Hometown

There is something incredibly comforting and horribly disturbing about returning to the land of your ancestors after a long absence. I notice a strong wave of emotions rush through my body as I step outside and I get curious. After a minute, I’ve got the name for the feeling – it’s “bittersweet…”

Having moved to the USA fourteen years ago, I am now back in Russia. It’s another beautiful summer day – 21C, warm and sunny – and I am wandering the streets of my hometown.

Here is the city hospital. “I took my first breath here when I arrived on this planet! This is where it all started for me!” – I am suddenly struck by the deep meaning behind those words.

Across the street there is a grocery store. “Mom used to buy my favorite peach juice there after picking me up from daycare… And the store next to it used to sell loafs of steaming, freshly baked bread with an intoxicating smell and hot, crunchy crust that didn’t stand a chance!” “They also had my childhood addiction – full of snow-white, rich cream, mouth-watering éclairs for 22 kopeks…,” – memories continue flooding my mind.

I look around and notice some changes that have taken place since I left – some apartment buildings have been painted new bright colors, some trees have been cut, there are new stores everywhere and there are definitely many more cars, quite a few of foreign makes – something I had never seen in the Soviet Union, of course…

The town has definitely gone through some serious transformations and looks quite different, but I can still easily recognize its essence. I am sure the same can be said about me…

I am fascinated by the fact that I am now walking the same streets I had walked for the first sixteen years of my life – until I left for college – with the same feet that had taken me to school, to singing and piano classes, to the meetings with my friends…

I walk through the city parks and squares and allow my soul to soak in the lush green color that I so miss in Las Vegas…

I find it soothing to see so many people peacefully walking by me and leisurely sitting down on the benches to simply enjoy the pleasant evening outside. No eating or drinking, just indulging in quiet conversations with friends or family while watching their children or grandchildren run around or while silently staring at the beautiful trees and flowers everywhere. There is some meditative feel to the scene, and I am feeling content, tranquil and joyous…

I am passing several young mothers with strollers, who are quietly exchanging their babies’ latest news, and I smile at the realization that despite the fact that I’ve already been in Russia for more than three weeks, my ears are still expecting English to come out of people’s mouth, and every time I feel a slight shock when it’s Russian that I hear instead…

I keep walking in the city parks filled with happy screams of little children chasing each other, playing some silly children’s games… just like I did more than thirty years ago in the same parks and playgrounds…

I could wander like this for hours, but I take a turn towards home…

Among other things, this trip to Russia has been about reconnecting with my roots, embracing my heritage and integrating my past before starting a new phase in my life, and I feel like some deep healing has been occurring and all is well…

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