One year ago today my mother-in-law passed away in Moscow at the age of 65. The one year anniversary is important to Russians, so though no one reading this knew her, I thought it important to my wife to have a tiny memorial here for Serafima.
She's the one in the picture on the left, as well as the young girl in the other photo. Ironically, her father Luis in the photo on the right was born in California and lived there until he was 15, when the Great Depression led his family to return to Russia...where he was promptly sent to the gulag. But he survived, thank goodness, or I would never have my current family.
Sima (as we called Serafima) was such a sweet woman. I always half-joke that my mother-in-law loved me more than my real family did. For a guy who was stealing away her eldest daughter to live outside of Russia, she treated me so kindly.
She wasn't much of an optimist, as the following story will show. Sima was debating one day with her neighbors, who were friends. She said that the American boy whom her daughter was dating would never marry her. Her neighbors, who had never met me, insisted that it was true love and of course I would marry Victoria. So they made a bet (that I didn't learn about until years later) -- if I didn't marry Sima's daughter, the neighbors would have to buy Sima a new telephone, while if I did, Sima would have to give the neighbors the chairs from her kitchen table.
Imagine my new wife's shock when she returned for the first time to her mother's apartment to find a table with no chairs.