Posted in 1950s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Marek, Tamara, Writing

WeWriWa—Marek’s gifts to Tamara


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Since it’s December, I’ve switched to Christmas-themed excerpts (even though my own winter holiday is Chanukah). This week, the snippet comes from Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. It’s set during January 1951.

Lyuba and Ivan’s youngest child, nine-year-old Tamara, is still using crutches and calipers over a year after she had a stroke from being brutally attacked by her second grade teacher and all but one of her classmates. She’s very disappointed and upset she can’t practice walking normally outside the house, no matter how much her family tries to reassure her this won’t last forever.

Tamara’s gift is from eleven-year-old Marek Kalvik, the surprise late-life sixth child of dear family friend Katrin Kalvik-Nikonova. When he recently testified at his mother’s kangaroo court trial for alleged un-American activities, the judge taunted him by saying no one will want to marry him. In case that happens, he asks Tamara if she’ll promise to marry him when they’re grownups, but only if she really wants to.

Tamara limps back to the davenport and pulls off the wrapping paper. She lifts the flaps of the box within and finds a stuffed turtle, an onyx and silver bracelet, an obsidian bead necklace, and a letter. Ivan suspiciously eyes the jewelry as Tamara holds the turtle in her lap and reads Marek’s letter.

December 27, 1950,

Dear Toma,

I hope you get this by Orthodox Christmas. My brothers-in-law, Nikita, and Viivi helped me with selecting your presents. Taavi and Sulev told me turtles represent long life, good health, persistence, determination, emotional strength, and being grounded despite chaos. I asked them about more jewelry to help you with healing, and they said blue stones like lapis lazuli help with relaxation and calming, and black stones like obsidian and onyx help with protection. When we’re older, I’ll buy you black pearls. They protect people from negative energy and have lots of healing energy too, but pearls are grownup jewelry, and lots of money.

The ten lines end here (by the way I counted). A few extras follow.

I hope you don’t think you already have too many stuffed animals and too much jewelry. Each one is different and special, but you might not see it that way when people keep giving them to you.