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matryoshka

I crawl along the dark suburban streets of Delta, squinting to see the address and notice Alexei waving his arms all jumping jacks with a smile, his living room lit up like a stage in the dark snowy night. This must be the place.images

Alexei is my Russian translator and he’s originally from one of my favourite cities in the world: St Petersburg. He’s invited Nora and I over to meet his wife and to read some of his translation to me. He opens the large door and greets us. We are late, of course, but we bring cupcakes and flowers. Olga descends the stairs, her fabulous figure 8 in a polka dotted wrap dress. She’s lovely and warm.

The Olympics are on.

Whenever I head out to the suburbs I am always shocked by the square footage. My entire apartment could fit in their living room. It makes me want to do a cartwheel across their floor. They offer Nora a Matryoshka doll and me a scotch. Olga serves a beautiful three course meal and I am relieved that my lateness did not compromise the excellent roast lamb at all. She has changed my relationship to two root vegetables forever: serving her beets shredded and her sweet potatoes with rosemary. Alexei shoots his vodka like a military salute. I sip away at mine shyly because I have to drive, but also because it tastes so good.

Both Olga and Alexei love the arts and it seems, in particular, theatre and film. I can tell from their home and their conversation and the meal that they are creative and love language and colour and textures. She is a cartographer working with city planning. He engineers medical equipment, in particular, cancer treatment.  At least, this is my understanding. They are in the business of helping people to live. It always humbles me to sit with those from the real world. Those who are hands on, doing tangible good for humanity.

Alexei reads a bit from Espresso. I don’t understand a word of Russian beyond Blini, but I am very moved. Suddenly my Dad is in Russia, his big fat fingers circled around a shot of vodka, the Orthodox three-armed cross on the wall, Nonna Chinzella and Rosa living inside each other like Nora’s Matryoshka. A bowl of borsch for comfort food. We understand fathers. We understand daughters. We understand the pull and push away of the divine. All around the world. We are not so very different. Dad might get to speak in St. Petersburg and they will completely understand him. Imagine that?images-1

Alexei and Olga see a lot of plays (they took ten people to see Espresso) and it was wonderful to hear about some of their favourites. They love Pacific Theatre, they really enjoyed Becky shaw at Studio 16 this year…they told me this wonderful story about getting caught in a sudden torrential rain in Vanier park and a slick car pulling up and it’s Chris Gaze kindly offering complete strangers a ride, despite his leather interior. They felt Vancouver had a fresh contemporary theatre scene compared to other cities, other countries. They love the small stage. Alexei says something about me not writing for sitcoms but writing plays that mean something to people. Olga hums and lifts her glass.

Around ten o’clock, I scoop up my little girl, all sleepy and soft in her “Emma Tow” frock, and we drive home. The huge snowflakes fall soft and sticky like icing sugar pizzelle on my windshield. The radio plays the Righteous Brothers and their unabashed need for love. And I remember once again, and I remember gratefully, I do not write for me.

 

 

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