my husband - I wanted to cry my hurt feelings out. Lyuba started filling me with food, and I did not have my miserable moment to start crying, as I had been intending, to relief my pain. A little later, her son came, and he and I started talking about some interesting for me topics. Thus, unknowingly, with their presence and kindness in the air, they never let me start crying, having distracted me from my hurt feelings.
Let’s come back to the yesterday’s trip. We came to East LA, that my husband at once called “ghetto”. I should say, it is a good-looking "ghetto" though, as I can see today, on the picture, with neat houses and blossoming greenery on the background.
We entered a house, passed through a huge kitchen with a gigantic marble-top center table-island, entered a spacious room decorated in all shades of Lyuba’s favorite lilac color, with laid tables for 60 people. I was glad I had bought for Lyuba the aroma-spreading lilac hyacinths in the tone of the decorations. Behind a beautiful wooden door there was one more big room, rather a hall, with a very high dome-shaped ceiling, rows of soft comfortable seats, and the stage: it was a church. I had never been before in such homey cozy church. For an American reader I find it important to mention that traditional Russian Orthodox church originated from Byzantine Orthodox church, since 988 (10th century), is lusciously decorated, very strict, ceremonial, and formal.
Lyuba showed me around, as I obviously was the one, who had not met many people there. She would introduce us around, saying “This is my teacher, Zoia, and her husband”. I would show with my eyes to my husband and add, “We don’t speak Russian, only English”. My husband would make small talk with people he saw for the first time. Lyuba was absolutely cute and kind, the same, as I always know her. She is an angel. The hard-working angel yesterday was not working nor studying (I am a very aggressive and demanding educator in my Russian or English classroom when it comes to work). Now she was in her own paradise, surrounded with her children, grandchildren, and friends. By her age Lyuba is the oldest of all, she is a matriarch of the paradise. The majority of the people in this, unusual for me, gathering, were from twenty-two to thirty-nine years old, and among them there were a few teens, pre-teens and children. The youngest was 10-month-old Daniel. He was blond, red-lipped, and his cheeks were silky and puffy. He was dressed-up like a tiny gentlemen: in the black trousers, white shirt and a vest. His socks were grey patterned. When he visited Lyuba’s lap for 20 minutes, I caressed his tiny feet, and admired his calm and focused look: he was busy with the smooth round parts of my turquoise bracelet checking them out with little cute fingers.
In this atmosphere of paradise, alcohol is not a custom. The girls wear dresses and some kind of tights, and songs are sung of somewhat religiously inclined lyrics. We listened to a beautiful Vivaldi played professionally by a slim tall violinist, a young man, who came to the USA from the same city in the European part of Russia as I did, by the Baltic Sea.
Both my recently revolting husband and I, were now wrapped in the air of kindness, love, purity, happiness, sincerity, open-heart friendship, and joyous laughter. We heard a chorus of paradisiacal birds singing harmoniously with pure clean beautiful voices – it was a group of Lyuba’s children and grandchildren where girls’ voices prevailed. The song was praising the mother and grandmother – my friend Lyuba. Lyuba’s children and friends took their turns near the microphone congratulating Lyuba. One of Lyuba’s daughters and her 12-year-old daughter, both slim, tall, cute and tender, sang a long song where the lyrics spoke of a mother’s gentle hands, soft smile, kind eyes, and how mother loves and teaches their children, and children are glad to listen to her, and that makes them happy.
A few times, during very sensitive moments I quietly cast curious looks on Lyuba – I was expecting to see tears in her eyes. To my surprise, Lyuba was always smiling, and her eyes were always dry, leaving the mascara that I had never seen before on Lyuba’s eyes, all intact and not smudgy. I made a wonderful discovery for myself – this was not a rare showy event, it was actually normal atmosphere of existence and feelings of this unique family of mother, father, 8 children, four sons in-law and 12 grandchildren.
If in all families at least half of that warmth, innocence, lack of any intrigue, kindness, open-heartedness, could find a place, then the world around us would be half-ideal.
To those who do not know that there are absolutely ideal families in reality, and paradise on earth, I am urgently carrying the message – there is a paradise on earth. I was there yesterday, for the entire four hours, until my spouse who could not understand the spoken language, except for my occasional interpreting, politely let me know that he wanted to go home. I am grateful to my spouse who looked happy, and content, bravely sitting through a joyful celebration in an unknown language. Did he understand that I was an honored guest there? He could have, seeing that Lyuba was stuck to me all the time.
How good it is to have friends who can show you a paradise, where you can rest from the fussy and imposing world, penetrated with computer communication, cell telephone sounds, everyday worries and concerns, the world that has a lot of insincerity and injustice.
I wish to all people who will read my article, as well as to those who will never know of mine or my articles’ existence, to find good friends, with whom one feels as in paradise. How badly we need such friends! If it were possible to create a human nursery and breed the type of a person “Lyuba Litovchenko”, the world could be filled with beautiful people and actions – the world without wars, fear, crimes or hatred. A beautiful world of love, friendship, sincerity and purity of soul.
Let us do what we can: let us try to be kind, sincere, open-hearted, loving. How much light and kindness we will leave after ourselves. How many people we will save, putting them on the good path. Our efforts will help to many people to survive and live better, in piece with themselves.
I am sure that there are more such paradisiacal places out there. Those who do not have them, or who does not have such friends, look for them, communicate, and you will find them.
Every person should have the place, that he calls "paradise". We do not live in paradise, but we need it from time to time, in order to visit it, wrapping ourselves in the world of love and peace.
The moral of my article is that kindness always wins and it will always be winning!
And as for Lyuba's mother, then 60 years ago, in Ukraine, she gave her daughter an exact name - Love. Lyubov, a complete version of the name "Lyuba" in Russian language means ''Love".
Other books by this author:
The Girl from California - in the Russian language. It is a partially autobiographical, intercultural novel, first published in Moscow, Russia in 2004.
Russian-English Dual-Language Book of Two Russian Classics: Chekhov and Goncharov. Enjoy Reading Russian Classical Literature with Page-for-Page English Translation
Russian-English Dual-Language Book Based on The Masterpiece of the British Humorous Classical Novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.
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