Look homeward

I was in the U.S. Embassy applying for a new passport for Lyovka the other day.

If you’ve been in Moscow long enough, you’re struck by how efficient and friendly the staff at the U.S. Embassy tend to be (on a sidenote: when my Russian husband and I were getting our paperwork approved at the Foreign Ministry in order to get married on Russian soil, everyone was also really efficient and friendly as well – and that’s when it strikes you, the huge difference between the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Migration Service. The former is alright. The latter is Mordor). Nobody’s angry at you for showing up. If you couldn’t print the PDF form, they just provide you with one. There are comfy chairs in the waiting room. There’s a playroom too – where I nursed Lyovka last August.

At the security post. U.S. Marines watch you with their feet propped up. You wonder how they get on in the city. You want to go home. You remember that you no longer have one. “We’re women, our choices are never easy.”

I always knew that I would leave North Carolina one day, but not before it rewrote my DNA, made the arrow in my inner compass point ever westward. North Carolina is a chronic illness. The outbreaks are always inconvenient.

And there is so much death on the news. You want it to be meaningful – it is not. You want to mythologize death – it will not be mythologized. Planes fall out of the sky. Doctors kill infants through neglect – and grandly tell the mother frozen in the hospital corridor that “but you gave birth to a very sick child, we have all of the necessary paperwork – that we just made up to cover our asses.” People spend their days killing other people and go home to their families in the evening – talk shows scream from the windows of their apartments. The old are always burying the young.

You need permits to do anything, permits to live, permits to breathe – and yet no one needs a permit to stomp a bloody trail through someone else’s life. It just happens. These things happen. “We wanted what was best – it turned out like always.” Shrug.

When he sleeps in his mustard-colored pajamas, Lyovka looks a bit like a squash. After we put him to bed, we drink wine. If my husband is off working on a movie, I’ll write. Self-righteous middle-aged American women who may or may not drive SUV’s but tend to have “accepted Christ as their personal savior” send me nasty messages on Facebook – because I became a mother without asking Sallie Mae for permission. “I would have never had children if I were still in debt!” “Enjoy your rootless existence, watching your child grow up without a home!”

Lyovka’s concept of home is currently defined by me and his father. When he made his first trip to the Embassy, he spent most of it sleeping in his sling, tied tightly to my body like a baby kangaroo. “Can I see him?” The consular staff member asked. I came closer to the glass. This was official procedure. His birth was being recorded – we were notifying the government of his existence.

“Wow. What a peaceful sleeper.”

Two countries mingled within him, borders rearranged, and he slept on.

5 thoughts on “Look homeward

  1. I am reading Paustovsky’s book “Story of a Life”. It’s a beautiful book. Thank you for turning me onto it. I begin to understand something about the attraction of your life over there, even considering the differences between now and 1910.

  2. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? People think they have the right to judge you? HellOOO??? Are they fucking crazy? At least you went back to work in every sense of the word to provide for your boy when others would have thought it was impossible.

    You did it to give him a future to grow up to – two parents who worked their asses off to become the people they want to be, to pass on a legacy of achievement, hard work, dedication and a desire to follow one’s dreams to their child.

    That’s more of a ‘home’ than a McMansion and an SUV will ever give offspring.

  3. You have a beautiful family, kid. That’s all that matters. The woman who wrote you is jealous. She sees you – and her wasted life is reflected back to her.

  4. Wait…what? Children without debt? I didn’t know that was possible. Perhaps in the future you could simply refer to Aunt Sallie Mae and her constant presence. While I don’t feel the pull of another country, I do feel it from the High Plains of West Texas, and pine for it from time to time. I miss men who smell like cow poo, vinegar-sauced beef barbeque, and the constant 15mph wind.

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