Setting In - Part IV
On a cold January morning, our family arrived at the Sheremetyevo airport. One person came to see us off. He deserves a post in his honor.
This guy, that I will call Nick, was a college friend of Mr. Goldie’s. Before Mr. Goldie and I even met, Nick had a brief crush on me. He followed me around the campus for days till I told him to get lost. Ironically, I ended up marrying his close friend; even more ironically, Nick’s family relocated to a small town a few hours away from us. Nick came to visit about once a month, and usually stayed overnight.
Each month, Nick arrived all excited about a new idea, or political affiliation. One thing about Nick was, he couldn’t stay in the center. His political affections were always extreme. One month he was a Communist; next time, he was a Monarchist. One time he came to visit, he was a Russian nationalist, and launched into a long speech about how the Jews are the root of all evil. I listened for a while, then stood up and walked out of the room. Mr. Goldie clued Nick in about my ethnicity, and asked him to refrain from this topic in the future. That didn’t faze Nick. He didn’t remain Russian nationalist for long, anyway. I think he had adult ADD or something.
Eventually, Nick got married, and on one of his visits, he brought his wife along. The wife was a nice girl, about seven months pregnant. After Nick had one too many drinks with his dinner, he launched into a long story about how he ran into an old female classmate of his on the subway in Moscow, but couldn’t even say hi to her as he was going up on the escalator, and she was going down. Nick told us he should have turned around, run after the classmate, and caught up with her so they could chat about the old times. He couldn’t forgive himself for not saying hi to her, so he kept repeating the story, until this came out of his mouth:
“I should’ve done it. I should’ve talked to her. We would have probably ended up going to my apartment, I would’ve screwed her…”
Nick’s wife jumped up and sprinted out of the room. I had never seen a very pregnant woman run so fast. They made up an hour later.
Nick was obnoxious. Nick was loud. Nick was not so bright. Nick was eerily reminiscent of Kelso from That 70s Show. Nick spouted ideas that made my hair stand up on end. At the same time, Nick was the kindest soul, always ready to help. He was in some sort of business that was going well. He was loaded; we were barely meeting ends meet. Each time Nick came to our house, he brought so much food he could barely carry it. Nick played with the kids, for which I was eternally grateful, as I desperately needed a break.
And Nick was the only person that came to see us off at the airport. Thank you, Nick.
Our belongings were so pathetic that we passed the customs with no problems. Once a customs employee became interested when I admitted we were carrying icons, but quickly lost interest when she saw the icons in question. We boarded the plane, and, ten hours later, landed in New York.
The Goldies in New York
Apparently, our plane to Cleveland did not leave until the next day. Not only that, but it left from a different airport. So, we were taken to a motel where we had to spend the night. HIAS provided the bus there and to the Cleveland flight the next morning. There were some fifteen to twenty families on the bus, all of us from the same plane.
The walk through the airport to the bus was a nightmare. ChinchillaBoy hadn’t slept a minute on the plane, and I was exhausted. He, on the other hand, was upbeat and enjoying the sights. His favorite turned out to be the drug-sniffing dog. LilProgrammer, too, was excited to be in a new airport, and kept wandering off and getting lost.
We had to go down an escalator. I was dragging my feet along, trying to figure out how to get a baby in a stroller down the escalator, when we heard a collective gasp of horror. I looked down the escalator, and sure enough, my son LilProgrammer was lying down on the stairs. He had gone on it all by himself, and had tripped and fallen down. While we all watched, frozen with fear, LilProgrammer calmly got up, got off the escalator, and went on his merry way.
Finally we got to the hotel. While I unpacked, both children disappeared. We found them in the bathroom. There were a few miles of TP on the floor, and both kids were happily washing their hands in the toilet. They had never seen a toilet before that had so much water in it. Russian toilets are designed differently.
I carried the kids back into the room, and walked back to the lobby. All fourteen families from the bus were standing there. When they saw me, their eyes lit up.
“Ask them when we’re going to eat,” they said to me.
I was surprised. Why me? Okay, I asked. The guy at the front desk said, in an hour. So I still had time to make a phone call to my parents in Cleveland. They picked up right away.
“Hi Dad! We’re in New York! We’re in a hotel. We’re fine.”
“We’ll be in Cleveland tomorrow afternoon.”
“Will you meet us?”
“How’re you doing?”
I hung up the phone, thinking, Wow, Dad sure is Americanized now. Listen to him saying “okay”! It just rolls off his tongue. I was very impressed, and intimidated. Will I ever fit into American life as well as my Dad did?
In the morning, we turned on the TV. We switched the channels until we got to PBS. Barney was on. All four of us watched in awe.
“So this is what American television is like“, I thought. “Way cool.”