A friend of mine stopped by for an impromptu early tea with the kids today. We did not do anything special, just bought some pizzas in M&S and rustled up a salad. Well, I can’t rustle anything up. Husband did it.
It was such a nice, relaxing Sunday afternoon, though not very Azeri, of course. I did not spend hours cooking and cleaning in advance.
The day turned out to be a little more unusual than expected. My friend’s parents in law are Russian and live in London. They were driving back today to bring my friend’s child back from her sleepover at their place. My friend expected them to just drop her daughter off at our place and leave. But we asked them to come in.
They got excited. They had been mushroom picking earlier and had a large plastic bag full of them.
‘Would you like some?’ The grandfather asked hesitantly. He knows their very Russian way of picking mushrooms, and then filling my friend’s western kitchen with the strong smell of cooking them does not go down very well. But I love mushrooms. I would never brave picking them myself, but there is nothing like the smell of freshly picked mushrooms, still covered in dirt, being prepared in your kitchen. Once he saw how keen I was, the Russian grandfather was eager to cook them for me right there and then.
My friend was not convinced it was a good idea. She was worried about imposing her Russian in laws on me and she was embarrassed for the whole mushroom preparation in my kitchen. But honestly, she had nothing to worry about. We sure had enough pizzas, and we, of course, did not mind if they stayed.
As we all sat around my old wooden dining table (I could say antique. It sounds so much better, doesn’t it? But really, it is just very, very old) I tried to make the Russian in laws feel more comfortable.
‘I feel so awkward...’ the grandmother kept repeating. ‘I was not intending to stay for dinner!’
And I was just thinking how sad our society has become that they should worry about imposing. It was a low key Sunday pizza for goodness sake. The babushka also kept saying how wonderful it was, how long she has not been to an impromptu dinner like that, and how Russian it all felt to her.
And it reminded me of my in-laws faces a few days ago when I bought them a couple of treats for helping out so much during their recent visit. I did not know if it was a good move to be honest. I would hate for them to feel like I was paying them for their hard work. But I was so grateful for their help that I just wanted to show it somehow. And it shocked me to see just how happy it made them both. I could see it in the way my father in law opened that bag with a bottle of gin, and the way my mother in law’s eyes lit up when she saw the huge box of chocolates. Such a simple, such a small sign of appreciation resulting in such child-like joy in their faces almost made me cry. I know it probably sounds strange. But it just made me realize what it is like to be an elderly parent. How amazing it must feel when your children accept, involve and appreciate you. What it must feel like to be paid some attention, even if it is just a few minutes of listening to their stories, or asking them if they would like to stay for pizza. So often we just take parents for granted, used to their helpful hands and all the endless love they give. And give. And give. Never expecting any thanks or gifts in return.
So I was thinking today, watching that older Russian couple enjoy their time at our house, that I must be getting older myself, if I start noticing things like that. And that I must try harder to show my appreciation to my parents and my in laws. While I can.