home again

9:57 AM

When I was almost four we were living in Russia and my parents began work on their dream home. Dad would bring home blueprints and mum and I would pore over decor magazines dreaming of what life would look like within the four brick walls. I became especially fixated on a two page spread of a ballerina themed pepto bismol pink bedroom with dormers. The curtains were taffeta and everything was fluffy and tufted. It was a beautiful saccharine pink fantasy. 
Mid construction we moved to America for a little over a year and a half for my dad to complete his masters degree. The December before we returned we watched tanks take over the Red Square and the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union on our tv. Though my parents were ecstatic to see the end of decades of violence and dictatorship they were fearful of what this would mean for the future of the country, both politically and economically. 
We returned to Russia a few months later to a drizzly and gray spring. The country was in shambles - stores empty and ransacked, the sudden appearance of the homeless (the Soviet government was notorious for hiding and mistreating the homeless, handicapped and poor) and general sense of confusion and dread. And it was amidst all this chaos that my parents received the news that the money that they had in their savings account for the new house now approximately amounted to the price of ten watermelons. 
I don't remember how they broke the news to me but I was aware of the fact that the house would now remain just a dream, perhaps forever. 
Growing up we often passed our "dream home," or rather a concrete foundation with four brick walls. A few years later grass began to grow in the foyer and a small tree took up residence in the kitchen. In the meantime friends and family built their own homes adjacent to ours and I watched many little girls my age get their dream rooms - complete with bunk beds, princess wallpaper and pink curtains. There was one girl in particular that had a room almost identical to the one I had dreamed of back when I was four. It even had dormers just like in that magazine and every time I saw it I felt a little lump form inside my throat. 
Honestly, this story is just a tiny piece of the puzzle that makes up my childhood. But it stands out in my mind as the moment I became aware of life outside of my own toddler bubble. My parents struggled throughout my childhood and worked tirelessly to build a better life for us. I rarely "fit in" at school - I never had the right clothes, right toys and I never got what everyone else did for Christmas. My parents didn't drive the right car or own the right home. Every once in a while I would get lucky and one of the "nerds" or outcasts would take me under their wing and for a little while I would have a friend - someone to eat lunch with and chat with at the end of class. Sometimes it hurt or stung but at home surrounded by my parent's love and security I always felt safe. 
So this past November when we first saw the house that is now our home and I walked into the "bonus room" full of light and with two dormers that faced the mountains my heart skipped a beat. I instantly imagined the room with our children's beds in it and books and toys scattered everywhere. I was smitten. And four months later when we held the keys in our hands for the first time I immediately hatched a plan for their room. I stayed up painting and decorating well after midnight for a week straight to make sure that their room would be ready by the time we move in.  When I finally got to reveal it I watched with tears in my eyes as wonder and joy danced across Birdie's face. It was everything. It was the most incredible feeling to give her something I had been dreaming of pretty much my whole life. 

There isn't a day that goes by that I take this home for granted. Often I feel undeserving of it. I imagine my parent's heartbreak when they learned that they could no longer make the home they dreamed of a reality. They were our age and my brother and I were the ages of Birdie and Teddy and being a parent myself now I understand what it must have felt like. To be honest with you sometimes I can't believe my life, it seems so far from the life I grew up with. I miss it sometimes. I miss riding my bike to pick up milk from the lady down the road or eggs from our neighbor. I miss the peace and quiet of our small village and knowing everyone by name. I miss the autumn bonfires and singing late into the night while someone strummed a guitar. I miss running around outside barefoot everyday until twilight.

But I don't miss the instability and heartache that I watched my parent struggle with. I feel so incredibly blessed to live in this country with my family and to have the security and opportunities that we do. Every day I wake up and I feel so very, very blessed to be where I am. Most days when the kids have allowed me to sleep for longer than six hours and are happy (not the days when either one of them has been up every four hours and wakes up whining or crying or both) I wake up and recite one of my favorite poems in my head:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver

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