It Wasn’t Easy in New Jersey, but My Cousins/Aunts Helped…
My step-mom Dana Bugayeff had two sisters and two brothers. Her parents moved from the old country Kalmykia to Yugoslavia during WW I. So my step-mom and siblings were born in Yugoslavia and during WWII immigrated to the US. In fact over 1,500 Kalmyk people had immigrated from Yugoslavia, Germany and various parts of Europe to the USA. They brought their unique culture, language, dance, religion (Tibetan Buddhism), and strong cultural pride with them. They worked hard and never accepted welfare and build their lives over from nothing. They are a proud people. I honored to be a part of them.
My step dad had his side of the family living nearby also…but I will post about them on another post.. I had a beloved healer Uncle Baja and his daughters Gaga Toktun and Susie that I was very close with and I LOVE SO MUCH TILL NOW. Gaga passed away but Susie is fine with her husband/kids. I love you Susie. I love you Gaga! They had a cool sister Liz, who moved to New York when I was very young, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get close to her…Liz is still in New York…We are in contact.
My step parents’ ancestors originally settled in Kalmykia during the Genghis Khan conquest of Europe. They are the Mongolians who stayed in the Western part of Russia which became Kalmykia and never returned to Mongolia. There were many Mongolians who stayed in the various conquered lands to administer during the Genghis Khan-Altan Khan-Kublai Khan conquest of Europe, North Africa, Russia and Asia. These Mongolians became the seventy different types of Mongolians ethnics living all over the conquered lands outside of Mongolia. Example the Mongols living in Xinjiang became the Turkestan Mongols. Then you have the Uzbekistan Mongols, Uighers, Kalmyks, etc etc. My birth mom is a Mongol from Xinjiang. My step mom Dana is from Kalmykia or called a Kalmuk Mongol.
Well, I was adopted to the US from Taiwan. I was given to Dana and Boris Bugayeff.
The summers were two and a half months of vacation from school. I didn’t like school exept Art and science class and library time. I loved the summers. In the summers my step parents had to work so during the day I had alot of chores and if I finished them, I could hang out with my neighborhood friends till they got back home from work and maybe afterwards.. We had Slavicia Miskovich, Pat Miskovich, Mira Polovino, Dawn Giordano, Greta and Shatzy Meirhauffer, Ray Polovino and later other kids moved into the neighbourhood. Later nearby I had Marc Reed and Nina Noronov that I hung around too but they were a couple of streets away… We had Penny and Jenny Fulton that lived down the street that I’d seen often, and I liked them, but we didn’t play together much. We all lived on West 3rd Street in Howell, New Jersey. We had alot of fun together. It kind of reminds me of the lazy fun the kids had on Stephen King’s movie ‘It’. I like that movie, cause it reminds me of our childhoold summer days with my friends in New Jersey…boy those days are sooooo long gone…I do miss those kids. I am only in contact with Nina these days…I wonder what happen to the rest of them, and I would love to know…I hope they are ok…I miss you guys alot…
My step parents gave me ALOT of chores. As my mother’s mental disease worsened, so did my chores/abuse. . .We had a two story colonial house with four bedrooms, two toilets, living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, study room and a huge basement. To top it off we lived on half an acre of land with alot of flowers, lawn and vegetable gardens. When I woke up in the summers I had to:
- Dust all the wood furniture in the house with Pledge spray and wipe.
- Had to vacuum the downstairs and upstairs/stairs. Alot of carpets throughout.
- Wash the kitchen floor daily with detergent as it was white and got dirty very easily. Clean the cabinets, the tops, clear out the fridge as everything had to be packed away neatly. The kitchen sink was a focal point..it has to be very spic and span clean. Never break the dishes/cups and Buddha forbid if I chipped or damaged her good china and crystals…I despised silver polishing her two sets of complete silver ware…they tarnished very very very often. Remember I was just a kid with no siblings doing this alone. My neighborhood friends were really shocked at how much I had to do and I was shocked at how little they were required to do in their homes!!
