I was born on a May morning in 1984. I have no detail of my birth; my weight, length, or anything that might have been special about me. In Russia it was proper custom to remove the child from the mother immediately after birth, bringing them back only to feed. Not I, nor my mother would have any visitors during the seven days she was required to remain in the hospital which my mother will refer to as a prison. I was the fourth child, my little brother would come six years after me, and conclude our family number of seven.
I was a rambunctious kid. I enjoyed moving, running, and jumping. Anything that allowed me to expend energy. Being a mother now myself I can truly sympathize with my mom and how much energy I must have demanded from her. We lived away from the city. Our house, built by my father’s own hands stood on a street that was straight, narrow, and ended at the top of a hill where the community well had been dug. I remember that well, and the ominous feeling I got every time I peered into its seemingly bottomless depth. About a half mile beyond the well was a small pond, a nasty, muddy thing that harbored more hazard than fun. We loved swimming in that filthy puddle we referred to as a lake.
There was a pear tree that towered above the porch awning. It was one of my many hazardous playgrounds. Roofs in general were a weakness of mine. I had to climb them. Explore them. I felt bigger while standing above it all. I enjoyed the thrill. The bit of danger only made the need to conquer it that much stronger. In that respect I was ruthless to my mother, un-bothered by how her breath caught each time she’d spot me prancing around, a dozen feet off the ground.
As a child in Russia I hadn’t yet understood what poverty was. We were rich in family and love, and so the rest had not quite caught on yet.
In 1991 my parents announced we were going on a trip. The seriousness and parameters were too hard for my adolescent mind to comprehend. We boarded a train with as many suitcases as we could carry (suitcase being a figurative term). The bags were sewn together with the sturdiest material available to us with a simple zipper and two handles. The train was fun. I’d never been on anything like a train before and it felt like an adventure, overshadowed only by the omnipresent look of fear on my parent’s faces.
In Moscow we boarded a plane. It was surreal to me. I had no idea what such a large city was, how everything moved at such a fast pace with so many people, and I had no idea on how to react. I didn’t ask questions. Looking at my parents I knew my inquiry was the last thing they needed. It’s difficult to describe that experience other than to say, it felt unreal. I remember the stewardess gave us extra packets of nuts, and smiled sweetly. That was unusual for me. I was used to people going about their business. Strangers didn’t typically take the time to be kind or smile to the likes of a nuisance child. It’s a fond memory to this day, getting that packet of nuts.
America was…something. I wouldn’t say it met my expectations because I had none. I didn’t know what America was. I had not even understood the concept of countries. The Language: how funny they talked I thought to myself. None of this had been explained to me. We lived on the survival instincts, and the ways of the world were not something my parents had the time or the luxury to educate me on. They had bills to pay and food to provide. So I strolled through most of these experiences via ignorance.
Within months of arriving I entered first grade. I felt out of place in every respect, like a zoo animal on display. Some children approached with a kind of interest while others were repulsed; I didn’t look like them, behave like them…I was different. I cried that day and never wanted to go back. But that wasn’t a choice I was given.
I changed schools often; five times in the six elementary years as we moved from one apartment complex to another. Being the new kid isn’t easy for any kid, but being the new kid whose clothes never matched, were almost always the wrong size, and who didn’t know the basics of American culture, well, I was picked on a lot. My fourth and fifth grade teacher was the same woman, lucky me because she was the best teacher I would ever have throughout my time in the education system. She befriended me, took me to a thrift store after school one day, and bought be several clothing items appropriate for my age. She attempted to educate me on matching my clothing and what was considered ‘cool’. She took me to McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. I felt like a princess. I would stay after school every single day and help her with whatever she needed, anything; so long as I got to stay with her a bit longer. I cleaned and organized and helped with various projects. They were treasured times for me, such memories will always bring tears to my eyes. Mrs. McCleland will probably never know the extent of the effect her kindness had on me.
I graduated in 2002 and in 2005 I married my teenage sweetheart. A boy who always managed to keep my attention but what was more astonishing, was that I managed to keep his. We had a beautiful wedding (which we had been saving for since the age of 18) and it was everything we had hoped and more.
Within a year after the birth of our daughter in 2008 we had decided that I become a stay at home Mom.
Shifting to a single income was no easy feat. We lived modestly, but we were happy. We sacrificed money for the benefit of being available to our children during their first and vital years, and despite giving up all the perks a second income presented, we never regretted the decision. Before our daughter’s birth we had lost our savings to an investment endeavor in the housing industry. The house we invested in and built from ground up was completed in 2008, in sync with the housing collapse (taking our investment with it). This made the decision to go to a single income all the more difficult because we now had nothing to fall back on if hit with another blow. We risked it anyways.
In 2012 I started to write a story that would eventually be published as Symbol of Treason, in excess of 3 years after its inception. It was a labor of love, one I often times had to set aside to tend to my more pressing responsibilities. So each time I had a dip in my to-do list, I would open that Word file and continue on.
My daughter approached me nonchalantly a few weeks back and asked “Mom are you an author?” I realized my husband had said something to her because I certainly had not. Her question jolted me. Was I an author? I couldn’t believe it. I was proud of myself for stepping out in faith, despite the fear of failure. Regardless of the outcome, I do not regret this.