When I introduced Nathan to my parents, my mom’s first question was if Nathan would be open to the idea of leaving the Soviet Union. Only after receiving a positive answer from him did she give her blessing for us to marry. In 1977, the borders opened up and Jews were allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Although my parents could not leave, my mother insisted on Nathan and I applying to leave with our newborn, Inna; she didn’t want us to miss this opportunity. What struck me was the courage my mother had to push her only child and only grandchild (and of course her only son-in-law) out of the country. She did not know if and when there would be another chance and if they would be able to join us later. But the dream of a better life for her children prevailed over any argument as to why now might be a wrong time to leave.
I do not remember lots of hugs and kisses from my mother. I do not remember conversations praising me on my achievements. I do not remember my mom saying, “I love you.” But I do remember the sacrifices she made to feed my sick dad and I at a time when food was scarce and their paychecks were not enough. I do remember the efforts my mother made to get us out of the country despite every obstacle. I do remember her enormous help around the house despite her dislike of housekeeping when she and my father came to this country. I do remember her learning English at the age of 56. She was in a new country with a new language and she wanted to be able to talk to her grandchildren. She did not want to depend on her children if she needed to make a phone call, fill out an application, etc.
She still does not like to trouble us if she needs something. The only thing she asks is for us to call once a day. I love my mom because she does not wait for my call – she calls us every day.
(I would have said “she calls once a day” but this is a massive understatement according to Nathan)