- Take out all the garbage from the kitchen, bedrooms and toilets. Wash and disinfect the garbage cans when necessary.
- Had to dust off all the non-wood furniture. There was alot. I hated cleaning the windows…so many windows…We had no maids…having maids in the US and at that time with ordinary people were unheard of.. I didn’t know anyone with a maid..it was only in the movies.
- Once a week I have to do major cleaning of my parents bedroom, their furniture and change all the sheets, pillow cases, etc before they got home. My mother was very particular with her bedroom so I had to be very careful when cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and polishing. My step mom had very sharp eagle eyes..so I had to be very thorough or she would be furious and maybe I would end up with a severe beating with a mop or cooking utensil.
- Every two weeks I would be dropped off at the laundromat (20 mins away) to do the whole family laundry. Wash, dry, fold and then go home to put everything away. It would take me maybe 5-6 hours at the laundromat alone to do all this. But in the summers, my step mom would make me wash everything at the laundry and hang up in the hot sun to dry in our back yard because it would kill germs she said. It killed me. I hated the laundry. I hated drying laundry in the hot sun which would take all day…the whole backyard is filled with drying laundry and I had to watch over it so the birds/crows don’t poop all over them…sigh.
- Daily I would have to weed, and water the tremendous amount of Marigolds, roses and tulips and various other flowers she forced me to plant with her in the front and sides of our house yard. It took me around two hours to water the flowers everyday. If the flowers died it would be my fault…that would be ‘dangerous’ for me… I vowed never to have a garden when I grew up. Then she had a huge vegetable garden in the back of the house where she had me grow cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflowers, onions, lettuce. She liked going to the back to pluck fresh vegetables she said. We would go to the nursery together in the spring, buy the seeds, plants and flowers and spend whole weekends planting them and every weekend maintaining them… She would make me till the ground and get it ready with planting and mixing it will fertilizer and lime so the ground would be ‘sweet’ she said. My palm would bleed from the hard work in the hot sun. I hated gardening. I can only go play after I finished the gardenings. Summers were bittersweet.
- We had lawns in the front and grass in the back and of course I would have to mow the lawn every two week also, then bag the grass for the garbage. Backbreaking chore. They bought a lawnmower for me just to do that! It would take me maybe around 6 hours to mow, clean and rake the yard as a kid and then bag the grass. She wanted her grass in the front and sides of the yard perfect, green and ‘manicured’. The back yard grass was not a big concern because no one would see them and they just had to be mowed…it was alot of grass to mow trust me.
- Before my parents came home from work, I had to prepare a pot of Mongolian Tea (tea bags, condensed milk, salt, and butter) for them to drink and serve them when they arrived. If the salt was too much or not enough milk, there could be some scoldings. When I was around 13 or 14 I had to also cook for my parents and prepare their favorite dishes so when they got home, they would eat. Of course after dinner, it was my responsibility to wash all the plates, pots and utensils and put them away while they watched tv or read the newspapers.
- I had to clean both toilets, scrub the tiles, bathtub, sinks and polish the mirrors. My step-mom was very particular about cleanliness. She wanted everything very very very clean. During school months, I would have to do the same chores on weekends as evenings I had alot of homework. During fall and winter months, it was too cold for gardening…yeah!!!!! I hated the gardening, lawns. But in the fall, I had to rake alot of leaves. We have the big black plastic garbage bags here, well I would rake enough leaves to easily fill and bag around 30-35 of those bags. We had three huge trees on our property that had millions of leaves that fell to my dismay as I had to rake them. I hated the fall season because of raking and chores.
- At times my father would invite maybe eight to ten of his men friends to play cards all night at 0ur house. I was up the whole night to cook Mongolian tea and food to serve them. When I was younger, my mom would cook the food and go to sleep and I would stay the whole night up to serve them. When they finished playing cards the whole night, I would clean the tons of dishes, ashtrays, etc that they left behind.
