Irina VanPatten’s Writings
Growing up, I don’t remember a holiday, when mom would not decorate the table, even during the toughest times. Maybe that’s why I remember them with a sense of nostalgia, because she managed to make them fun, when the limited variety on the table was supposed to look sad. She used to make roses out of “available in the household material” as she used to call them, like beets and tomatoes. She would make piglets out of boiled eggs, and used the simple boiled carrots to make their ears and noses.
To understand what she has accomplished, you have to understand where my grandma was coming from. In 1940-50s the indigenous people were extremely discriminated in Mexico. People would call them by a derogatory name “Indians”. Children of lighter skin were not allowed to play with indigenous people, because they were thought to be lower class. The indigenous women were considered uglier because they were darker.
“You see, the cool thing about grandma was, that she was two ages. She was born in earlier 1900s. At that time, my great-grandparents lived on a remote farm in Ontario, Canada. They would have to make a special trip on horse and carriage to register her, so they waited until the next child was born and got both birth certificates at the same time. Therefore, her birth date is one year off. “
“This is not a job for nice, quiet, polite girls, and to be perfectly honest, your mama’s ears will melt like wax candles, if they’d hear you on the phone. We are dealing with truck drivers here, who, for the lack of a better word, are assholes most of the time.”
My husband “never touched me with a finger”, as my mom would say. He was an amazing father, when he was sober. He played hide and seek with our daughter and son. He would buy them candy on money left from vodka. But only one shot of the “fire water” and he was lost to demons. It seemed a simple choice to walk away, but it wasn’t.
“Was it I love you, love you or just good bye?” I asked John while setting the table with plates and silverware. “I can’t ever tell with you all.”
“What do you mean?” John asked, stopping halfway to the table with the napkins in his hands.
“You see, back in the USSR, when somebody said “I love you”, that was a life-changing event. You, on the other hand, said I love you three times today but in three different ways.”
When you are young, you’re like a lioness. Jump into the deep waters, walk into the darkness, move across the world and start over? Anything is possible! She set her bar high. Though, she never thought, she’d end up here, in America. Why would she? It was too far, too unreachable, too big to dream of.
Nana’s never ending missing phone saga regularly sends my husband and I into some search expeditions around the house, worthy of Sherlock Holmes stories. Deductive methods, creative thinking, intuition, and sometimes dumb luck are coming in handy while looking for her missing phone.
These young kids know the definitions of words that no kid at their age should know: ICE, Asylum petition, Deportation proceedings, Court hearing, Detention. Their birthdays and quinceañeras are postponed, most likely, indefinitely.
“Welcome to America, Welcome Home!” Is not just a title to me. It’s a welcome sign for everyone who just arrived to America. It’s also a reminder for those who already became citizens, not to forget where they came from and how they got here.
An Endorsement from Natalia Ghilascu
Chief-editor of Hora in America
As a chief-editor of Hora in America magazine, where Irina VanPatten is a contributing writer, I have witnessed first hand her passion for writing. She has a unique style of handling difficult subjects with humor and you can hear her sarcastic voice throughout the text. Her story I Love You, Russian Style was a fun read for me personally. Nevertheless, she can switch to a serious mode and write with passion and conviction about issues like women’s rights, immigrants rights, equality.
She is a great interviewer, because she can listen to the people she talks to with the same passion that she writes about them. She is interested in what they do as professionals, and in their daily lives with their families. She had interviewed people from different professions and backgrounds: from truck drivers, doctors and science researches to movie directors and entertainers, but regardless of what they do, when she publishes an interview, she lets them shine.