I began recalling these memories from my early childhood by looking at old photographs as a way to trigger these memories. I started to think about my kindergarten, my old house and the people surrounding me. What I realized when recalling these memories is that most of them include my nanny Marina. I started to think about how this played a role in my upbringing. Was the reason the first language I learned was Russian because of Marina? I do not think of my American mother as being an absent parent. My father is and always has been preoccupied with work, so his role in my childhood was small. My mother was involved, but for some reason her presence in my memory is way less than with Marina. When recalling these memories, I see small fragments of my childhood and it looks as if I’m watching through a thick foggy glass.
Running around my old apartment in Moscow with Marina on a toy car on the hardwood floors. I would push her around the living room in this car, making race car sounds while she laughed with her raspy, kind voice. I remember the leopard print shirt she always wore and her curly, short, brown hair and gold tooth. The shiny gold tooth is something that really sticks out in this fragment, as I was extremely jealous of it as a child and desperately wanted one.
Moving to the Country
Moving to the country after the birth of my first brother, Nikita. The house was old and big, it had painted white wood on the outside and always looked very gray to me. I would walk around the forest in our back yard and step on the mushrooms that make smoke. To me that forest was like a jungle, and it was where I would spend all of my time when I wasn’t at kindergarten. After walking through the forest, I would sit in the yellow bathroom while Marina would check my hair for ticks.
The first memory I have from kindergarten is sitting in the dull gray dining hall and eating mashed potatoes off a overused blue plastic plate. When I tried the potatoes I instantly started gagging from the texture. As the tears rolled down my eyes, the teacher rushed over to see if I was fine. The meal was then followed by a piece of bread covered in raw garlic, tea and Russian candy.
In kindergarten one of my classmates had a birthday party. The teachers gave us lollipops and I was eating mine while running through the big room. I suddenly tripped on something and hit my mouth. I started bleeding and crying, so my mother ran over to take me home. As we were getting ready to leave, the clown who had changed out of his costume into a leather jacket and jeans came over to see how I was. When I saw him I was very confused because I thought clowns always wore their costumes.
For my fifth birthday my parents gave me a red bicycle with rainbow butterflies attached to the wires and iridescent streamers coming from the handle bars. My grandmother decided to teach me how to ride it in her dacha. As I started to peddle my grandmother let go of the back and I rode all around the yard as she smiled and clapped.
When we first looked at the house my parents were building, my mother showed me my new room. The brick was still exposed and the entire house smelled of cement and paint. When my parents showed me and Nikita the empty pool we got inside and began to play tag on the bottom of the pool.
I was playing tag with Nikita in the playroom when I decided I to go to the bathroom. Nikita was jokingly opening the door every second asking if I’m done yet, I furiously slammed the door and it cut a bit of his pinkie off. While my mother rook him to the hospital, Marina stood over me making me clean the blood. I was crying, trying to explain that it was an accident, but I felt like no one believed me.
Visiting my great grandfather Stanley in Dallas, I do not remember anything he said. It was the last time I would ever see him. All I remember is his very modern American home, his collection of canes at the front door, his quiet, raspy voice and the lush garden outside the library window.
Going swimming with my dad in Seychelles, we walked into the water holding hands, and a huge wave came out of nowhere and separated us. I remember opening my eyes underwater and having no control of my body. Suddenly I felt my fathers hand pull my foot and we went back to shore. As we got out of the water, I remember seeing my mother furious at my father. She stood at the top of the stairs that led to the beach in a bathrobe with a towel on her head.
Waking up in the morning for school, I noticed it was still dark outside because it was the middle of the winter. I sat at the kitchen table waiting for breakfast. Marina came over with a big bowl of warm kasha and I began shouting about how I wanted waffled. Marina then made me stand in the corner.
Flying to London with my grandparents to meet my new brother, Vanya. We got to my mothers apartment, her blond hair had been dyed brown. I did not recognize her and began crying because I thought she had been replaced. Later we went to the hospital after my mother gave birth to meet Vanya. I remember holding him in my arms in a big white chair.
I remember my mother dropping me off at ski school. After skiing in the morning, we went back to the school for lunch. As I sat there in my pink thermal underwear I saw a lot of the kids were crying and so I began crying too. My mother came to check on me and I ran to her crying, but the strict French ski instructors would not open the glass door. That was the first and last day of ski school.
The one and only time my father came with my mother to pick me up from kindergarten I made them stand in the doorway because I wanted them to see “my husband”. Kolya did not know we were married, but I insisted on showing my parents the skinny blond boy every girl in my group had a crush on.
Looking back on my childhood on my childhood, most of my memories have positive connotations. Marina, kindergarten and my family were all the center of my childhood and I value all the memories I have with them. These memories are precious to me, as I will never forget my Russian upbringing, traveling and of course Marina. My childhood memories always remind me of how lucky I am to have had and continue to have such a diverse life.