The Illiterati

by Marinka on September 2, 2009

When I lived in Russia, and before I started school, I had an illiterate nanny who took care of me while my parents worked.

One day she arranged to have me baptized behind my Jewish father’s back, because she did not want to be taking care of a child possibly possessed by Satan. I don’t remember that, of course, but all things considered, I am grateful. Mostly because she opted for baptism and not exorcism which seems, to me, at least, to be a bit more to the point. I didn’t frown on illiteracy back then, my own great-grandmother, Pauline, was also illiterate. Baba Polya, as I, and everyone else called her, was approximately a million feet tall and stocky. I was mildly afraid with her and semi-dreaded the overnights that I had to spend with her, mostly because my papa’s parenting technique included telling me, as he dropped me off, that if I did not listen to Baba Polya, she would die in the night. Somehow my father knew that sleeping next to a corpse topped my pediatric list of things that I wanted to avoid.

So one evening, Baba Polya asked me why I was looking so petrified.

“I DON’T WANT YOU TO DIE!” I blurted out, even though I’m pretty sure that papa warned me that telling Baba Polya that I was afraid that she would die would also lead to her instant death.
She started to laugh. “I have no plans to die, why are you afraid of that?”
“Papa told me that you’d die if I didn’t listen to you,” I told her and I watched her expression changed.
“I’m going to die when I am ready, and I am not ready yet.” She reassured me. And then, when her granddaughter, my mother, came to retrieve me the next morning, I overheard Baba Polya telling her, “tell that idiot husband of yours to stop traumatizing Marinka. What a precious angel she is.”

Because despite being illiterate, Baba Polya was an excellent judge of character.

One year ago ...

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stasha
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May 5, 2011 at 12:49 am

Love it! That’s all.

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Marina at My Busy Children
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May 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

we had a баба Поля too -she lived next to us. You are reminding me of old old days

back then illiteral people were extremely smart

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