Death of a Babushka
Last week, I almost ran into a coffin walking into the building. I opened the iron outer door quickly because it was dark outside and ran past the dark landing, where it stood. It’s funny that I even recognized it; there must be something about that slant of wood, narrowing as it reaches the floor, ingrained into the subconscious after too many vampire movies. I caught a quick glimpse of the telling slant and shivered. I wished that I were brave enough to go back and see if it was really a coffin, but I admit, I totally chickened out. No worry though, because I saw it the next day leaning up against the outside of the building under the ramada. A real coffin, alright.
When I saw it, I was even more surprised that I had recognized it. Pink patterned fabric, white frills, a golden cross, a tinsel wreath, and a photo. And I immediately had several questions:
Why was the coffin pink? Did the woman pictured on the front pick it out before she died or did one of her grandchildren or something? It seemed to match the design of apartments in Ukraine I saw. I’ve never thought much of the design taste of Russian babushkas; their homes make me feel a little claustrophobic and anxious.
Did she have somebody when she died? Children? Grandchildren? Probably not a husband. There are so many babushkas here because so many men died in the world war. (Some scholars estimate that 50 million people died in the Soviet Union between 1905 and 1945.) There are a lot of widows in this country. Who found her?
Why was her coffin on the front porch? Was there a funeral parlor who came by and checked porches every week? Why was she out there all by herself? And where was she destined to end up? Did the neighbors think this was strange or was it just the way things were done?
The coffin was gone when I left for school the next day. Must have been a scheduled pick up. Maybe I’ll ask Irina and see if she knows anything. Because I’m very curious about it all.