A Christmas Present from St. Spiridon, or Friends, and Mother-in-Law

Dear St. Spiridon, Your Eminence. It’s probably acceptible up there where you are to address people in the familiar, and that explains my taking the liberty. Besides, you were a shepherd when you lived down here with us, and you’re probably used to familiarity. To my great shame, I only learned about you very recently, just a couple months ago. Of course I’d heard of you, that there is such a saint as Spiridon of Tremithus. But I only really made your acquaintance just now. I hope, by the way, that our acquaintance will continue—and not for the rather embarrassing utilitarian reasons that brought me to you to begin with. I’ll refresh your memory about that. So, three months ago...

The Davydov family The Davydov family Some foolish snipe who one fine spring suddenly discovers that the object flying in the air next to him is not his long-time heartthrob snipess but some clever hunter’s cap, and he figures out that his time is up, the end has come, probably experiences less befuddlement than one does when he hears: “I was asked to relay to you that your family has to vacate the apartment. It’s necessary, for some reason.”

The worst thing about all this is the rumors. So through some unknown ladies, not the third person but the tenth in the string (and pretty repulsive at that), out of the blue you learn the landlord’s decision about the apartment you’ve been occupying for the past ten whole years. It’s where you got married. Children were born in the logical way, three of them. For them that apartment is home; you are the only one who (somewhere in the recesses of the subconscious admitting that we’ll have to leave it sooner or later) was always counting on the previously agreed-to terms in the form of, “live there as long as you want, I don’t mind,” hoping all the while that it would be “later” rather than “sooner”. I would make a call here and there to find out if I could buy an apartment, but I didn’t really try very hard, assuming that something better would come along. And those people themselves said that it was no problem; live there as long as you want, albeit with rural comfort—no running water, no indoor plumbing, with a little heart on the door. But we were used to it. And now you see that the snipes flew out at the wrong time, even though it’s winter.

I call the landlord and with trembling voice try to find out whether these rumors were true, and I hear the reply: “Nothing personal, only business. It just turned out that way.” I gathered what was left of my thoughts but to no avail. “Where will you go? That’s your decision—you’re the head of the family.” Well, in general I’ll say my mood was not great. Far from it. But then the landlord who was forced to evict me gave me the idea to turn to you: “Read the Akathist to St. Spiridon every day with your family,” he said. “That will definitely help.”

There is very little pleasure in moaning, groaning, and complaining. Action is needed here—fast, strong, and decisive. Easy to say! So we forced ourselves beyond our strength to read the Akathist in your honor.

Glory be to God, I do have friends in this world. I gathered this honorable company in the kitchen and said, “Guys, it’s serious, I want to live. What are your thoughts? I need sober ones.” “You’re asking a lot!” they smirked soberly, but told me their thoughts right away. “You, dear mutt, got lucky! You’re finally going to get your own home. You’re going to be a homeowner instead of a phantom. We are living in rented apartments but now you have a wonderful opportunity!” “Could you please tell me how I am supposed to make this dream come true?” I asked. Then my friends assumed an air of dignity and consoled me supremely. “You made a mistake. It’s not how ‘you are going to make this dream come true’, but how ‘we are going to make this dream come true’. We came to help you, you ninny, and you are sitting here trembling. Let’s drop the panic—we’re now going to start looking for a home, find it, buy it, and help you move there, and then you are going to thank us tearfully and invite us to the house warming party. We’ll sign on for sobriety up until the final point—then it’s all on your dirty conscience. By the way, how do you like the plan—ingenious, no? We thought it up along the way here.

Well there you have it, real friends don’t like to talk about friendship, and they don’t talk about it. These aren’t some kids in love, who do nothing else besides coo about their tender feelings. And what tenderness can there be in a matter that’s over the top. Needless to say, I approved.

A couple days later my wife says, “The girls sent me some help, they took up a collection for the new home.” “Why did they do that? We have enough money!” “Not necessarily. Real estate prices have risen, inflation, various crises... So, they passed the hat...”

A week later my mother-in-law calls (and that’s serious): “Why didn’t you say anything?! I’m sending you some money! Just whistle! Your job is to quickly buy a place to live. Say hi to my daughter and grandkids. It’s my gift.”

On the same day my wife told me that she received a call and gift from her beloved mother-in-law. Thus we “got our money’s worth”,1 in the best sense of the word.

By the following week I had ceased being surprised at miracles: My friends informed me that out of nowhere came a home, the owner of which wanted to move to another city. They swore that it was voluntary—the man had employment elsewhere. He found my friends himself, and they simply didn’t let the opportunity pass them by. “Drop everything and run there!” they said.

I walked in and fell stunned—my wife and children were already there; my friends had told her also. They were standing there rejoicing: “It’s just what we need!” The youngest climbed into the empty bathtub and announced that he won’t come out. The middle child was running from room to room, screaming ecstatically. The oldest was civilly jumping up and down to measure the distance from floor to ceiling, which vaguely resembled the arches of a Gothic cathedral. The apartment owner, an amiable young man, just a little taken aback at the invasion, politely explained the payment methods and time frames. “Honestly, it’s all true! I simply have to move right away to another city, and I need money. That’s all there is to it. It’s just a miracle that I found a buyer so quickly.” Then he named the price.

But I was no longer surprised at miracles—it was exactly the amount we had at our disposal, including our savings, and the help of grandmas and friends. The very sum.

I will not describe the hullabaloo of moving, all the bureaucratic procedures, the change of windows, the modest remodeling and other charming things that anyone who moves has to encounter. Besides, our family by now accepts with a sense of humor all these niceties that come everyday to raise our spirits. I will not go into the actual move and the house warming party with our friends—that’s a matter for a separate story. I would wish everyone to have such friends and mothers-in-law. And more: I would wish that they would definitely get to know you.

Dear St. Spiridon, now, sitting in my new home, clean, well appointed, cozy, and celebrating the days of Christmas, I thank you for this one miracle out of many. Yes, it’s the first one for our family, but it appears that there are millions of such miracles.

But there is the thing. Of course, a separate thank you for the apartment. Yes, it was convincing. It was even awesome, as my friends said. I am asking for yet another miracle. Please, teach me how not to panic should some other—albeit quite deserved—trial arise. And teach me how not to judge anyone. Well, I wanted to judge that guy who kicked us out of the house, but he acquainted our family with you—I should not only not judge him, I should fall at his feet. Because by getting to know you I now read that psalm with completely different eyes: “Wondrous is God in His saints, the God of Israel.” Thank your for this newness. So my request involves non-judgment. I would also like to go to Madagascar this year, but it’s better that I learn non-judgment. I greet you with the Theophany, too, dear St. Spiridon!

Peter Davydov
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)



1 In Russian, a slang word for money is “babki”, which is also a diminutive form of “grandma”.

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