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I convinced my parents that they needed a night out and we went to the Court Jester in Freehold. The food was okay but I didn't expect the conversation to be so interesting. Various tales of my childhood were told, much to my delight. They are, as follows:

1. I hated playing with dolls as a kid and preferred toy cars and stuffed animals. My favorite was a grey bedraggled cat which I named 'Meook'. Whenever I wanted something I would tell my parents Meook said I should have it. I hung the dolls by their necks on the door handles.

2. My grandparents and great uncles built a summer house. While my grandfather was working on the second story of it, my great uncle, Dyadya Aleks, shouted something from the ground. Leaning out of a window to hear him, my grandfather put too much force on the currently-badly-nailed wall and fell to the ground along with the wall. He wasn't hurt and even now climbs trees to do some "light pruning".

3. Dyadya Aleks's wife, my great aunt Tetya Mara (Margaret), was terrified of our family dog, Mars. He was aptly named, having bitten far more relatives than mailmen in his time. While staying at the aforementioned summer house she insisted on tying him up outside. She didn't realize that he was tied up right next to a garden in which she had planted cucumbers and tomatoes, both plants that grow up into the air in stalks. The bastard was so unhappy about his isolation that he bit all of her plants at the root, promptly causing them all to topple and wither.

4. The distance from the train station to the summer house was over an hour by foot through woods and rocky paths. My great grandfather would transport his wife on motorcycle from the train station to the house and then come back for my grandparents. My grandfather also owned a motorcycle in his youth.

5. The only dress I've ever liked was red, long-sleeved and made of wool. It had snowflakes and a reindeer stitched onto it. My blanket, correspondingly, was white with red horses on one side and red with white horses on the other. I still have it.

6. I used to be sick so often as a child with angina that whenever my mother took me to the hospital the people reading the list of patients always recognized and addressed me by name. "Ahhh, Shagalova. Famous angina."

7. I had a very interesting array of medicinal procedures done to me as a child. Mustard plaster was the process of applying an irritating substance to the skin to produce increased blood circulation to the area. Classic example (now considered an outdated treatment) is mustard plaster applied to the chest to relieve bronchial congestion or cough.. It sucked. I felt like I was being pinched everywhere by ants that were on fire.

Even better were the bottles. The last but not the least is banki (thick glass bulbs of medium size with one open end). You will need about 6 bankies for a child, 8 for a woman and 10 for a grown man; a metal stick with cotton wrapped around one end, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and matches... Dip cotton in alcohol and light it on fire with matches. Now comes the tricky part: you have to heat the inside of the banka a little bit and place it on the back of the patient just above lungs area (!!avoid areas above vital organs like kidneys). An infant, fire and hot bottles do not for a fun time make. I've a small scar on my back to prove it. Gargling with baking powder and salt was really the mildest option.

8. Because I had angina so often (I was sick more frequently than I was healthy), I seldom played with the neighborhood kids. After my grandfather read me a book about a group of children that played Hide And Seek, I began practicing with myself how I would ask the neighboorhood kids to play it with me. I don't think I ever really asked them but I did go around, trying to memorize such a serious dialogue.

9. My father's father raised me well as an infant. My mother's father, dedushka Borya (Boris), was showing off to my other relatives and tried to get me to look up at various things he pointed to as usual. This time it didn't work.
Dedushka Borya: Where is the lamp? Where is it?
Me: *no response*
Dedushka Borya: *continues to ask me with no luck*
My other grandfather, Fima (Yefim), stepped in.
Dedushka Fima: Where is Ilyich's lamp?
Me: *immediately looks up*
Dedushka Fima: *smug knowing look*

10. I protested against the birth of my little sister. While walking through a park one day my mom began talking to a lady. I proceeded at once to ask her to consider trading my sister for her puppy, bringing up how useful she could be in a few years. Surprisingly, my offer was refused.


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January 2016

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