Monday, January 9, 2012

Different isn't Bad: Christmas in Syhnayivka

This past Friday night, I was honored to attend the Christmas party and dinner at Kati's house with her entire family and assorted friends. Similar to most other families I know, they have friends who have been their friends for decades and are adopted family. Similarly, everyone brings a dish and/or helps the cooks in the kitchen. Even me! I chopped up everything in sight, in the dining room, to mix salads and arrange veggie or meat trays. I wasn't allowed to even attempt to help in the kitchen. Still working to break down that barrier. 

During dinner, food constantly moved around the table, the little ones sang some songs, parents told stories, and grandparents told more stories. We crammed about 20 people into a room about the size of a college dorm room with 3 tables and mounds of food. All the beverages were stores under the table to save space. A few dishes were different than at home, a few customs are different than at home, but the baseline is the same. The cheer, celebration, and joy is the same. A rare opportunity to overindulge in food and drink and sweets and enduringly listen to all the papas sing pub anthems while the mamas roll their eyes and giggle. Children run around or climb underfoot to work off the sugar high. Once again, I am reminded, the human condition is the same. Pull back the layers to gaze into a life and it will not look that much different than yours. Not matter if you live in city of millions or a village not listed on any maps. 

This holiday season, I missed my family in a miserable way. My immediate and extended family and family of friends across the globe. Kati missed her husband who leaves for 2 weeks each month due to his job as a tour guide at Chernobyl. We both miss relatives that has passed on and will never know or see what kind of women we have turned into. Kati and I are different: she is 25, married 8 years, has a 5 year old daughter, and never wants to leave her village; I am 23, never married, childless, and I want to arrive everywhere at least once. We are different but that's not bad. We balance each other. Within our balance, we discovered we are very similar. 

So here is Ukrainian Christmas with my very different and very similar new friends: 

Kati's bedroom shelf. I love her photographs and precious things.
Not having her husband, Maxim, home to celebrate with us was hard for everyone.
So I included his presence this way. 

Dawna and her friend, Dasha, pulled each other around Kati's bedroom in this blanket while the adults got everything ready.

This frame brings vivid memories of my friendship with Kristi Drake. We would slide down her bed on her Little Mermaid sleeping bag pretending to slide into the ocean. We would pull each other around the house wrapped up in the sleeping bag like we were swimming with the whales. Walking these two girls caused a weight to form in my stomach. Missing those days of innocence and joy are long gone but at least I am be a part of Dawna's childhood now. 

Vova (right) and his buddy waiting for the women and the rest of the food to show. Vova is Kati's brother and my Ukrainian tutor. 
Kati and I.
I adore this woman. 

Some of Kati's forever friends. 

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