Essay in very free form about summer 2005 back to Russia.
I remember arriving at Pulkovo Airport at six in the morning. My mother and I were the ones leaving, my aunt and grandmother were seeing us off, and my dad was already there, in America. I was nine years old. Growing up in Russia, making lots of friends, walking around town, and having a good time shaped me, as much as any nine year old could be shaped, into a person who would have no problem growing up in a Russian society.
By that point however, around seven on a dim September morning, I had no idea of the kind of person I was or was going to become. All I knew was that an airplane flew very low above our taxi and that I was going to ride one of those pretty soon. That lifted the bad mood I was in due to the grey foggy day that enveloped the view outside the window. By the time weíre going through customs, itís just me and my mother. My aunt and grandmother are standing far in the distance crying. Seeing them cry and my sudden realization that I might not see them again for a long time and that Iím going some place that is too far away to fathom makes me cry as well. My plane takes off and lands, somewhere else, just in time for me and mom to meet my dad, and catch another taxi.
After a night spent in Manhattan in Somerville, Iím walking around Somerville Ave. with my dad and mom, looking for a school. Coming across the very first one we see, we go in. After a few failed attempts at cracking the language barrier, my dad and the school director come to an understanding. The director understands that I need a school to go to and my dad understands that we need to come back tomorrow. Arriving late the next morning, me and my dad find the elusive room 306, he gives me a pat on the back, puts a pen into my right pocket and shoves me into the classroom where my arrival has to interrupt the lecture the teacher was giving about verbs. The classís attention shifts to me. That stressful introduction to American schools would carry over for another three years, when my parents would decide to send me back to Russia for the summer.
About four thousand miles away from my new place of residence, I would harvest potatoes that my grandmother would cook over the fireplace for dinner. The sky is certainly clear, the sun is radiating and warm, and the air is fresh. After finishing with one row of potatoes, I bring the basket to the well to fill it up with water to quickly cleanse the potatoes of the ground that they have been growing up in. My grandmother is quietly and diligently tending to her flower gardens near the well, so as I finish my work with the potatoes, she takes the time to observe her latest harvest.
She tells me jokingly that she wishes that the potatoes could have been bigger, but these ones will do just as well. I acknowledge the joke with a healthy smile and go on to bring the basket inside near the fireplace.
As just another one of the regular routines during one of the regular mellow days of my last summer in Russia, I water the field. The cold water flowing from the hose freezes up my thumb but that would quickly be remedied by a quick sit near the fireplace.
Around dusk a familiar noise sounds far in the distance. Itís a train stopping by at Kobralovo Station. It might be the one my cousins and aunt caught. A car drives by the dusty road ten minutes later and about half an hour later the former train passengers walk by the path near our house. Nikita, Pavel and Inna are at the back of the pack, only because they stopped by the store first to buy some food for the celebration. Itís my parentsí anniversary and even though theyíre not here, my family would still use it as an excuse to get together and have a feast. That night, everywhere I go, Iím surrounded by family, friends, and people that want to make friends, if only because Iím on a long vacation from America and they want to know what the place is like.
That familiar bell sounds again as the summer ends in a blink. Seventh grade begins in the same school, with the same people, who still have the same conceptions of me. I am still the Russian kid who canít speak English and it is really hard to make friends with. I sit at the cafeteria, by myself, with the occasional teacher sitting next to me trying to keep me company. They tell me that I am an exceptional student. They give me helpful hints about making friends, silly American culture and other things I can use to fit in better. It is of no use. It is about twelve twenty and exactly two hours and forty minutes away from me getting to go home.
It was not the best of times. I had the reputation of being an abnormal Russian cemented on me for my first few years and that is what I gradually became since I wasnít given a chance to be anything else. I lived life differently from everyone else and I regretted it. The reputation stuck with me until high school, so until then I was just a video games addicted child with a few friends who would look past the different preconceptions of me. I was too stubborn to make friends who would assign the foreign kid stereotype to me, and I was to foreign for other kids not to assign that to me.
The third apartment my family moved into was in Arlington, so my senior year had to be in Arlington as well. By this time I was getting used to my old school, getting into a sort of comfort zone, but I had to transfer.
Arlington High was a fifteen minute walk down a leaf covered bike path away from my house. I would try to find my homeroom in time for the bell. A clean slate, as well as much experience and wisdom helped me start off a normal senior year. As I walk into my homeroom, barely on time, saying hi to a few people I just met, I realized that I finally accomplished something I have always wanted since fourth grade. Whether it was going to the weekly poker game, watching the Pats play with a group of friends, or going to see a movie, I had made it. I had a good amount of friends. I did the normal things on the weekends, basically what everyone else did. I was ordinary. I fit in. I was no longer the strange Russian.
Just then I had another realization that was a bit depressing: being ordinary is terribly, terribly boring.
ďWant to skip Calculus?Ē Greg Shapiro asks. Of course I do, itís the last class on a Friday, and Iím pretty hungry for some pizza. We head off to Arlington House of Pizza. Itís the weekend after Halloween and most people havenít thrown out their pumpkins, notes Greg. He also remarks on the steepness of Summer St. and ho his friends had this great idea. Am I in? I have the option of either having the normal Friday night fun of hanging out with some friends and watching a movie or stealing about seventy pumpkins from porches and rolling them down an extremely hilly street all at once. It took me about ten seconds to ponder this dilemma while taking another bite out of my pizza and finally choose the latter. Doing that is how I met some extraordinary people. There was Dan, who just because he was bored decided to go to travel to South America for a year. There was Farid, who was way too charismatic for America, so he decided to help out hospitals in Palestine. The plethora of different personalities I ran into, just like me, did not enjoy living by the status quo; they could always find something more interesting to do, a better way to spend time. Their way of living would rub off on me.
During my senior year I did many things. I trudged trough a blizzard to get to one of Marcoís amazing ďinternationalĒ parties, finding the place completely packed despite two feet of snow on the ground, later having to hitchhike my way home on a plow truck at four in the morning. I had to cover four hours of walking distance in half an hour in Plymouth just to catch the last train. I woke up one morning, and went to New York City because the weekend seemed too dull. I went to a Tufts frat party, a Harvard grad party full of thirty year olds, and a typical Arlington party all in the same night. Somewhere between all that I realized that I should never try to be normal, ever. I realized that a much better time of it can be made by just being an original person, not part of the crowd. Being different and Russian is who I am and it is damn well better than trying to be normal.
Submitted at Sep. 26, 2005; 13:55
Nov. 17, 2017; 17:54 EST