My Olympic Gold

barbaras-medal

Barbara’s Olympic Gold

I am a winner.

The etched face on my
 better-than-Olympic
gold medal
reads:
FOR HEROIC SURVIVAL
IN SIBERIA
1993

A most thoughtful and loving artisan forged the painstakingly stitched border and the engraved-by-hand text with a red cord carefully attached so that the recipient can wear it as a necklace.

The materials suggest ‘cheap and easy’ but neither is true; this prize comes from a land and a time when even a loaf of bread could be hard to find. Most likely the thread, string, and needle came from a small vendor somewhere in town. And the rare treasure of aluminum foil used to face the medal probably came in a suitcase from the good old U. S. of A.

The Winter of 1993 in our town of Akademgorodok, Russia was particularly harsh.  Temperatures dropped as low as -35°C / -31°F often accompanied by stiff Siberian wind and daily mounds of snow.

winner2-2rdvkr-clipartOur apartment was always toasty, even hot at times, because the Powers-that-Be decreed it so, but though I wore the best Eddie Bauer down coat/hood combo outside, ice cube chill pierced thru layers to freeze my bones as this unseasoned, soft American wife/mother who could barely walk around a block let alone a mile or two braved the elements to fetch the daily loads of groceries or other household needs.

We take for granted here in America the ease with which we can find, transport, store, cook, fix, and furnish the Goods of Life.

The infrastructures that make light work of meals, cleaning, and repairs, simply did not exist in Akademgorodok in 1993.

Imagine no car. No cell phone. No local Target. No Amazon with free doorstep two-day delivery. No take-out from Pizza Luce. And no English.

In fact, this American family did haul such treasures as stick pepperoni and oregano as well as a few precious pounds of Starbuck’s coffee on the eighteen-hour flight from America to Akademgorodok.

Grocery lists were impossible. Shopping was much more like spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune than using an iPhone to find scanned items on fully stocked Target aisles.

One particularly lucky day I found canned tomato sauce at one store but had to remember not to load up at the first stop. I could only buy six.

frozen-food-section-edit

Buy It In The Frozen Food Section

Several hardy Siberian lady vendors set-up tables and chairs outside that store selling everything from bananas to frozen fish. We called it our ‘frozen food
market’. Because I had been warned that the fish glowed in the dark from lake radiation spills, I passed on the fish, but bought the bananas.

Next stop, third store, the back door, two blocks the other direction. A dear Russian friend met me there and in clandestine fashion facilitated a trade of two American dollars for gigantic bags of pasta.

Last stop– a fourth store for fresh, warm bread. It took all my willpower not to sit down and eat the whole loaf right there.

super momThe unwieldy load by then weighs the proverbial ton of bricks, a distinct signal to trudge home even though the stuffed pack holds maybe one-third of the needed supplies; nevertheless, skating thru icy, snowy forest paths, and up three flights of stairs, “our hero” drops the goods. More exhausted than any Olympian, she still enjoys watching her family expectantly unpack the ‘mother load’. (Pun intended.)

Even when someone notices there’s no meat in the pack, and points out dejectedly that there’s been no meat since last week, the family soon rallies around what Mother did bring home, keenly aware that a trip to the local meat market, where the heads and feet of animal are lined up by their appropriate carcasses and where the ground beef is not wrapped in neat little cellophane packages, will only happen on a day when the grocery route does not involve trekking to four far-flung stores. So Mother prepares fresh bread and pasta cheese smothered in garlic tomato sauce sans meat and, wonder of wonders, no one complains.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 Amplified Bible says:

6 But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Reminds me of an oft-sung piece about ‘winners’ by Stuart Hamblin I learned in Sunday school when I was a child. It was a favorite long before the Flintstones. characters, Pebbles and BamBamm , made it #8 on the record charts in 1955.

Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)

 My mother told me something that everyone should know
It’s all about the devil and I learned to hate him so
She said he causes trouble when you let him in the room
He will never ever leave you if your heart is filled with gloom.”

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, face with a grin

Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

When you are unhappy the devil wears a grin
But aw, he starts to running when the rain comes pouring in
I know he’ll be unhappy ’cause I’ll never wear a frown
Maybe if we keep on smiling he’ll get tired of hanging round.

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, patient with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

If I forget to say my prayers the devil jumps with plea
But all he feels so awful when he sees me on my knees
So if you’re full of trouble and you never seem to win
Just open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.


Stuart Hamblen. “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In.” Los Angeles. CA: Hamblen Music Company, 1953. Print.

The Amplified Bible. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 2015. Print.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.clipartkid.com/winner-cliparts/

  1. Andre LaTondresse. “Barbara’s Medal” and “Frozen Food Section”. From Russian Photo Collection. Akademgorodok, Russia. 1993.
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8 responses to “My Olympic Gold

  1. Thanks for the uplift, Barbara!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting posting, Barb! Because I am leaving Centurylink, I will lose access to my ‘q’ email address. So please change my address in your contact list to moonstonestudio@yahoo.com. Thanks!

    Melody

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Janet! It was quite the ride back then. I hope to recount more adventures this year. I miss you, too, but know you’re delighting in having that beautiful grandson and his family closely…we are enjoying that delight, too, since our son & family moved to Hopkins from DC. BTW–Happy Birthday!

      Like

  3. This very spoiled American housewife cannot imagine how difficult your life there was. This accounting helped me understand! Thanks for sharing. I miss seeing your smiling face! Love, Janet

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Melody! Yes, Russia was quite the adventure. I will change your address. God bless and keep you, Melody.

    Like

  5. You’re welcome, Linda! This blog post was inspired by the hand-made ‘medal’ )that I was given this in Siberia in 1993 by a friend there who had observed my courage that winter, our first Siberian winter. I wrote about it because as you know we have a little writer’s group and the prompt for last month was the word ‘winner’. When I rediscovered this treasure I knew I had to recount at least part of that story, but there are so many more to tell. I’ll try to do them justice one at a time.

    Like

  6. Your blogs and poetry are so interesting and inspiring. So happy to have or connection again.

    On Oct 16, 2016 10:21 AM, “Night Lights and Morning Joys” wrote:

    > latondresseb posted: ” I am a winner. The etched face on my > better-than-Olympic gold medal reads: FOR HEROIC SURVIVAL IN SIBERIA 1993 > A most thoughtful and loving artisan forged the painstakingly stitched > border and the engraved-by-hand text with a red cord carefully attached” >

    Liked by 1 person

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