Saturday, March 2, 2013

The 4th of July has nothing on the 11th of March AND the 16th of Feb.

We went to the Lithuanian Independence Day(s) Celebration tonight.  Days, because there's the 1918 Independence in February, and the 1990 one in March, so tonight was sort of splitting the difference, from what I understand.  It was at the Latvian Hall, where I've spent quite a bit of time over the last (gulp) 15 years.  Inesa was in a dance and recited a short poem as part of a group.  Sasha again refused to participate, but was amenable to wearing an adapted folk costume--basically white shirt and khaki pants with a traditional woven sash and tie, given to us by the outgoing president of the local Lithuanian society.  I somehow wound up singing in a very unofficial choir.  Basically some of the moms of the dancers were planning on singing a few songs, and since I was at dance rehearsal, I wound up practicing with them, which seemed to lead to the expectation that I'd sing on stage too. 

When I say "unofficial," I mean that we never actually saw any music, so we altos kind of faked our part, and then today a few men climbed up on stage and joined us.  Of course, there's always that chance that everybody else knew what was going on, and I was the only one who found the whole experience bewildering.  Foreign languages will do that to you. 

And let me just add here that having one of the hot young blonde moms whip out her accordian to accompany us was a classic Baltic moment for me.  She wears high heels on cobblestones and she plays the accordian, ladies and gentlemen.  She may live in the same bland American suburb I do, but she's definitely a Balt. 

The event started at 5:00, and we'd been asked to be there at 4:30, but having learned our lesson at the Christmas event, we showed up closer to 5:00.  Around 5:45 it got started.  Dinner wound up being around 7:30 or so.  Sasha thought he was going to D-I-E die of starvation before the speeches, songs, movie clips, dances, translations of speeches, movie clips of speeches, songs, dances, introductions to speeches, dances, songs...finally ended.  But when you've been ground down for centuries, and survive as a culture to declare political independence, and then are invaded again, and survive a few more generations, and bring back your independence AGAIN--some potato salad and fireworks are not going to cut it.  I remember reading about Independence Day celebrations in Twain, and realizing it was a bigger deal in those days because it was more recent history.  It's even more so for the Baltic nations.  These aren't forefathers in powdered wigs we're talking about, this is our own personal past, or at furthest remove, the past our parents have told us of directly.  I predictably choked up during the footage of the partisans ("Forest Brothers" to the Latvians), hiding in the forests and trying to stave off the freaking Soviet army until freaking 1955, and of the Via Baltica, a human chain from Tallin through Riga down to Vilnius, thousands and thousands (millions!) of ordinary people holding hands to protest the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, dividing Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  Denied by the Soviets right up until this 1989 protest, because, you know, the Baltic countries INVITED them in, there was no INVASION here. 

And my daughter?  Dancing?  The cutest one there, I swear.  Plus said her little poem loud and clear.  You could hear her in the back; no microphone needed. 

On the way home, Sasha was rehashing the social aspects of the evening, complaning about a "big girl" who was mean to him and said boys are dumb.  Inesa, outraged, immediately piped up, "You're not dumb!  You're my big brother!" 

Yes, she is.

A lady who shared our table paused on her way out to tell me, "Your daughter is just beautiful."

Sasha warding off starvation with chex mix.

My boys.