- My mom would have bingo parties and invite maybe around 10-12 of her lady friends. My step mom and I would go shopping for food, spend two days preparing and she lay out a buffet with silverware and all. The ladies would eat and play bingo the whole night. Yes, I was the waiter and butler for the whole night. In betwen I watched tv till one of the ladies summoned me for coffee, tea, snack or to clear the plates. The next day would be tons of glasses, china, silverware, pots, pans etc to clean and put away. It would take me half a day to clean up pretty much on my own while my parents slept in. They usually had their bingo or card parties starting on Friday night, all night to late Saturday night. I would clean on Sunday mornings till the afternoon. It was alot of work. I dreaded those parties…but on the other hand, my mother wouldn’t beat me/scold me or scream with her friends around and she would be in a real good mood…so I was off guard during those times. I’m just listing some of the things I had to do, there were more and many more ad hoc things. My chores never ended. My friends and cousins didn’t have nearly as much as I had to do..when I realized that as I got older, I knew something was wrong. My friends/cousins can even joke/play and tease their parents!!!! I could never do that.
My step mom did buy me dogs that I loved, but she would not allow me to take much care of them once they grew up. They just got food and that was it. No medical, no care…I was so worried about them in the winter snow…My first dog was princey. I loved him..I still love him and miss him…I love you Princey.. He got ran over by a vehicle and my mom blamed me. I had no idea he was run over till a old lady down the street told us. I was heart broken when I went to find his body and buried it. There was no sympathy, mom blamed me and said I didn’t take care of him. I begged mom for years to erect a fence around our property so Princey will be safe. She wouldn’t. I couldn’t control where Princey went when I went to school or went to sleep as Princey was not allowed in the house after he grew up. After Princey died, I realized my mom can be quite cruel, it was only later I realized it was her disease not her…but to see Princey’s dead body was devastating to a young boy and to she said it was my fault…I knew it wasn’t…but she insisted. So I lived with the thought of my dead Princey and it was my fault.
I didn’t know at that time she was my real grandmother. She brought me from Taiwan to the Bugayeff household in New Jersey.. I know she thought they would take good care of me. My grandmother never knew the abuse…later grandma went back to Taiwan to live and I didn’t see her for twenty years again.. For the first few years, she would visit once a year and I loved it. I can feel she really loved me. She stay for at least two weeks and during that time my mom would be super nice to me and no beatings…My grandmother was one of the few people who cared so much about me and very physically affectionate towards me and shower me with kisses..I LOVE YOU SO MUCH GRANDMA…even as a child I could feel her genuine love and care towards me..I wished so much she would return from Taiwan and take me back to Taiwan..I didn’t want to be in the US and with the Bugayeffs at all… This picture was taken in the back of our house and in front is my beloved Princey. I wish I had better pictures of Princey.
- Not many flowers and the grass not so green due to cold. But this is to give you an idea of the house and yard. The front of the yard and two sides has to have many flowers, hedges to be trimmed, grass to be cut, flowers to be watered daily… All along the left and right side of drive way will be flowers too in the summers. In front of the house flowers all along and behind the house is the huge vegetable garden. If you see the trees in the back, when the leaves fall, it is alot of raking of leaves I have to do.
- Mowing of the lawns was a huge task for a kid like me, but every two weeks.
- Bottom left is the garage. Next to it is the living room and behind is dining room all carpeted. To the right of that is the kitchen window. To the furthest right is my study room and behind is the family room. Above left and centre windows are my parents bedroom and the right one is mine. Behnid us are two more bedrooms and toilet. Another toilet downstairs attached to study room.
- They had three cars, one is the beige one in the front you see parked. Another is in the garage. Every few years they would get a new car and trade in old one. They had a ok life.
