Archive for the ‘Russian Grannies’ Category


Well, she always had a name, I just recently learned what it was.

I was pacing the walk in front of our house with the baby to calm his fussiness (he loves being outside). She was out walking with her husband and a younger man, who I assumed was her son. I was right.

His name is Constantine. Hers is Fayina, and she turns out to have been an elementary school teacher. Her son said this is why she has such fondness for babies, and certainly explains her sweet gentleness.

Fayina, by the way, means fairy, at least according to this website. This one says it means “free one,” and several other sites agree. Whatever the meaning, I’m glad to be able to think of her as more than Russian Granny #2.

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Our neighborhood is a roughly nine-square-block area of newer construction in the middle of a part of town where the houses are generally at least 80 years old. Access is via one street and one alley, and there’s a little park with a gazebo, so it’s a nice, quiet place to walk and hang out.

Nearby, there’s an apartment building where a number of elderly Russian people live. I don’t know how many of them there are, but at least three of the ladies among them walk our neighborhood twice a day. And because I’ve been out with the baby quite a bit, I’ve gotten to know them — to the extent you can get to know someone who does nothing but coo at your child whenever you see them.

That’s not quite true. They also like to tell me he really should be wearing a hat when it’s cold (you know, at 60 degrees or below). Additionally, they pinch his checks and grab his legs and tell him he’s a “fine byoy.” They remind me of one my grandmothers (my dad’s mom, pictured above) and my great-grandmother, who were Polish and similarly smitten with children.

This morning, after not running into any of them for at least a week, I spotted one, so I stopped to let her see the baby. Her English is better than the others’, and after she went through the usual smile-and-pinch, she asked if he sleeps well. Yes, he does, I said.

Then she motioned to her chest. “You are breast feed?”

I was momentarily stunned into silence and it must have read as confusion, because she repeated the question. I briefly pondered giving her the accurate answer, which is long and complicated, before I said, “yes, it’s a mix, with formula.”

“Good,” she said, seeming very satisfied as she patted my son’s chest. “Breast is very good.” I agreed with her before saying goodbye and moving on.

The joy these women get from interacting with my baby is palpable, and it’s sweet that they’re so concerned with his welfare, but I have to wonder: If they’re already comfortable asking a question like that, what can possibly be next?

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I'm over 50. I'm raising a fifth grader. Sometimes he posts too.


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