She Beats You Because She Loves You

People around us knew that my mother regularly, almost every day, beat me or my brother, and more often both of us. This absolutely did not bother the neighbors. They themselves periodically beat their offspring, and some almost did not concede to her.

Our relatives were also indifferent to our flogging. And if my father’s brothers and sisters could still be justified by the fact that we practically did not maintain relations with them, then there is no place for the excuses of my uncle and aunt for my mother, since everything happened before their eyes. True, they sometimes tried to intervene, but Mother’s formidable roar—“Children will be yours, so bring them up! But mine have completely slipped from my hands!”—completely stopped their timid attempts.

Not only, having looked at her sister’s attitude to her children, my aunt also began to call me and my brother nicknames.

Having read books about good grandmothers, I once told my grandmother that Mother beat my brother and I almost daily. But the answer was an amazing conclusion. “Your mother beat you lovingly. Twig or belt or net, so as not to break bones,” she said with her Lower Matryonka dialect. “She beats you because she loves you!” The second reason for bullying was my grandmother announced the nervous tension with which Mother was returning from school. According to her, Mother couldn’t beat the pupils, so she took out her anger on her children. It became clear that in the face of our grandmother we could not find protection.

Apparently, my grandmother told Mother about this conversation, because during the flogging, she began to repeat that she strikes lovingly for education, and if she doesn’t beat us, my brother and I will become thieves, and we will be sent to prison or slaughtered, because thieves fight to the death and no one is spared.

I was surprised by Father’s position. A bored little woman tortured his children before his eyes, and the dad calmly played chess with his neighbors at that time or went for walks, which he loved very much. By the way, despite being a pretty strong chess player, he did not teach my brother and I to play chess. Vitka Lysenko introduced me to this fascinating game when I was five years old. I quickly mastered the movement of figures and primitive combinations, but nobody helped further my development.

And on the Cheeks and on the Cheeks

It was one of the April days of my last quarter of my graduation year at school. Mother returned home when the whole family was already assembled. Her eyes sparkled and she was unusually lively. Such a state was rare for her, and we prepared to listen to her about some sentimental story that she usually presented in a similar situation. So it happened this time. Mother took a few steps from the door and began to talk about the district meeting of teachers, from where she had returned. The culmination of the story was the description of a meeting with a girlfriend, a former classmate at the teacher institute. Her eyes shining, gesturing with inspiration, Mother told how this girlfriend of hers beat her son, a student, at the institute.

“And on the cheeks, and on the cheeks.” This ecstatic mother’s cry still stands in my ears, and I, as a reality, saw her sparkling eyes and heard a fervent voice.

“And you say that I’m beating you.” She looked vigilantly at me and my brother. “That’s how it should be!”

I had not yet studied at the institute; the tenth grade was then graduation. I realized that this could not be avoided, and began to think about an educational institution where my mother could not get at me. A note with a phone number popped up in my memory, and I called it.

My brother also became a military man for the same reason.


For all installments from In the Shadow of the Belt, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter 1: Early Childhood
  3. Chapter 2: School? This is Just the Beginning, Baby…
  4. Chapter 3: Cognizing Life
  5. Chapter 4: Football as it Is
  6. Chapter 5: My Friend Sasha Bichukov
  7. Chapter 6: Score
  8. Chapter 7: Again, the Transience of Being, Part 1
  9. Chapter 7: Again, the Transience of Being, Part 2
  10. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 1
  11. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 2
  12. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 3
  13. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 4
  14. Chapter 8: Old Colony, Part 5
  15. Chapter 9: School Again, Part 1
  16. Chapter 9: School Again, Part 2
  17. Chapter 10: Drama Studio
  18. Chapter 11: Basketball