Remembering Babushka

It’s November 1, Day of the Dead. A time to remember.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother. Maybe because her birthday is in October and I posted about it on Facebook. Things I write about, even briefly, have a way of sticking with me. But I also wonder if it’s because I invited her to hang out with me.

A few months ago, I started working with a business coach named Christina Morassi. And on our first call together, she led me through a meditation that included a symbolic beginning, a crossing of the threshold between who I’ve been and who I’m becoming, professionally. When companions were invited, my grandmother turned up.

It was a funny sight, actually. My grandmother was a bit of a brick. Four foot, eleven, too many pounds, and essentially the same width from shoulder to feet. She was a formidable force, in form and function. In my meditation, I was standing on a wide stretch of wet sand at a rather unforgiving beach, with shifting dunes, giant rock formations, and a fierce wind (feeling a bit trepidatious, are we?). And here was my grandmother, wearing a stylish black and green checkered dress she’d sewn, with smart black pumps and white hair miraculously unblown, standing on the sand just behind me. Incongruous as the sight was, I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d rather have my back. She was there representing all of my ancestors and I’m sure when the time came to decide who was going, they all just stepped aside.  She was a queen.

I felt her a lot, too, when Aidan was born.

Aidan arrived almost a month early, and though my labor and his delivery were uneventful, I did feel quite vulnerable during my planned C-section. It was all much more medical than I was anticipating: Getting my paralyzed, pregnant, and broken-legged body onto the TINY operating table; the freezing temperature of the room; the cumbersome paper drapes over me; the tangle of tubes coming out of me; the throng of people I’d never seen before and would never see again; the pain blocker that made me dizzy; the bright light… It was all just intense, and I couldn’t really focus on my baby. So I called my Babushka to look after him. To hold his hand and stay by him. Of course, Dean was there, too, but I wanted someone from the other realm, someone who’d stood at the veil between life and death. Twice! It was comforting in the way her chicken and rice was comforting, the way the smell of Jergens lotion in her bathroom was comforting. And when my wiggly boy with a head of curly, golden hair finally came to my breast an hour after he was born, I know she was standing nearby, quietly coaching him, and guarding the gates through which he’d come.

I’m so grateful that in my spiritual practice, there is this time of year dedicated to remembering. Because, even though she and my other Beloved Dead pop into my head a lot, the fullness of living often makes remembering hard. So this opportunity to do it consciously is nothing but a gift.

I’ll be remembering all month, telling stories and scrounging for pictures. How about you? Who are you remembering? I’d love it if you’d share some stories in the comments, so I can “remember” with you.

Blessings to all the Beloved Dead.

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8 Responses to Remembering Babushka

  1. Lisa Kaseff says:

    My dad has been gone for 13 years now, but this year has been very difficult. I gave birth in January to an amazing little girl. My dad would have loved her so much. I know he’s watching over her, but I’m sad he’s not here in the physical world. Jordyn is named after him and he was honored at her baby naming. It was a beautiful day! I’ll tell her all about him one day. I can’t wait…

  2. Lyena Strelkoff says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa. Dean and I feel the loss of his mom in a different way since Aidan was born, so I can relate. And it’s true… Even though our loved ones are still with us, sometimes really close, it isn’t the same and it still hurts. I’m so glad you’ll be telling Jordyn stories. That’s a really important tradition in this house, and it brings a little sweetness to that tender place in our hearts. If you feel like it, you can share some stories about your dad here, too. I’d love to hear them.

  3. Susan says:

    I love your invoking your grandma during your son’s birth. Wow – what an incredible loving, thoughtful and sacred act. I work with pregnant mom’s and never would have thought to suggest that if a mother needs a cesarean for her or the father to invite help from their deceased relatives. I really love this idea – although, I think it might freak people out if I mentioned it in class. Hmmm – what to do with that information. I’ll have to ruminate on that one for a bit.

    Anyways, I love your posts. Thank you for this beautiful story…

  4. carrie says:

    Hi Lyena- Remembering Dean’s mom, little Aidan’s Grandma Joan:

    Joan had the most unbelievable set of wings in her life. Her wings spread kindness, wisdom, and talent to many people through out her community and family. Joan’s “wings” were part of my family for three generations- all three taking ballet from her. Myself, my daughter Tami, and even my grand daughter Ashley.

    My mother (Florence Tardiff) was actually Joan’s maid of honor (I was 11 at the time)- so I’ve known Joan (and family) for many years- and I actually can even remember Dean at Aidan’s age.

    Such fond memories- it warms my heart everyday that I think of her. She touched so many lives- she will always be missed, and never forgotten.

    • Lyena Strelkoff says:

      Carrie, thank you so much. We’re thinking a lot about Joan, always do, this time of year especially. I hope to remember her more fully in a post later this month. Your comment touched Dean and I both a lot.

  5. Tania says:

    More on Babushka…I have always been in awe of her strength, how she managed to keep her kids alive in the face of the most horrific conditions: war, hunger, even concentration camps, and since the bottom line is and always has been, in my heart at least, keeping my kids alive, her ferocity in the face of adversity and her indomitable spirit always served as counterpoint to whatever it was I was facing. I mean, “if Babu could do what she did I can certainly handle this!” But she was also so many other things. She was the woman who told me, in the most bawdy terms but with a perfectly straight face, that contrary to what men always say, in bed they want MEAT, not skin and bones. She was the woman who begged God, before Dedushka died, to allow him to stay with her, even sick and diminished. She was the woman who refused to believe the woman swallowing the microphone on the Ed Sullivan show (when I was a kid) was for real. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Janis Joplin was not acting. So when everybody else stands back to allow Babu to take center stage in guiding Aidan’s birth and keeping him safe, I am not surprised. I believe she does it for us all, always.

    • Lyena Strelkoff says:

      Wow, I didn’t know a lot of this. Thank you so much for sharing it. As powerful as my relationship with her was, it was limited by our language barrier. And yes, she was extraordinarily strong. Such a force. Couldn’t be more grateful to be her kin.

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