One of the very first lessons that I received when I got to Ukraine (the second I believe) was that you dry your hair before you leave the house. This lead to an explanation about presentation of self in Ukraine. Folks here believe in putting your best foot forward every day you go out. Their clothes are clean and pressed, they are wearing make up and their hair is done. They look ready.
Every time I go to Texas, I get scolded by my grandmother about ironing. Now I have only owned an iron once in my life, and I have scarcely ever used one (but please don’t tell her), however, every time I go to Texas if it is wrinkled it must be ironed before I leave the house. It has always been stressed that every time you leave the house you need to look your best because, like it or not, you will be judged on it. My grandparents both have tried to instill little nuggets like this one into my very hard head since I was a child.
Who knew that I’d start listening–finally– when I arrived on this adventure?
Every time I leave the house I think of my grandparents. I think of crisply ironed pants. I think of my properness. Do I look ok, do I smell ok? Is my spoon clinking the sides of my glass as I stir this coffee?
This is all very simple and perhaps silly, but my grandparents taught me so much more about life than putting the right crease in the jeans (yes you do iron jeans), but even in those lessons they taught us how to be proud of what we were and what we had. Even if we didn’t have the moon, we could still act like we had enough sense to one day have a bit of it.
As I am here in Ukraine, I miss them deeply. This is curious because I have only seen my grandparents once a year every year for the past 10 or so years. Why would I miss them so intensely now?
Well I think it’s a part of my culture shock and wanting someone familiar, someone who has taught me the rules before to once again teach me what’s what.
I think it could also be because I have recently realized that they, while still ‘young’, are getting older. Recently my grandmother has been very ill, and though I love it here, if I thought I could have gotten home to tend to her even for a day, I would have gone. I am so blessed to have had the wonderful experience of young grandparents. They have been able to give us so many memories over our childhoods, and who could ask for more than that?
I am so grateful to my grandparents for all of the lessons and love they have given to me and my siblings over the years. They have tended to us diligently, and I’d have to say without them I may not be here at all. It was my grandparents after all who taught me how to pray. They were the first people I remember who showed me the door to my faith. I can still remember my grandmother sitting on the edge of the sleeper sofa with us as we each said our prayers with her out loud, and then she’d tuck us in.
So in my assimilation in Ukraine, I can take all of these great and simple life lessons taught to me by my grandparents and put them to good use. Thanks grandma and grandpa!