Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leo's BBQ/Reunion

On Saturday, August 6th, John and I went to Santa Rosa, Ca to our good friend Leo's BBQ/Reunion.  Every year for the past 17 years Leo has been having this BBQ/Reunion for his/my friends.  We have always been invited, but this is the first year that we were able to attend.  I was kind of worried to go because I haven't seen so many of my old friends for about 47 years.  The last time I saw some of them was at our wedding.  So many years have passed by.  I can't even believe the number.  Where do the years go?  How do they pass by so fast?   Actually, Emily was scheduled to have her baby on the 8th and after I decided that I really did want to go I was wondering if we could actually make the trip and still make in back for the birth.  As it turned out Emily was able to change the date for her c-section to the 11th and so we did go to his final party.   

Oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!I'm so glad we went.  I had the BEST time.  Everyone was sooooo nice.  Everyone was so excited to see me and I was so excited to see them.  We talked and talked and laughed and reminisced.  It was just wonderful.  I can't even say how much I enjoyed the day. There were 115 guests.  I knew many of them, but of course not all because Leo has made new friends over the years and they were there.  But, there were so many of my friends from Jr High, High School and College.  

When we were all kids in school, we had a great group of friends that spent lots of time together.  Some of us went to school together.  Some went to different schools.  During high school some of us also attended Russian School after school twice a week and on Saturday mornings.  We had parties, picnics, school dances, proms, church activities, plays, days at Russian River, sports, and service projects.  We went to the movies, bowling, football games and had lots of good clean fun.  We really had lots of fun together and did lots of things, but it was always pure and innocent fun.  It was the late 50's early 60's.  We were young and full of life. We had hopes and dreams and ideals.  We lived a good life although for some it was not that easy.  We did have our challenges.  Many of us had immigrated to the U.S. not that many years ago.  We were good citizens and we wanted to be good adults although by the end of high school we already thought we were so grown up and mature.
Many of my friends in this particular circle of friends are Russian.  Some of them fell in love and married each other and many of them married other Russians.   It was a blast to hear so many speaking Russian again.  It really took me back and I enjoyed it so much.  It just felt good to be speaking in my mother tongue.  I recognized most of the friends, but I must admit there were some that I didn't recognize at all.  47 years is a whole lifetime ago.  People change.  Luckily everyone recognized me and was very kind to me.  One person did say that they recognized me, but that I looked older.  I guess that would happen over so many years.

Tania and Serge got married before I did.  I remember the day of her wedding.  We (bridesmaids) were at her house getting ready for the big event.  Her dress didn't fit quite right and not tight enough around her waist, so I remember kneeling under her big, beautiful, full wedding gown and stitching her into it so that she could look just perfect.
One of my dearest friends was Natalie.  She attended  Mercy, a Catholic high school and we didn't meet her until later in our high school years.  She is so nice and we all quickly loved her.
George and Walter.
Walter also came into our circle of friends later in high school.  He remembered this story that he told several times during the day.  "Do you know that this girl (me) helped me a lot when I first came to this country.  Once I had to write a book report and I could hardly speak English.  I was just learning.  She helped me.  This is how I wrote the book report.  Natasha ( my diminutive name in Russian) told me what to write and I wrote it.  I got an A on that report and later I used it again when I went to City College. (San Francisco City College)  She helped me a lot and I have always appreciated it."  I don't even remember helping him all that much, but somehow he does.  We had a blast talking together.

This is George A.  He became the Fire Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department.  He married my good friend Lana.  Both of them were members of my wedding party.
Natalie married Alex another great friend.  We four, John and I and Natalie and Alex had a ton of fun together.  After we got married we spent many wonderful times together.
One time we went to Lake Tahoe for a little trip.  None of us had any money so we borrowed her father's old Rambler.  This particular car has seats that fold down to make a bed.  So we drove to Tahoe and at night we all slept in the car together.  It was pretty cozy with the four of us.  We were like sardines.  When one turned we all had to turn.  The first night we just giggled and laughed and couldn't fall asleep until early morning.  Then they (John, Natalie and Alex) kind of pushed me down towards the bottom so they could have more room.  They are all tall, 6 ft and over and I am 5ft. 2in. so I was at a disadvantage.  The second night we were all so tired that we fell asleep pretty quickly.  The two girls were in the middle and the boys were on the outside.  During the night I heard some snoring so I quietly whispered shhh to John.  No response.  "Shhhhhh", I said a little louder.  Finally I tapped him and said, "Shhhhhhhh, Shhhhhhhh."  This time I got a response.  "You've got the wrong husband."  Of course, this got us to giggling again.
We also took a trip to Disneyland together.  Alex found a great deal and we shared the hotel room.  We went to her Dad's cabin in Sugar Pine and did lots of other activities together.  When they bought their first house we helped them paint it.  Alex is a commercial artist by profession and has his own business. I remember that first time we were painting, he put John into the closet to paint.  He wanted to make sure that he would do a good job.  Now, John went to painting school in France for 3 years in his teen-age years and was a professional house painter at the time.  He actually painted every summer and during week-ends after we got married and all during college and university years after we were married. Anyway, John finished the closet and soon had the whole room painted while Alex was still carefully painting his first wall in another room.  We laughed at that and continued painting.
This is my good friend Nick.

