Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Our daughter, like any 2 year old can be a little problematic when she wants to be. My father likes to call it getting what she wants and to me, either way works. But we had a moment the other day sitting out on the bench near the garden. We had just gone to the podval (Root cellar?) to get a bucket of potatoes. Anya usually tries to be helpful and had been standing at the door of the podval watching me load the bucket. When it was full, I asked her to be careful, lifted it up and placed it just inside the door. I climbed up the ladder and when I got to the top, I saw that Anya had gone over to the bench and was climbing up onto it. I guess she had decided she wanted to sit for a while. So I took the bucket of potatoes and went with her and we sat and watched the world go by for a bit. Watching the world go by from the garden bench can be very nice.

However, sometimes sitting and watching the world go by can get boring, especially when you have something to do, which I did. So after a couple of minutes, I asked Anya if we could perhaps start moving towards the house.

"Nyet, zdes." She said, which means "No, I want to be here". Basically she speaks Russian but knows a lot of English words and can understand pretty much everything I say to her.

"C'mon," I said, "I really need t get back to work. I have a lot to do."

"Nye…" She said slowly.

"Anya… Please, let's go."

"Nye…" So there are always options about what you can do at such moments. Well, I am sure there are but I couldn't think of any. I am sure also that there are those who would have just picked the girl up in one arm and the potatoes in the other and just marched home. I also am not opposed to this sort of direct action, but I prefer to allow for autonomy and conversation as much as possible, believe it or not. So as I couldn't really find any compelling reason to go other than my having something to do, we just sat there for a few more minutes, watching the world going by some more.

It was a nice day. The sky was clear. Not too hot, not too cold. The women were smoking over at the hair salon. An old woman was sweeping the street. People were walking from her to there, there to here. Some cars went by.

"Davia domoi" I said to her which means let's go home. She said nothing but made this face where she scrunches up, sticks out her lower lip and stares at you out the corners of her squinting eyes. It is a pretty impressive face really and for sure she was not moving.

"C'mon, vsyo!" I said and stood up. Vsyo means all, everything, we're done.

"Yesho." She said, which means more. Now vsyo and yesho sound kind of alike and especially so from a two-year-old. In fact it is almost impossible to tell the difference.



"Are you saying vsyo or yesho?" I asked.

"Yesho." She repeated plaintively.

"I don't understand," I did, but I was pestering her," vsyo or yesho? Eto vsyo? Ok, let's go…"

"Ye-sho." She was not moving

"Anya, come on!" I was whining now. "Please, lets…Goooooo."

"Nye…" I stood there miming that I wished for some movement towards the house. I did the train complete with a "whoo whoo chugga chugga" sound track. Nothing. I did an airplane. Nothing. I tried running, moon walking, leaping into the air like Superman… Nothing. I quit and sat down next to her on the bench and watched the world go by some more.

After a few minutes Egr came by. Egr studies English with me in the evenings.

"Dyedye Adam, mozhet tye prenyesti drugoi diski?" I reminded him that we only spoke in English together. This is one of the rules.

"May.. I …take… a… a.. kino…"

"Another movie? You want to borrow another movie, right?" I said the word "borrow" slowly, both to emphasize that this is the correct word and because sometimes you don't get the movies back.

"May I borrow another movie disc?"

"Did you like Poseidon?"


"Me neither. English or Russian?"

"Russian. Please. Can I watch Garry Potter?"

"Of course, without problem; but first, you must do something for me." He thought for a moment and then asked what it was I wanted. "See if you can get Anya to go home. The disks are on my desk but she won't leave this bench. If you can get her to go home, I will give you the disc."

Anya likes Egr a lot and he likes her. He is a really good boy. He walked over to her and knelt down in front of her.

"Anya, mozhet edti domoi?":

"She speaks English" I said. This was as much for him as for her. "She understands English."

"Anya… Come on. Go home."


"Come on Anya. Please you go home."


"Anya," he said with a lascivious smile, "want some…confetti?" Egr can be tricky.

"Candy." I corrected.

"Candy? Want some?"

"Nye…" She wasn't moving. Egr looked at me and shrugged. Obviously this job was over his head. He smiled and sat down with us on the bench.

"She no going." he said.

"She's not going." I corrected.

So the three of us sat there thinking deep thoughts and watching the world go by.

