EuropeStoryA letter from my mom by Raisa Mikhailova

Time covers our memory like a peculiar stencil, leaving only separate spots - things we can recall. Some of these spots are clear and vivid; others are just vague imminently fading impressions.

Time covers our memory like a peculiar stencil, leaving only separate spots – things we can recall.

Some of these spots are clear and vivid; others are just vague imminently fading impressions. In this project I collect those tiny shards of memories; I collect them without plan or agenda, intuitively, incoherently, relying on things and places that connect me to given moments of my life.

Mom has been gone for more than 20 years now.In memory of Mrs.Inna Pronina, Doctor of Art History, my beloved mother (03.05.1938 – 15.06.1998). In the project I used photos from our family archives. [Translation: Maria Lopukhina] [Official Website]

We used to write letters to each other. We left memos saying “gone to that place, will be back at that time” even when went away for half an hour. And if sent from far away, letters would take up several pages. They contained thorough descriptions of all events, films watched and books read. This letter Mom sent me when I was at a summer camp in Krasnodar region.

The house where my mom spent her last 10 years.

As a child I loved cutting out from postcards. I imagined that with my scissors I set the figures free and they come to life

On the way to our country cottage. The bus would take us almost to our house in Moscow, so we never took trains. It was a long walk from the bus-stop, and I would whine and hang on Mom’s arm. I especially disliked crossing the railways – I was scared of trains dashing by.

Mom’s brooch. In this photo it reminds me of an eye. I’ve always believed that – sadly – I look nothing like Mom. She had blue eyes and mine are green – like my granny’s.

Mom was petit – 1,58 cm tall and slim, from behind you could easily mistake her for a girl. She was laughing when she told a story: once she was passing by a school and some boys shouted to her, “Hey you, girl!”. She turned around. “Oops, lady!”, the boys were really taken aback.

Birth certificate. Mom told me that grandparents tried to find a short name to go with a long and complex patronymic – Ardalionovna. So they named Mom “Inna”, but later found out that, according to the church service-book, “Inna” was a male name. But short first name didn’t help much – people would always mix everything up, so Mom was called: Inessa Arnoldovna, Inna Archibaldovna, Irina Artamonovna… Mom wrote down the most unusual variants in a special notebook.

In place of this vacant lot there used to be a five-storey house where Mom had lived before I was born. Six years ago my family and I moved to a flat that is only two blocks away from that place. I sometimes walk there with my younger son.

I keep having this dream, that I suddenly realize – I haven’t called Mom for a while. And I get so afraid because Mom and I used to call each other several times a day. Anxious, I call her home, but get a wrong number. I call again and again, there is only silence – the phone must be broken. I grab my cell-phone, search in the phonebook, but can’t find Mom’s number. I can’t wrap my mind around it – how could I forget her number?.. Mom died in 1998, she never had a cell-phone.

One of “our” places. We often met at “The Bouquiniste” – a second hand bookseller at Park Kultury metro station. We would go to the little shop and look through some old books. Then we set out for Mansurovskiy alley where Mom worked. Thursday was her “attendance day”, I waited for Mom to check in and then we went to an exhibition or a museum or to the cinema. “The Bouquiniste” doesn’t exist anymore; there is a copy-center in its place now.

I can recall very little of my mom’s funeral. I remember holding her hand when she was lying in the coffin. There was a small scratch on her hand and I kept thinking that it would never heal.

As a child I once asked Mom, “When people meet in heaven, how do they recognise their loved ones? After all, a person in heaven cannot know how the one that died after her would change with age. How can they find each other?”.”These are souls that meet in heaven”, my mom said, “And souls never age”

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