George M, Tanya's hubby and Connie F. or I should say Con.
I saw my old boyfriend George S.  George was my first boyfriend and we were a couple during much of our high school years.  He attended St. Ignatius and I attended George Washington (rival schools).  It was wonderful to see him.  I went to his Senior Prom with him.  When we first saw each other he rushed over and gave me a big, big hug.  "You don't even know how many times I think about you." he said.
George ended up being a very successful business man with his own company.  He is now retired.  He and his wife have 2 children and adopted his brother's 2 children when Richard and his wife were suddenly killed in a terrible car accident.  All of 4 his children have become successful adults.
Later in the day we were sitting at the same table eating and George said, "This is the 2nd best day in my life.  I am so happy to see Natasha again."  I loved seeing him and talking to him.  It was fun to remember our youthful days together.
Leo and John.  Leo is my dear friend Helen's brother.  He was the wild one of our group.  He was the one who smoked and liked to be a little on the wild side.  Leo and George A. once came to the hospital to visit me when we were all seniors.  I was hospitalized for a week because of poison oak.  They were talking to me and then Leo started to wheel my bed out into the hallway.  They said they were going to take me to the White Ball that I was missing that night.  They were just playing and teasing, but I remember being just mortified that the nurses would catch them wheeling me down the hallway and we would get into big trouble. Ha.
Leo was an usher at my wedding too.  In fact we took a picture similar to this one, but I was in my wedding gown and he was in a tux because of being an usher.  He later went to Viet Nam with the Navy during the war and met lots of Vietnamese girls there.  Many of them wanted to marry him, but he would tell them that he was already married.  They didn't believe him, but he would "prove it" to them by showing them our picture.  Then they did believe him.
Leo married Vangie a Filipino girl.  They eventually had 5 assisted living homes for old people.  They took very good care of those people and always had a waiting list.  Finally they retired and sold the homes.  Now they have a home in Santa Rosa and also one in the Philippines.   The one in the Philippines is actually a huge mansion with lots of acreage.  They have built a school on that property and have sponsored about 42 children who attend there full time.  The pay full tuition for these children and about 8 or 9 of them have already graduated from the school and Leo and Vangie are now giving them scholarships to attend college.  The kids that attend the school have to work on Saturdays for them.  They help maintain the grounds and do other jobs to help with their keep.  Vangie told me that they tell the children that the thanks they want is for them to grow up to be good adults and then to help someone else they way they were helped.  Just recently they have taken 4 children into their home and are raising them too.  They are wonderful to do this and I do so admire them for it.  They have also built a community pool in the barrio there near their home and they help the people there all the time.  What a great way to use their money.
George S.  Leo, me and Helen.
Helen and I have kept in contact all of these years.  We have visited each other, talk on the phone etc.  She was my BFF all during school and we still love each other.
Kapa is the woman sitting down.  She is about 11 or 12 years younger than me.  She remembered me right away and said that she was always so thankful that I was so nice to her when she was little.  She said it several times and said that it really helped her with her self esteem.  I don't remember any of that.




This is George S's wife.  I never met her before.  She is very nice and we had some good conversation together.
Lana, George A's wife.

Marina was the first one in our group to get married.  My Dad always called her Nevesta (The Bride) and so that became her nickname.
We had a delicious spread prepared for us including a whole suckling pig roasted in the ground Filipino style.  Almost everyone brought something to share as well, so there was a ton of food.

Helen with Mike, that all the girls loved to dance with because he was such an awesome dancer, and Natalie.

Nikolai Massenkoff is a famous Russian singer.  He tours all over the world and gives concerts.  Nikolai is a good friend of Leo's and happened to be in the country so he attended the BBQ and gave a little impromptu concert.  He has a wonderful voice and sang lots of old Russian folk songs as well as other songs.  I loved hearing so many of the beautiful songs that I knew and haven't heard in so many years.  We were singing along with him and he would also have those who liked to come up and sing duets with him.  It was all very fun.










This is Igor.  He came to our Russian School when we were seniors.  He was in a play with me.  He was the Prince and I was the Princess--leading roles no less.  He became an engineer and after many years left to become a ski instructor and translator for the government.

Gerrick is German, but was always with all of us.  He became a teacher.

This is Helen with her Aunt Galya.  Aunt Galya took Helen and Leo in when they came to live in the U.S. from Australia after their parents divorced and couldn't or wouldn't take care of them anymore.  They sent those 2 little people all by themselves.  I believe Aunt Galya took care of them until she married and then Helen and Leo's grandparents took them in and raised them.  Both the grandparents and Aunt Galya took really good care of the 2 kids until they were grown.  Galya recently lost her husband and being in her 90's can no longer be by herself so Helen has taken her into her home.
Helen and her hubby.  George recently had a stroke and is in the process of recovery.  He is doing therapy and is progressing quite nicely.  I hope he will have a full recovery.  Meanwhile Helen has her hands full.  Add to that both George and Aunt Galya are hard of hearing.  Helen has the patience of a saint.
Well, I've written quite a bit and will stop now.  I will have more to write later.  For now, I am just so happy that we went.  John knew a lot of the people too, so he also had a great time.

1 comment:

Yvonne said...

What a fun gathering. How great that you had a chance to go. I am so glad.

I love that you remember stories about so many of them.