After a few minutes, Vassa showed up. Vassa is one of Egor's friends. They have been going fishing a lot lately. Vassa was on his new white bike, an inexpensive full suspension model. The seat was loose and after he got off he tried to push it back into position but it wouldn't stay. He also knows a little English.

"Egor is at home?" asked Vassa, noodling with his saddle.

"No, he is out playing somewhere. "Listen Vassa, do you want me to fix your seat for you?" He looked at me for a few moments. I asked him if he knew that bikes were my business when I was in America and he said that he did. I repeated my offer to fix the seat in Russian and added that I had the right tool just upstairs. "It's a 13mm wrench. I can fix it in one minute"


Vassa studies in the school system so generally, he speaks to me in yeses and nos.

"OK, listen. I'll fix your bike if you do something for me. My tools are just upstairs. If you can get Anya to go home, I will happily fix your bike." Vassa looked at me like I was nuts. Egr laughed a little. I thought maybe he didn't understand so I said it again.

"If you can get Anya to go upstairs, I will fix your bike. For free. No money."

He thought about this for a minute.

"Yes." He said. He knelt in front of her.

"Does she speak English or Russian?"

"Either." He thought for a moment and then went into it in English.

"Anya…" He said quietly. "Will you go home, please?" She said nothing. Egr was giggling. "Anya, please will you go home."


"Anya, listen." This was me, "Egr wants a movie and Vassa wants his bike fixed but we can't do either unless you agree to go upstairs. Do you understand?"


"Then come on, let's go!"

"Nye…" Vassa put his hands together as if he was praying and started asking "pazhalsta" which is please, won't you go home.

"Pazhalsta, pazhalsta, pazhalsta!" Vassa begged. Nothing. Egr got down next to him and also started with the pazhalstas.

"Nye…" Vassa looked at me and shook his head. This deal obviously was a no go. He and Egr came back to the bench and sat down. We were all silent for a while, sitting there, thinking deep thoughts and watching the world go by.

I think we might have been there for about a good three minutes before Anya decided enough was enough. She dropped down off the bench and went over to the bucket. She made a show of trying to pick up the potatoes. She made some grunting noises. Obviously, it was too heavy for her to move. How could we all be so stupid? She needed help carrying it upstairs. I told you she is a very helpful girl. Apparently she had been confused as to why I had wanted her to carry the bucket herself as she was only a little girl.

I went over and picked up the bucket and let her hold on to one side of the handle. I was helping her now.

"Come on." She said. And then slowly, "Let's go."


Anonymous Jenna said...

I love this story.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

What's the matter with her? Just pick up the bucket and go! Obviously you guy are way too soft. She's spoiled ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I figured out afterward that she was just tired from vacuuming and scrubbing the tub.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007  
Blogger Chilly S said...

Brilliant! In parts of the story I wasn't sure if I was reading another one of Adam's allegories where Anya represents the power that Russia has over Belarus - or if this was really happening.

Who Is Chilly S?

Thursday, June 14, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Men! My first approach would have been to ask her to help me carry the potatoes. I would give her one or two and tell her the bucket was just too heavy for you...that way, she isn't going home because you told her to, but because without her, you never would have been able to do it on her own!

When I had housework to do and the kids kept pestering me to do something else, I gave them a wash rag or dust cloth and asked them to help me get through the work faster...worked like a charm. A lesson learned early...never give them a spray bottle, they'll use it as a weapon. I've been caught in the crossfire of two kids with spray bottles...not a pretty site.

I used to do that with any of the difficult students I would have. I always picked one of them to pass out papers, bring notes to the office. You would be amazed at how cooperative they would be, because of course, the ol' teacher could never do it without them!

On the other hand...sitting on a bench watching the world go by is a lot more fun. Maybe those toddlers are smarter than we give them credit for. After all, your daughter had you and your friends jumping through hoops! I think that may be a genetic thing, no? :-)

Wonderful story, you melt my heart when you talk about your daughter...what a great dad!

Sunday, June 17, 2007  
Anonymous Stan said...

my Anya loved your story. It was a lesson in parenting for both of us. I can't wait until I am conflicted with such moments in life. You know how they say that children are wiser than we think they are - perhaps at that moment sitting on the park bench and watching life go by was the best possible thing to do. Imagine that if you would have grabbed her and walked with her you trip and fall and you/her get hurt or something even more horrible - perhaps children are in tune with a frequency that we once were in tune to when we were kids but lost touch. For all you know she might have saved your life making you sit there on the bench and watching life go by.

Monday, June 18, 2007  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home