“Where are you going?” P asked me on the phone during my monthly calls to Motha Russia, after I announced that I was busy packing.
“Eh. A little bit here and there,” I answered while measuring the contents of my closet against the mouth of my giant suitcase, gaping open on the floor. “Here and there. You know.”
I haven’t really finalized my travel plans yet. I mean: I knew I was heading back to Motha Russia — eventually. That explained the uproar currently happening in the family: They haven’t seen me in sixteen years, so the homecoming trip promised to be loaded.
But I wasn’t making that daunting trip for another couple of months. In the mean time, I was giving up my apartment and packing up my giant suitcase.
Apparently there was nothing out of the norm about the vagueness of my plans, because P was agreeing with me, quite enthusiastically:
“Da, da, da!” he said. “I’m listening.”
Dad had always been on my side. He had to be; because I never left him much of a choice but to get used to the nomadic habits of mine. I mean: All I ask for — is my freedom. Is that so hard?
But apparently, in order to accept my antsy temperament and the life-long addiction to wanderlust, I also ask for a lot of trust. Trust was exactly what I relied on when I announced my initial decision — sixteen years ago — to leave Motha Russia in pursuit of my education abroad. Trust was demanded when I later moved to New York, for the same reason; or when I committed the daunting trip back to Cali after my share of victories and defeats on the East Coast.
All along, my relocations were telegraphed to my folk back in Motha Russia on a monthly basis. Considering the homeland chaos, I took it upon myself to keep the connection alive; and I would call, from wherever I landed.
“I’m here, for a little bit. Here and there. You know,” I’d say, while unpacking another giant suitcase.
As far as I was concerned, I was fulfilling my daughterly obligations beautifully. So, whenever P would voice as much as a hesitation or a worry, I’d go bonkers:
“I mean… All I’m asking for — is my freedom! Is that so hard?”
P wouldn’t have much of a choice. So, he would agree with me, quite enthusiastically:
“Nyet, nyet, nyet,” he’d say. “I’m listening.” (Dad had always been on my side.)
No one knows the responsibility of freedom better — than those of us who vow our lives to its pursuit.
I mean: All I am asking for — is my freedom. And all I am asking of my loves — is trust.
My addiction to wanderlust began in the first years of my life. Mere months after my birth, P — who devoted his life to building the Soviet Empire as an Army man — was being relocated from the East Coast of Motha Russia into the less populated inlands. The first couple of our moves would be done by train; and in the beginning of his career, P could track his ascent through the ranks by the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
“You’d always sleep easily, on trains,” he’d say any time I told him about the utter calmness I feel these days, when on a railroad.
His bigger promotion would take us into the middle of the country — into much more brutal winters and lands. For first time in my life, we would have to take a plane ride.
I wouldn’t be older than a year when motha packed me into a tiny suitcase that she kept unzipped on her lap during the 4-hour flight. She would have to get inventive and make a transient crib out of it, stuffing it with a pillow. I would be bundled up into a blanket and wrapped with a ribbon: A tradition taught to Russian mothers by the brutal winters of my Motha’land.
For the duration of the flight, I wouldn’t fuss at all.
“All I could see from my seat — was your button nose peaking out of the tiny suitcase: You were sleeping,” P would tell me whenever I confessed about the utter peace I always feel these days, when up in the air.
In order to feed my life-long addiction to wanderlust, I’ve had to grow up quite quickly. Motha Russia wouldn’t leave my generation much of a choice after the collapse of the Soviet Empire that our parents devoted their lives to building. So, instead of living in ruins, many of us chose to pursue a life — and an education — elsewhere. So, we packed our tiny suitcases and we left. We had to give up our childhood — and to grow up.
Because all we asked for — was our freedom. And for my generation, it was indeed very, very hard.
Because all I’ve asked for — is my freedom. And as someone who’s vowed her life to the pursuit of it, I’ve paid all the consequences of my choices in full — and they have indeed been very, very hard.
“Da, da, da! I’m listening!” P is always saying, quite enthusiastically, on the phone.
He — is always on my side.
And after sixteen years of my untimely adulthood, he agrees with my pursuit of that calmness and peace that I always feel when transient; when in pursuit of my self-education — when in pursuit of my freedom.