Thursday, October 16, 2014


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     We met in this lovely, luxurious, Sofitel San Francisco bay hotel in Redwood city. Sonny and I drove to pick Taka up from work, and then he drove us (crazy) to the hotel. He might've been very tired after work, because he kept missing turns and losing his temper. 
     Did I mention that, I never met Sofia and Vova before? I didn't even know, how they look now! Twice, while waiting for them in the lobby, I smiled broadly at some men, saying: "Are you Vova?" The receptionist began to get a wrong idea about me, when a small, fashionably dressed lady and a handsome older man walked up to us. 
Sofia in her youth.
                                                                                             Sofia now.

I repeatedly told Sonny and Taka that, that couple were the most beautiful people on my side of the family. Well, time waits for no man, and, definitely,  for no woman. 
Even though I was sad to see, how different Sofia looked in comparison to her photos just a couple of decades ago, right away I felt a deep connection with her and Vova, who came up to us with his arms outstretched in a hug.

It might be that, in Israel people are more used to showing their emotions, and it could be that, my relatives were just being overly warm, as is customary in their society, but my feelings were real, and I wanted to accept them as my blood kin.

I made reservations at a restaurant in the same hotel. It was located behind the bar, and the noise was simply deafening! A waitress tried to refuse Vova's request to give us a table in a closed off section, which was farther away from the noise, but he won the argument, and we sat in comparative peace.
I thought that, both, my cousin and her husband could speak English. That wasn't so! Vova's language skill was passable, but, I realized, it was better to speak Russian with his wife. That and the table, which was too big, fractured our group. Taka, Vova and Sonny sat closer to each other and tried to speak in English, while Sofia and I made a cozy group on our own, talking about the family's past and present, asking questions in Russian. Time to time, I would translate, what the reason was for a laughter or a solemn pause in our conversation, but, other than that, the men let us be.
A waiter came to take our order. Sofia and Vova came from a very different place that the U.S, and weren't used to how we do things. Sofia decided that, she wanted a salad. "Just a salad!" - she repeated, lifting her shoulders and voice at the waiter's apparent lack of understanding. There were about ten different salads on the menu, but she wanted simple lettuce-tomato-cucumber fare.
-"Do you want onions"
-"Yes, lots of onions!"
-"What kind of salad dressing do you want?"
Sofia threw her hands up in a gesture of exasperation. She was tired of all the questions! A salad is a salad, right?
Vova did a little better. He chose s steak, which was on the menu. After that things went down. 
-"And do you want French Fries, or mashed potatoes with it?"
-"No, no potatoes!"
-"This dish comes with a choice of French Fries or mashed potatoes, with pearl onions, asparagus and baby carrots."
Vova was adamant: 
-"I just want the steak and salad!" - said he, cutting the air with his hands for emphasis. 
-"Do you want vegetables?"
-"What?! Isn't salad - vegetables?!"
I interfered and explained that, the waiter meant the boiled veges for Vova's meal.
-"No, just steak and salad, and that's all!"
That waiter had the patience of an angel! He asked us, from where Vova and Sofia came. 
"I am also Jewish" - he said - "My last name is Rosenthall!"
When he left, the emotions settled down. We went back to talking. Sofia told me that, she remembered, like it happened yesterday, how my dad came home from the war. She explained the way grandmother, dad's mom, and her mother (dad's sister), saw him coming toward the house in his soldier's uniform. How they called out his name and fell to kiss and hug him, all the time crying and keening from joy. 
I almost cried myself. This happened very long ago and very far away, but it meant the world to us!
Tongue in cheek, she asked me about the reason, why she didn't see me at the family reunions, while my parents lived in New York. I answered straight forward, that I was a missionary in the Unification Church (like she didn't know that!) and was occupied elsewhere at the time. I then put my hand on her arm and said: "Sofochka [making her name sound dearer and closer], I since decided to distance myself from that church".
She looked pleased and switched the topic to something else.

To Be Continued....


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