(This is the second part of one very full day. Part One is here . )

Feeling happily intoxicated after the filling lunch, I schleped myself to the car and made a mad, hour-long dash to the airport to pick up Mama. On the way I managed to stop by the house, take down all of the chairs, leave footprints on the near-immaculate carpets, and carry on a long, involved conversation with Dad through chair-lifting, gas-filling, and mad-dashing to the airport. This was Mama’s second trip to Houston to visit us, the first in a couple of years, and I had wanted her to see that things here were OK; that we weren’t starving, that we were living in comfort, security, and in a generally peaceful setting. That is why it was important to get the carpets (and the whole apartment) cleaned, have some food in the fridge, be decently dressed and be on time.

Miraculously I arrived at the airport a good 20 minutes early, so I had time to park and position myself in a strategic location to fish Mama out of the rivers of people flowing out of the terminals into the baggage claim area. Still, she tricked me and came down some other way, but we immediately found each other and were glad to have done so painlessly. It was wonderful to have Mama in Houston! We grabbed her bag, and headed out.

Then we drove the hour plus back home, drove some more to pick up the kids from school (because they were there, excitedly waiting for us, knowing that mom was coming and having already told anyone at school who would listen…). My husband had a “date” with the teeny-weeny court of one of the teeny-weeny towns we often drive through for a traffic violation at 6:30pm, and time was soon approaching, so the kids, mom and I drove home, I dropped them off and jumped back into the car to pick up the hubby from college and drive him to the court. While driving to pick him up, I called him and he told me the following story:

“Well, I had a little accident on my way to college. I was riding (the bike) on some sand, and I got a little carried away and braked when I shouldn’t have, and so I skidded and flew over the bike and slid along the gravel and the bike’s pretty mangled up too…”

“Yikes! Well you should go to the clinic at the college and get bandaged  up…”

“I already did that. Thank goodness, they wrapped me all up and now I’m good, but the front breaks on the bike don’t work anymore…”

Anyway, when I arrived to pick him up, he did look a bit beat-up. Both of his hands were bandaged, with other bandages running up all along the arms to the elbows. His pants were torn, his shirt – dusty. We  hoisted the damaged bike into the car, and since time was pressing, drove straight to the courthouse. He of course looked quite the lawbreaker, which didn’t help our case, and he was in full rebellious-teenage mode, which didn’t help either. I was in annoyed-mother mode, disgruntedly helped him fill out his paperwork and ushered him into the court room which was, with no exaggeration, about 10×15 feet total, with benches, the judge’s seat, and the jury bench all wedged together under frightening photographs of past city mayors. When his name was called I told hubby to go up to the judge, and remained sitting. When the judge asked him about whether or not he had taken care of the issue for which he had gotten ticketed, he said no (in all fairness he got the ticket for something that is equally his fault and mine – if I had gotten stopped, I would have gotten the same ticket). Then he was told to pay, and in response he asked, politely, “why is the fine $150?” The judge stared at him blankly, and so he repeated, “Why is it just $150? Why not make it $200? Or $250?” This is where I called on all of my chameleon powers and tried to blend into the coloration of the chair. The judge glanced at hubby, unamused, and replied, “Well, do you want me to make it higher?” Husband, unperturbed, responded that no, not necessarily, but that he just wants to understand why it’s…

I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped out of the chair, squeezed past the other people sardined into the room, and walked the two steps up to the judge. I explained the situation, asked for an extension of 30 days to have time to take care of our issue, and, when granted, ushered my husband out of the room with a warning, in Russian, of “Don’t. Say. Anything”. He tried to ask the clerk the same time, but at this point I was about to lose all civility, so to spare the court a scene I quickly walked myself and my husband out, got in the car, and carefully maneuvered our big-butt van out of the small parking lot. Husband mentioned that it’d be funny if we crashed into one of the police cars parked there, and then recalled a joke: “A drunk driver crashes into a police car. The cop comes out to talk to the driver, and the driver exclaims, “Oh look, you’re already here! How fast!””

Oh, but that wasn’t the end of the evening. There were also lots of presents, excited children showing mama everything at home, starting with Suzy the hamster and ending with the neato shells hot-glued to the walls of our bathroom.

Then, at 7:30, we had dinner scheduled with Mama, the kids, and my friend Anya at a near-by restaurant. We walked the five minutes to get there, met with Anya and had a lovely dining experience and pleasant conversation between mouthfulls of pita, spinach and Greek salad. Nighttime came and Mama and I jointly put the kids to bed and then…then we headed out because Mama was going to be spending the night at our friend Greg’s house, a few minutes’ drive from us.

Through serendipitous twists of fate and circumstance, both mom and I knew Greg, but from two completely different vantage points, from two different periods in time. In her youth, Mom was best friends with Greg’s best friends. So they both had heard much OF each other, but never really met or interacted. But that is a full, complex story of its own. For our purposes here suffice it to say me introducing her to him, in a way as an old friend, in a way as a total stranger, for the first time on a random late evening in October in Houston, was cosmic. It was surreal. And magical. I half-expected all of the lights to flicker and a super nova to explode in the far reaches of space when I said, “Mama, meet Grisha. Grisha – Masha”.

After talk and tea and sweets, I must have headed home, might have even brushed my teeth, and, judging by where I found myself the next morning, must have successfully gotten into bed. I don’t remember any of that, though, because I was quite exhausted. And now you know why.