WeWriWa—Presents from the Lindmaas

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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.

This week will be my last Christmas-themed excerpt, in honor of the recent Orthodox Christmas. It 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.

Milena Kalvik, age 26, is the nanny of Tarmo and Meri Lindmaa. Their father Vahur, a widower about to turn 33, lost his wife in the final bombing of Tallinn, Estonia in 1944. Meri is particularly attached to Milena, never having known her birth mother. She was born in a posthumous C-section two months prematurely, and has a very unusual scar on her face from the rushed surgery done in the dark with only a knife.

Milena has had feelings for Vahur almost since they met, and adores his children, but doesn’t think he could ever reciprocate.

The Lindmaas are Taaraists, followers of Estonia’s original religion Taarausk (Taaraism), which is built around Nature worship. Taara is their supreme god.

Milena fetches the gifts she bought for Vahur, Meri, and Tarmo. Though they don’t celebrate Christmas, it felt wrong to not give them anything in return. For Tarmo and Meri, she bought James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks and Anne Parrish’s The Story of Appleby Capple, respectively. Vahur’s present is a painted necktie with Bengal tigers.

“I hope you like our gifts,” Meri says. “Tarmo and I spent a lot of time making them. It was easier to do when you don’t live with us anymore.”

Milena unwraps a set of four coasters from Tarmo, painted with geometric patterns in a rainbow of colors, and a green, heart-shaped ceramic candy dish from Meri. Her heart skips a beat when she discovers a rough-cut pearl necklace from Vahur.

“You didn’t have to get me something so personal,” Milena protests.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“I’m only your children’s nanny. The other jewelry you’ve gotten me is unprecedented enough.”

“Why shouldn’t I honor such a special person with pearls?” Vahur smiles at her. “I’ve never seen you wearing pearls, and thought you deserved your own, in a unique style. So many other ladies wear basic, boring white pearls, but how many wear rough-cut pearls? It’s special, just like you.” Vahur takes it out of the box and fastens it around Milena’s neck. “Every lady deserves pearls from a man, and since no one else did it, I took it upon myself.”

“So you feel sorry for me because I’m an old maid?”

“Perish the thought. Taara’s keeping you single so long because your husband’s very special and worth waiting for. It takes more time to match some people. Not everyone is lucky enough to find a soulmate at all of sixteen or twenty. You’ll appreciate him more when he reveals himself.”

Milena’s heart flutters at that choice of phrase. She can’t let herself believe Vahur is speaking about himself, but the possibility exists. Her heart beats even faster when Vahur helps her on with her winter wraps and takes her arm.

WeWriWa—Marek’s gifts to Tamara

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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.

WeWriWa—Diana and Pamela’s first Christmas

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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.

Diana (Dee-AHN-ah) and Pamela (Pah-MEL-ah) Zotova, newly turned eight months old, are staying with Lyuba and Ivan’s family in St. Paul while their mother Raisa and aunt Lyudmila, Raisa’s twin sister, are hospitalized. Raisa and Lyudmila realized too late they chose terrible husbands just to escape small town life and move to Minneapolis. They recently found much better future second husbands, but they first have to figure a way out of their unhappy current marriages.

Diana and Pamela smile big smiles at Irina as she unwraps the presents Raisa and Lyudmila got them, which Filaret delivered on Saturday. From their mother, they have a brightly-colored ring-stacking toy and stacking cups. Their aunt got them toy drums and rattles with cat heads at either end.  Diana’s rattle depicts Siamese cats, and Pamela’s has red tabbies. Out of fear of Gustav’s wrath, Filaret set up a savings account for them in lieu of physical presents.

“They’re so cute,” Tamara says. “Can we keep them? I want little sisters. Everyone else in our family has younger siblings.”

“They’re Raya’s babies, not ours,” Lyuba says gently.

The ten lines end here. A few more to complete the scene follow.

“She’ll be very sad if we don’t give them back.”

“They won’t be happy to go home,” Sonyechka says. “Gustav is a very bad person. He doesn’t treat Raya or his babies very nicely.”