I am not complaining here, but kind of telling you what my childhood was like. I didn’t enjoy living with my step-parents, because in between as I got older, the beatings, scoldings, punishments, and groundings became more and more frequent. I ran away three times. Two of the times, the police brought me back. The third time I escaped to California and never went back. I loved my step mom. She was not evil, deep in her heart she was very kind and I saw that. She was very generous and bought me alot of toys. It’s just as her schizophrenia got worse, her mental disposition worsened dramatically and I was usually the brunt of her anger. She had nowhere else to take it out on and her disease was not diagnosed unfortunately for her and me. If she did get it treated earlier, maybe I would not have run away…it was really hard being physically beaten so often and yelled at..I lived in a constant state of fear and attempted suicide twice while living with her… She was diagnosed 30 years later with Schizophrenia and got medication. She calmed down alot my step-sister Lidshma said. Lidshma said, if only mom had gotten medication decades ago then her’s and my life would have been drastically better. I agree with her. I arrived to the Bugayeff household in 1972. A few months later, Lidshma moved out to go to college and she never moved back again to my sadness. I wanted her to be around because I was very lonely with just my step parents. I wanted a sibling. I use to think she was so beautiful and smart and how proud I was to have a sister like her.
My step-mom had wonderful relationships with her brothers (Uncle Naran and Uncle Giga) and sisters (Aunt Meda and Aunt Elena) and their kids when I was living in New Jersey with them. All their kids were my cousins. I love my cousins. They were fun, creative and very bright and could talk back to their parents to my shock. To my double shock, they didn’t get yelled out for talking back or beaten like I was. Uncle Giga’s lovely wife Aunt Matza was another favorite aunt who was very outspoken and very direct but never rude. Aunt Matza knew what was happening in my household. One time after I ran away and was caught and brought back home, she told me not to run away anymore. She didn’t go into any details, but she said she knew what was happening. She said don’t run away as it is dangerous, and that I can STAY WITH HER FAMILY. I was like really?? She said yes. I was so moved. I went home and cried. I never told my step mom/dad what Aunt Matza offered me…I dare not. I couldn’t believe she wanted me knowing my mother’s violent outbursts. I enterntained the idea to move with her and her four kids, but I dared not. I know if I did, it would create so much family discord and fighting and make my mother/father lose face. They hated to lose face. What they did to me was a secret they thought. I couldn’t bear the thought of my Aunt Matza getting screamed at by my mom…and my mom at that height of her schizophrenia would have caused alot of trouble for Aunt Matza..I know my mom…so for that reason, I never even dared think to move in with her and instead chose to run away completely at 16 and that is another blog post. I thank you Aunt Matza for caring for me back then so much, I have never forgotten your care and I APPRECIATE YOU AND I LOVE YOU ALWAYS. Thank you. What you said meant so much to a little kid like me and I wanted you to know that. I was a victim then, but I am not a victim now and I have forgiven my step-mom years ago and pray for her.
I got along very well with Aunt Meda’s four girls. Aunt Meda was my mother’s youngest sister. I love Aunt Meda. She had four beautiful girls with her husband Uncle John who was a Mongolian from France. Uncle John passed away early in the girls life and Aunt Meda worked REALLY HARD and raised them single handedly herself. She worked in factories overtime to support them. She never dated or re-married after Uncle John passed. We all respected Aunt Meda so much. She made just enough money to get by for her and the girls and we all saw this and prayed for her. Aunt Meda is such a tough honorable lady. A lady from the old country that her family was first and her own happiness didn’t matter. Aunt Meda was always very kind and nice to me and everyone although she didn’t have much money. She’d drive her kids around in a old station wagon that drove around with alot of love.
Her lovely daughters were Debbie, Darlene, Diana and Danielle Polchinoff. So we called them the DP girls…hehehehe…as all their names started with D and course ended with P.
Aunt Meda would visit with the girls on weekends maybe once a month. I would love it. My step mom and Aunt meda would talk, watch tv and eat while me and the girls would play in the yard.. We got along very well. I loved being with them. I was a big bully and I would be in charge of course..eheheh. Sometimes Debbie would ask how come I was in charge? Darlene would chime in the protest also. Diana was like whatever. And Danielle just tagged along being super cute. I just told them I ‘m bigger and that was that..eheh.
