I hope all of you are lucky enough to be invited into the humble but loving home of a Russian Woman and her family.
It will truly be a moment “you’ll never forget”.
So let me go back in time a little and share with you something that “I’ll never forget”.
On the 1st evening of my arrival into Siberia I was invited to attend our lovely Inessa’s mother’s home for supper.
This was the first time I’d ever been inside a normal Russian home and my first mental challenge was to get accustomed to the minuscule living space of the entire flat.
Upon my entrance Inessa guided me into a short narrow hallway that probably had the floor volume of a single person mattress if you had placed it on the floor.
I followed as she quickly turned the corner and I encountered a kitchen that was about the size of a small office cubicle for a single person.
Tiny sink, narrow and squat refrigerator, a dish pantry that looked more suitable in a child’s miniature doll house, and a small wooden kitchen table that reminded me of the old fold up card playing tables that used to be popular once upon a time for boy’s night.
Inessa’s beautiful mother Natalia was in the midst of finishing off her cooking and greeted me with a level of warmth reserved only for family and long lost visits from old friends.
She warmly embraced me and I presented her with a bottle of Bulgarian Merlot and a large bouquet of pink roses. A bouquet that seemed to overpower the small room with their long stems since it seemed that every square inch of this room was occupied with pot’s and pans steaming with freshly cooked Siberian delicacies.
Clearly we were dealing with a very gifted chef who put a great deal of time and attention into the meal prepared for me and I felt completely indebted to her given the less then idea attitudes towards cooking that I had experienced in the US. From my own experience with cooking I estimated that Inessa and her Mother had started preparing this meal for all of us early that morning.
Inessa wanted to give me a proud tour of her home so she urged me to follow her around the corner again to her immaculately kept but tiny walk-in closet of a bedroom. I remembered most typical walk-in closets in the US being bigger then this. But this was her room that she had lived in all of her life and she was proud of it.
The first thing she showed me was her bookshelf next to her two foot wide desk which had a significant number of classics and specialized fictions from Russian, German and Japanese authors which deeply impressed me since she was only 21 at the time. All of these novels were translated into her native tongue but she expressed a desire to be able to read them in their original languages.
She pulled her small collection of photos showing off various captured slices of time with her friends and family. While we were looking through them her mother Natalia called out to let us know that supper was ready. Inessa guided me into a modest living room that had a small antenna TV running old Soviet films in the background.
There was the main table arranged next to the couch with 2 other chairs on opposite ends. The table was decked out with a colorful array of dishes which I had never seen before and I was looking forward to this culinary adventure.
One thing I didn’t notice was a bedroom for Inessa’s mother and her step-father. I embarrassed myself thinking that there must have been another room someplace as I tried in vain to take inventory of it in order to discover more of what a real Russian home was like.
Well the biggest surprise for me came when I realized that I was already sitting in it and literally sitting on their hideaway bed beneath me.
I think it was at that moment when the full energy of a certain realization hit me.
By American standards these people had so little in terms of material things..
But by my standards up to that point in my life..
They had more soul and warmth then what I could possibly imagine.
Before we started our meal I just closed my eyes for a few seconds to thank the man upstairs for the chance to experience this finest of moments.
And right then a biblical story about a rich man who had poured money into the temple coffers drifted into my consciousness.
He was followed by a poor woman who had dropped a single coin into the collection.
Here I was face to face with the spirit of that woman..
And in that calm and loving space..
My life was enriched beyond measure.