Mom worked in a laboratory of a big orthopedic clinic. She quickly advanced to the top position, which she then occupied with relish. She was in charge of a few women, lab technicians. Some doctors were working closely with her to do their theses. The more power she felt from her position, the more she felt free to verbally abuse us. She ranted and raved for the smallest reason. Dad took to spending a lot of time playing chess at his brother's home. When questioned late in life, why he didn't leave his family at that time, he said, there was no-where to go! One had to have a permission to stay in Moscow, and apartments were worth killing over. It would also go against the very fiber of his being, to abandon the people for whom he was responsible. He made good money restoring historical buildings and painting murals in the public offices and institutions. Sometimes, there was no work, though, and his crew had to get by on any jobs they could find, like painting safety posters or doing apartments for the high and mighty. Meyer always was sure to give Rimka just a set amount of money every month and keep the rest, in case if there was no work later, and he had to endure her scolding.
The family seemed to be well to do and keeping it together. I sometimes wondered, if anyone knew or cared about what went on in our apartment. Perhaps, mom was just a typical housewife and a mother, struggling with the finances and her teenagers? But there was a day, for instance, when after enduring my mother's scorn and accusations I came to my friend's apartment to go to school together in the morning. The friend's family was running around, getting ready for the day: the girls were braiding each other's hair, parents were joking with children. I didn't have to think about it much: the contrast with my own family was too stark and painful. I just started to cry, standing in the middle of their living room!
So, the situation in our home wasn't usual or acceptable: Rimka's children and husband were being emotionally flayed in an unending, hopeless pattern of our lives.
As the result of this abuse, we stopped trusting our parents. One of them was the cause of pain and another was helpless to stop it. I didn't know, what helped my sister to survive. We were six years apart, and Lera became an adult and a stranger when I was just starting to form my real character. Ironically, it was my mother, who gave me the beginnings of the idealism and a certain stubbornness, by providing the books with the role models in them, whom I wanted to emulate.
Something was missing, though. The books spoke of and assigned enormous value to love and romance. But those things were terribly hard to come by! And, even more importantly, where was the purpose, worthy of committing my whole life to it? I found friends who, like myself, were trying to focus on their inner life and culture (maybe, because there was nothing happening in our lives otherwise?). We scoured Moscow for cultural events. We met a lot of odd people and heard many ideas about saving the world and oneself, ranging from meditation to veganism, - to walking on the snow barefoot.
Nothing appealed to me. I felt like I was drifting in the fog, without a direction or aim, avoiding studies in preparation for college exams. One after one I failed them.
Now what? I worked in a newspaper, sharing the duties of a delivery girl, proofreader and an "on-the-spot" journalist. My social life was erratic; I no longer listened to the parents' ideas about an appropriate behavior. Each relationship ended as soon as it begun, and brought me immeasurable heartbreak. Then came the last blow.
I attempted to get into the Moscow University. As a Jewish person, I should've known better. Upon meeting the Dean of the Journalism Department to find out, why I didn't get in, he bluntly stated: "We have enough of your kind of people!". For this reason or that, nobody wanted me! Dad and mom came to me then with the proposition to emigrate to the U.S. I didn't refuse.
By then, Lera, who did everything with less drama and more elbow grease, finished college and found a stable job. Mother was desperately trying to marry her off, because at twenty five she was approaching the spinsterhood, wasn't she?! The inevitable matchmakers showed up, sized her up and tried to ply her on every Jewish mother's son in Moscow! By extension, no self-respecting matchmaker would miss a chance to find a husband for a younger sister! And so, here they came: the strange and the stranger men and blind dates, but after meeting me, no one was interested to do it again. That only confirmed my conviction that nobody wanted me. Later on in life, when I looked at my pictures at that age, I saw a fresh-faced girl, attractive in a spiritual kind of way. I was neither fat nor frumpy at all, as I believed myself to be. I guessed, those men were baffled, even intimidated to find somebody like myself, - not a usual type of the girls desperate to get married. That wisdom couldn't help the younger Dina, though.