The Story of Grandma Marya
How an old photo revived childhood memories
Nikolai Pavlovich Yevseev, a cardiologist in Moscow, was having his apartment renovated. While moving the furniture and lifting the old chest of drawers, he found a yellowed photograph lying on the floor. It must have fallen behind the drawers a long time ago.

"This is my grandmother Marya!" Nikolai Pavlovich exclaimed. "She looks young in this photo, and her face is serious."

Nikolai Pavlovich could not fall asleep that evening as his childhood moments visualized themselves in his mind. He remembered how he, the little Kolya, was lying on the stove. The Kenozero Lake is covered with ice. It's snowing in the village of Vershinino. It's dark in the hut, the cozy, mysterious shadow of the fire dancing on the floor in front of the stove. The sound of firewood crackling. The lovely scent of fish pie fills the room. Grandma Marya is baking him the most delicious pie in the world. And as he eats it, she is telling him fairy tales – Yemelya and the Pike, Vasilisa the Wise, The Magic Swan Geese. Many a fairy tale did his grandmother know and interpreted for him:

"Why did the farmer had his hut fallen apart? Because he was a bad man. He was a deceiver and got what he deserved."

It wasn't until Nikolay grew up that he understood his grandmother used those stories and proverbs to explain about life.

"Granny, what holidays did you celebrate in the old days here in Vershinino? Was grandpa a brave soldier? Why shouldn't we make noise in the holy grove?" he used to ask as a child. Grandmother Marya had answers to all his questions...

The cowshed. The smell of mown hay. The grandma milking the cow, with him playing around. She's giving him a cup of freshly drawn milk – for strength and health. Many a cups did he drink as a child. His grandma was right: he did grow up strong and healthy. His colleagues envied him his health:

"You have obviously been raised on a diet of rural foods, Nikolai Pavlovich."

Grandma Marya was a hard worker. A short, skinny woman, she'd wake up at the crack of dawn, pray quietly to God, tie her handkerchief, heat the stove, drive out the cows to pasture... She'd have a hundred of things done by the time Kolya woke up to the smell of porridge, cabbage soup, and flavored bread.

It was she who instilled in him the love for work. She taught him how to mow, tend cattle, bind sheaves, chop wood, and heat the stove. Oh, how he loved their trips to the forest for mushrooms, berries and herbs! As they walked, she's explain about ants and birds, how they build their hills and nests, which mushrooms should never be picked up, which herbs are good for cardiac pain...

The God's corner in the grandma's hut. The icons. Grandma Marya was very religious. It was from her that he learned about the Bible, the church holidays and the customs to be observed on them.

On holidays, Grandma Marya had neighbors in her house – the old ladies of Vershinino, their postures dignified as they sang songs about a woman's lot.

Grandma Marya had a radiant personality. She never spoke of others in a bad way:

"Slander is sin, Kolya."

There were some do's and don'ts that she explained in stricter manner.

"Had her way of educating me," Nikolay Pavlovich smiled to himself.

Kolya wasn't allowed to open grandma's chest of drawers without her permission. She kept her dowry in it – the embroidered towels and maiden clothing. He doesn't remember seeing any photographs in there.

"I'm going to keep this old chest of drawers," Nikolay thinks to himself. "It's my connection to grandma. What kind of man would I be if I hadn't her?"

When did he last visit his home village in Kenozero? Good heavens, forty years ago.

"I'll take a trip up there this spring and take my grandkids with me. They must see where their grandfather spent his childhood," Nikolai Pavlovich resolves firmly.

He feels relieved and falls asleep feeling happy.