"Oh! It'sNadia, Helen's goddaughter," Victor whispered to me as one more person barreled into a room already full to bursting. The table had been carefully set for around 15 people, the elders and youngsters already exiled to the sunroom, and still they poured in. Helen had been careful to specify it was not an open house, but my cousin and her husband are a focal point for a tight Russian community, and it was, after all, Easter Sunday.
They had sung midnight mass in the Holy Virgin Cathedral on Geary, leaving at 2:30 in the morning, long before the service was over. Son Nick had gotten home around 4:30, but a friend from a church further south said their service continued till past six. I vaguely remember this inverted form of boasting about the length of those interminable services.
Vic sat next to me, savoring his first meat in seven weeks, after a serious Lenten fast. A banking executive and serious salmon fisherman, he was telling me about his new passion for singing. Soon I was watching a video of a robed figure standing in a dark church surrounded by kneeling penitents, his deep tones echoing around the interior of the large onion-domed edifice. With little formal training, he was evolving into a soloist and clearly enjoying an experience he still found terrifying. "You're out there all alone," he said, "there's nobody to lean on."
Cold rain continued it's destruction of our long drought, but every woman under 60 was dressed for Palm Beach—rather than San Francisco's Ocean Beach—in skimpy sleeveless dresses patterned in spring flowers.
"I decided to wear this more sedate outfit," said Helen, "when I realized it would be cold and raining." An elegant form-fitting sleeveless sheath of pink lace delicately played with the tops of her knees and pulled your eyes down to shapely ankles where spring wildflowers burst forth in creative heeled sandals that could have been an Easter outfit in themselves. I gave up on trying to imagine the racier alternative she had passed up and shivered in my long-sleeved outfit, grateful for the little black under slip that kept my middle toasty.
The room was bursting with family news. Nick had finished his first day on a new job that filled his face with a bounding joy I will remember for a long time. Daughter Kat was studying for her GRE, applying to Cambridge, planning a move across the Atlantic, where a new future was beckoning.
I realized Nadia was the daughter of the sister of someone I had gone to Russian school with—of course—and listened to a plan to retire early from a stressful career as an ER doctor, buy a multimillion dollar yacht, and sail the seas. Their phone showed the yacht that triggered this dream on a recent trip to Malaga. They explained how it would solve the problem of traveling with their dogs better than the current trailer that had trouble crossing oceans. I idly wondered about the cost of maintenance, but the husband emphasized that he had worked on car and bike motors since he was a kid and could handle anything that came up.
I know that Vic is starting this morning singing at yet one more service in the church, one I am considering joining as I watch a heavy mist blanket the bay and enjoy my private Kulich, the Russian Easter cake that Helen graciously bakes for me every year. I think she has finally exceeded the best I have tasted from either of our mothers.
Христос Воскресе! Christ has risen!
I am blessed to share their celebration in this tiny but wonderful manner.