I pushed baby Catherine in a stroller in Pushkin Park, near the Turkish Baths and the Marble Bridge. Catherine Palace looked like it was painted on a sky canvas, as the trim of the edifice was the same clear, pure blue as the sky.
Baby Catherine, waving her fists in the shade of the stroller canopy, cared nothing for the lush grandeur that surrounded her. She caught my eye, and I made a grand silly face, and a bit of drool dribbled from the corner of her mouth.
It was a fresh air stroll with her daddy, somewhere, that’s all she cared about. We decided to linger near the white wrought iron benches by the lake and watch the swans.
Her mother’s name was Catherine too. My darling Catarina, so fresh and fearless and ambitious. She was important now, a liaison between corporate and political interests in the country. I was a low level manager in the medical services, no prestige or prospects, but that didn’t matter to us at first.
Now it did.
Catherine had teeth coming in. Baby Catherine, I mean, not her mother, whose fangs had grown in sharpness and efficiency long before. It wasn’t her fault, the world was harsh and unpredictable.
I didn’t pray, as a rule. I visited the ornate Orthodox churches as a tourist, and not a believer. But now, as three men approached us on the trim red gravel path, in dark, double-breasted suits, I prayed that this would not be the last time I pushed my baby Catherine in a stroller in Pushkin Park.