The story of two generations of women –mother and daughter
I was born in Baku in the 60s. I spent my childhood and adolescence in a house that had been built in the XIX century by my great grandfather. He lived in that house before passing it on to my grandfather, who then passed it on to my father. It was a big house with thick walls that kept warmth in our house in winter and cold in summer. There were three rooms and a large hallway. My sisters and I slept in the same room. That room was very bright because there were huge windows. It also had a fireplace that kept us warm on cold winter days. It was the coziest house I’ve ever lived in.
We had a very big yard where all children from the neighborhood played together. We played hopscotch, hide and seek and many other fun games. I think a major difference between my generation and the generation of my children is the reality versus virtuality.
As I have already mentioned, my father grew up in this house, but my mother was born in Qusar region, where her parents were sent from Baku to teach after graduating university. When she was 3 years old, her family returned to Baku and became neighbors with my father. Her father, my grandfather, died in the World War II in 1942, and my grandmother had to raise 3 children all alone. My parents met when they were both 14 years old, and dated for the next 8 years. They got married in 1959 and had 3 daughters. I am the second daughter. My mother graduated school No.46 with a gold medal for her academic achievement, and her portrait is still hanging on the wall of that school. She then went on to graduate Azerbaijan University of Oil and Gas, but she never worked and devoted herself to bring up her three daughters. My father graduated school No.7 and then entered Azerbaijan Economic University. He worked in trade for his whole life.
My relationship with my parents has always been very steady, kind and calm. We watched movies and TV programs together, enjoyed concerts. We used to do homework with our mother. I especially loved to read. Apart from my school program, my mother enjoyed reading Foreign Literature Magazine, which I also grew to love, too. But mostly I loved the evenings when our mother read out loud for us and we all laughed at short stories by Mikh. Zoshenko.
Another important tradition that we had in our family was celebrating birthdays with family and relatives at home. Our mother cooked a lot of food and used the best dishes and cutlery to make the table, we invited our neighbors, relatives and friends. We even played music after eating and danced in dining room. Today, I can’t imagine any other way to celebrate a birthday, and even my elder daughter who is now married is carrying on this tradition.
In 1983 I entered Azerbaijan Institute of Foreign Languages. I studied in the Russian department which had only 30 places every year. There was only one foreigner teaching in the institute. I still remember his name, Harry McGareth, and everybody in the city knew about him. He was from Cardiff, Wales, and he was very tall, almost 2 meters long! His clothing style was quite different from ours, and we even thought that it was strange. He taught us lexis for 2 years and it was the only class where we sat at a round table. It was very unusual for those times, because we always sat at the tables like pupils at schools. He could even sit on the floor! We were shocked, but it was still very interesting.
My childhood was calm and quiet. One of my favorite memories is the day when my father brought a colored TV into our house. I will never forget the first film I watched in color for the first time. It was a Soviet movie titled ‘A Nameless Star’. I still feel like it was the brightest and most colorful movie I have ever seen. And even though the movie itself was very interesting, it was because it was the first colored movie I’ve seen that it looked so bright to me.
Another thing I like to remember is the New Year holidays. For me, the smell of fir trees is the smell of winter, the New Year, of the cold on the streets and the warmth in our home. Our father would never tell us when he would buy a fir tree, but I could tell that he had bought it just by walking into the house. The smell of the tree was so strong and fresh that you could feel it from the entrance. We always decorated the tree with fragile glass baubles. Up to this day, I still get startled if a bauble falls to the ground, even though I know that they are now made of plastic and don’t break so easily. I think that the world nowadays is always looking for ways to make everything more convenient and easy, including Christmas trees and baubles. But even though the variety is bigger today than it was 30 years ago, but people have lost that feeling of fragility and tenderness that we grew up with.
I was born in Baku in the 90s. My parents were both born here, too. My grandfather from my father’s side is from Qusar, and came to Baku to study in Azerbaijan Oil Academy. Here he met his future wife, my grandmother, who was born and raised in Baku. My mother’s parents were both from here. We are a family of four, my father, mother, my elder sister and I. We have always lived in the center of Baku, in the same apartment. My sister and I shared the same room before she got married. We didn’t have a yard growing up, but we did have an Italian style veranda, where we managed to play hide-and-seek and football with the other kids.
I spent my childhood playing Nintendo game consoles with my sister and our neighbors, playing the computer and learning to use the Internet when it just came around. I remember that the first few months we had a computer I didn’t dare to touch it because I was so afraid to break it. Instead, I used to sit down next to my sister and watch her play computer games. The first time I actually used the computer was to write a letter to my favorite actress, Anastasia Zavorotnyuk. She played the lead role in my favorite TV sitcom, “My Wonderful Nanny”. Although, I have never received a response, I did learn to use the internet thanks to that. The internet back then was different, it was very slow. I had to wait for 3 hours to load one 4-minutes video on Youtube. To turn the internet on, you had to turn the phone off, so we always had to wait for our mother to finish her phone calls before going online. Only now do I realize how uncomfortable it must’ve been to her.
I also remember the day our father brought a DVD player into the house. It was the first time that we had used a disk instead of a cassette. I remember being afraid of breaking the disk because it was so thin and looked so fragile. The first film we watched on DVD was “Matilda”. To this day, my family and I still enjoy this film from time to time.
Today, I am a student in Azerbaijan University of Languages. My mother graduated from the same university, but back then it was named Azerbaijan Institute of Foreign Languages. Every year, our university accepts hundreds of new students. On top of that, we have many foreign teachers and students alike. Our university provides many opportunities for students to go abroad. As a student, I participated in conferences and summer schools in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Georgia, and Japan. I even studied abroad in Lithuania for a few months. Every time I tell my parents that I’ve been accepted to an event somewhere abroad, it is a huge stress for them, as their generation did not have the same experiences when they were young and they don’t know much about such events. It is very difficult because every time I go abroad, I have to explain to my parents all the upsides of such events, how they make students braver, more communicative and open-minded. Another reason my parents are usually reluctant to let me go abroad is that they believe it is dangerous for girls to travel alone. I believe this is a big difference between our generations, because the girls of my age are not afraid of challenges and unknown experiences.
For me winter begins with the “Cold Hands, Warm Hearts” fair, where you can see people from different countries celebrating the holidays together. It’s a relatively new tradition in our city. Every year our government sets up a big Christmas tree in the central square, and there’re different booths all around, booths that sell clothes, books, foods, beauty products, funny gifts, etc. My favorite part of Christmas season is setting up the same Christmas tree every year and decorating it with colorful baubles. Our cat loves to play with them, so it’s a good thing that they are not made of glass!
My favorite holiday is the New Year. It is very festive and interesting. We celebrate it at home every year, just our family. My mother cooks different foods, like pilaf, capital salad, stuffed turkey, etc. We watch comedy shows together, and some soviet films like “The Irony of Fate”. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, we drink kids champagne. We also have a tradition of putting presents under the Christmas tree every year, and in the midnight we all sit down to open our gifts.