“That’s not our affair to meddle in,” Ivan says. “If Raya’s the good, sweet person we remember her as, she’ll come to her senses eventually and leave that mudak. If I’ve read the situation with the count correctly, Raya has her second husband waiting in the wings.”

“Speaking of future husbands, why doesn’t Toma open her gift from Marek?” Sonyechka holds up a jade green package.

WeWriWa—Christmas tree contention

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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 year, the snippets will come from Chapter 87, “December Dilemmas and Delights,” and Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. They’re set during December 1950 and January 1951.

The chapter’s second section features cousins Andrey Safronov, Tomik Barashka, and Vilorik Zyuganov, who live together, and their respective girlfriends, sisters Zoya and Zhdana Karmova, and Susanna Eristova. Susanna is a cousin of the Karmova girls. In April, Tomik and Vilorik came to the U.S. after several years in London. Though they’re happy to be out of Stalin’s clutches, there are many things about the West they can’t get used to.

Though Andrey is an unbaptized atheist, he went to Russian Orthodox church camp and school after coming to the U.S., and began celebrating Christmas to be like all his friends. Tomik and Vilorik can’t believe he would take part in a holiday that’s not his.

Tomik and Vilorik cross their arms and stand back when they reach the pop-up lot. Andrey and Zoya browse the fairly limited supply of trees before selecting a five-foot Fraser fir dripping with needles.

“Is it to your liking?” Andrey calls to his cousins.

Tomik grunts. “I won’t decorate it or spend much time by it. You’re the one wasting your money on a bourgeois symbol.”

“What the hell is bourgeois about a Christmas tree?” Zhdana asks. “Poor and working-class people have trees too.”

“It’s not really bourgeois,” Susanna says.

The nine lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“They were taught to bandy that word about as a catch-all insult. Whatever meaning it may have originally had is long since lost. It’s like describing everything as fantastic, even when it’s not. By the time it really does apply, no one thinks the person is serious.”

“It may not be an exclusively bourgeois convention, but it certainly was popularized and embraced most heartily by that lot,” Tomik says. “We shouldn’t want any vestiges of bourgeois society in our midst.”

“How did you get approved for immigration?” Zoya asks. “You’re completely open about your Communism. Little does the HUAAC know an entire family of Communists is living across three boroughs.”

Andrey pays for the tree and lifts it in his arms. During the walk back to the southern portion of the neighborhood, he, Tomik, and Vilorik take turns carrying it.

WeWriWa—Christmas tree clashes

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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 year, the snippets will come from Chapter 87, “December Dilemmas and Delights,” and Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. They’re set during December 1950 and January 1951.

The chapter’s second section features cousins Andrey Safronov, Tomik Barashka, and Vilorik Zyuganov, who live together, and their respective girlfriends, sisters Zoya and Zhdana Karmova, and Susanna Eristova. Susanna is a cousin of the Karmova girls. In April, Tomik and Vilorik came to the U.S. after several years in London. Though they’re happy to be out of Stalin’s clutches, there are many things about the West they can’t get used to.

“I can’t believe you do this,” Tomik tells Andrey as they walk towards a pop-up tree lot by Tompkins Square Park. “Atheists and Communists aren’t supposed to celebrate religious holidays.”

“Don’t you find Christmas trees pretty?” Zhdana asks.

“We saw plenty of them in London, and in some of our Minsk friends’ homes, but that didn’t mean we were tempted to revert to religion. They’re nothing but pretty decorations.”

“You’ll get to help decorate if you want,” Andrey says.

“How many ornaments do you have?” Vilorik asks.

“I made a lot in church camp and school. Some come from stores and magazines.”

“But you’re not Christian,” Tomik persists.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“Why celebrate Christmas on any level? Soviets who put up trees as supposed secular symbols are only fooling themselves.”

“It’s not religious at all for me. My friends in camp and school all celebrated Christmas, so my siblings, cousins, and I begged our parents to have a tree and give presents too. We never mention religion or put up any religious decorations.”

%d bloggers like this: