October 5, 2010

In Enemy Territory

Posted in Children, Family, Food, Knitting, Traditions, Travel tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:49 am by Liliana

Ohio Michigan Rivalry

Ohio-Michigan Rivalry

My nephew Sasha works as a community organizer in Columbus, Ohio.

He graduated from college last summer and this is his first serious, full-time job. He knows few people in this city, so my sister, brother-in-law and I decided to visit last weekend. We planned to feed him some good food, catch up on news and cheer him up.

We also wanted to keep him company during a college football game between Michigan and Indiana. It is not easy cheering for your team in a sports bar all alone. Especially not when you are in Ohio State country and everyone is cheering against you.

Early Saturday morning, we had a huge breakfast at an old diner on Main Street. We shared an omelet, biscuits, blueberry pancakes, bacon and hash browns. We sipped coffee without hurry, laughed and talked. It was a warm, golden morning.

After breakfast, Sasha drove us around the city. I had never been to Columbus before and I expected a quietly dying urban landscape with monotonously endless strip malls. It was anything but. The downtown has a beautiful, modern, innovative skyline. The ethnic neighborhoods like German Village, Italian Village and the market area have a distinctive charm all their own. The city feels vital, young and stylish.

I wanted to walk through the Ohio State University campus. But when we drove up, we realized that Sasha was wearing a University of Michigan t-shirt. Everyone else, as far as the eye could see, was wearing red buckeye shirts. We decided to stay in the car.

We had lunch at the market area. The market is a renovated old warehouse that now houses fine artisan and ethnic food stores. Sasha and Joe had sushi, Branka had tender barbecued ribs and I decided to try a sampling of Indian vegetarian dishes. We took our food upstairs, made a colorful spread on a table, and shared.

By this time, the sky was getting cloudy and it was threatening rain so we walked to Sasha’s favorite sports bar. The music was deafening and a million TV’s were blaring different football games at the same time. Not one was of the Michigan/Indiana game. Sasha found a waitress willing to turn one of the TV’s to the right channel and we huddled around a cozy table to watch.

I am not much of a football fan, in fact, I hardly understand the game. So I got my knitting out, and worked on a delicately gauzy scarf for my niece. On occasion I glanced at the TV to see what Sasha and Joe were getting excited about. Most of the other patrons ignored us, although a couple of people noticed Sasha’s Michigan t-shirt and stopped to say hello. Fellow Michiganders.

The expectations were that Michigan would easily beat Indiana, but the game was not as close as expected. It was getting tense. Branka, Joe and I had to leave at halftime, but Sasha promised to keep us posted. It was really hard to leave him there to watch the rest of the game by himself, but we had to go.

While the three of us drove home in the gathering darkness and pouring rain, Sasha kept texting Joe reports on how the game was progressing. It was tied. Then Michigan pulled ahead. Michigan won. Go Blue!

We might have ventured into enemy territory, but the natives were friendly. It was a perfect trip.


June 17, 2010

College Graduation, 2010

Posted in Children, Family tagged , , , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana

Sasha and Nena

Sasha and Nena

Last weekend was special. My daughter Nena and nephew Sasha graduated from college. Together.

Born three weeks apart (Nena is older!) with very different personalities and approaches to life, these two cousins grew up in devoted families in the same town. They were in many ways closer than siblings, not having that sibling rivalry to contend with.

When they were toddlers, we called them rug rats or twins.

Both flourished during the four years at the small liberal arts college they attended. They shared friends, professors, and classes. But as they grew and changed, they learned to argue and criticize each other. They also gave each other space as they made inroads into their own interests and fields of study.

Nena’s style is to dig deeply within herself as well as research and learn all she can about a topic. She is introvert, artistic and contemplative.

Sasha casts his net wide and gathers information from the people and the environment around him. He is gregarious, extrovert, willing and interested in engaging anyone in a conversation on any issue.

Nena is a talented poet who majored in philosophy and worked as a teaching assistant for all four years. Sasha majored in English literature, but his main interests are social justice and civil rights law. He worked with juvenile offenders, Mexican immigrants and community organizers.

As I kneeled by the stage, waiting to take pictures of my two college graduates, this is what I heard. The college president called the name Alexander Holtzman, then Natalia Holtzman, and from their family, classmates and professors erupted a wild roar of applause.

And while my little rug rats, Sasha and Nena, entered one side of the stage, out the other side came a tall, strapping young man and a beautiful, poised young woman.

These two cousins – a gift to the world!