Thousands of Miles Away, but Still by His Daughter’s Side


But what about us? I kept thinking the pandemic would abate. It did not. I kept hoping flights from New York to Russia would resume and I could take my chances. They did not. I considered and abandoned a backup plan of flying to Helsinki and swimming from there.

We kept in touch with Molly and Pasha via Zoom and FaceTime. One occasion was an online birthday party for our younger daughter, who lives in Chicago. For birthday décor, my wife and I had a picture of a balloon she had drawn on a piece of printer paper with a Sharpie. Pasha and Molly, quarantined in their apartment, had festooned it with banners and actual balloons. Pasha, wearing a goofy party hat, said hello and a few more words in English (he’s learning). Then he pulled out a ukulele and sang a soulful birthday song originated by an animated crocodile in a Soviet-era children’s show. It was ridiculous, and he looked ridiculous, but he was warmhearted and wholehearted and entirely un-self-conscious, making every effort to make a real party of it for his fiancée’s sister.

And I was happy. This guy just might be good enough.

The wedding — or, at least, the marriage — was still set for July 4. There would be no party, nothing beyond the civil ceremony. Witnesses would be two friends and Pasha’s immediate family. The appointment was for noon, which is 5 a.m. in New York. We were up at 4:30 and glued to Zoom.

Molly was gorgeous, of course, in a flowing white dress. Pasha wore a pink suit with a checked vest and a lacy white cravat that complemented Molly’s arm veils. The bride and groom both wore white sneakers and masks as they assembled with their group outside the wedding venue.

Called inside, they walked down an arched stairway into a large ballroom with white-trimmed pale green walls and massive chandeliers. They stood, socially distanced, from a dark-haired woman in a white dress. As classical music played from unseen speakers, she spoke at some length in a melodious voice. Sitting more than 4,000 miles away in our pajamas, my wife and I did not understand a word she was saying, although I did catch her say Molly’s name, and I clearly heard Molly and Pasha both saying one crucial word in response to a question: “Da.”

Then they embraced, and signed another document, and everyone stood for the playing of “The Hymn of St. Petersburg,” which is apparently required, post-wedding, in St. Petersburg.



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