MOST EXCITING WAS when Aunt Meda invited me to stay in her house for a few weeks in the summers. She would have to work during the day and late into the night and the girls were alone. They lived in Lakewood around 45 mins drive in the next town from Howell. It was shocking that my mother agreed to let me stay there and babysit them when I was around 11,12, 13 and 14 years old. I think I remember my age correctly. My step-mom loved her siblings. She loved Aunt Meda and saw how she struggled working alone. So I packed my bags and moved for around 5 weeks to Aunt Meda’s house in Lakewood. I loved it. I loved being with them. Aunt Meda scolded us when necessary but never alot. She didn’t beat me ever and she was not so fussy regarding her house to be clean. She was neat and clean but not fanatical like my mom. The girls and I would do chores, clean and etc, but we played, watched tv shows/cartoons and sang most of the day. We loved Donna Summers. So we would sing to all her songs. I was the lead singer and they had to be the background girls. Debbie and Darlene protested and asked WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS THE BACKGROUND AND I’M THE LEAD…hehehehe..I told them because I’m bigger and a better singer. They didn’t like the reasoning so I let them be Donna Summers for one or two songs, then I’d take over again. Daniella was just a toddler, so I changed her diaper, put her to sleep, fed her and did a real good job watching her. Even Aunt Meda was surprised I was such a good babysitter. Sometimes Aunt Meda would have a Sunday off and she’d pack a picknick basket and take us all to spend a day at Lakewood lake swimming and eating all day. We loved those time. Sometimes she would take us to the park to run around to scream and jump..heheh. Aunt Meda even took us to try tennis once..I twisted my ankle and that was the end of my tennis career.
While I was with Aunt Meda and the girls, I would count how many days I had left to be with them. I really dreaded the housework, beatings, lonliness and screaming at my home. But I dare not voice it to Aunt Meda. She knew…but couldn’t say anything as it was her elder sister and it would be disrespectful. Aunt Meda’s way of helping me was to take me to her home in the summers for weeks…I am grateful to her forever. I know now as an adult what she was doing for me. She didn’t create discord with my mom and her, but she helped me. I remember one summer when it was time for her to take me back home already, she didn’t have alot of money, but she took me to a dept store and bought me a pair of jeans…wow…I loved jeans and wanted them. My parents wouldn’t get me jeans as they said it was sloppy. I loved the jeans as that was what everyone in school was wearing and now I had them too. But I loved the jeans more because they came from Aunt Meda and her kind heart. I appreciated the jeans so much.
I felt so sorry for Aunt Meda when she returned from working overtime and so tired. The girls would give her a massage and I would happily serve her food. I use to joke and tease Aunt Meda as she is a real good sport. I wasn’t ever allowed to do that with my parents. After a while Aunt Meda would get tired of my dumb jokes and stupid pick questions and tell me to shut up so she can rest which would make me and the girls giggle non stop because the way she said shut up was really funny. She wasn’t fierce at all but very cute lady. Hehehe I was scared of her not because she was mean or nasty, but because she was an adult and also I respect her alot. I saw how hard she worked. I wished she was my mother at that time.
Or view the video on the server at: http://video.tsemtulku.com/videos/onceuponatime1978.flv
Dear Dp girls I found this video of Donna singing one of our favorite songs that we use to sing along while playing her records… I dedicate this to you girls and all the wonderful summers we spent together. I will never forget them and they enriched my life beyond what you could know or imagine.
I was always amazed how loving your mom Aunt Meda was and how lucky you girls were to have her for a mom. I was lucky to have her as a aunt. I thank Aunt Meda for her care for me. I really love Aunt meda and Aunt Matza. These two aunts took alot of pity on me and cared for me.
I love all of you always and I wish you always the best.
Tsem Rinpoche (your cousin)
This Donna Summers video has not been posted for any reason except to share with friends/relatives. I mean no infringement to copyright whatsoever. It is strictly for sharing purposes. All contents belong to owner.
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