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cold nostalgia

There is a note, stuck to the front entrance of our building. The hot water will be turned off for ten days. This is something that happens every summer, although it snowed a week ago and children wander the playgrounds in ski hats these days. At night it can be 40 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot water is always turned off like this, at some point during June or July. It is a long-standing Soviet tradition, and people begrudgingly accept it here. But the baby, V does not. She wants to stand in a hot bath before she goes to sleep, to splash and pour water all around her, and N. She wants to stand and wiggle her tiny hands under the spout, as she grows pink and clean, as she howls and shouts for us to see what new trick she has improvised. There is no explanation for her, why the hot water is off today, and will be tomorrow. She is angry, furious even.

I used to buy the story that this offered a chance for the water department to fix pipes, to take care of routine maintenance. Hot water c…

perfect water

Today carries a certain perfection in the Russian calendar. In truth, all water is considered holy on this day. People make their way to churches, empty bottles tucked under their arms, or knocking against each other in strong bags from Ikea. I am one of them.

I enter the monastery that blooms so random and wild in the summer. Now, an ice sculpture stands in front of the church - a crudely carved angel, her head bowed in grace. Inside, the rooms are lit only by candles and the patches of sunlight that make their way to the icons that cover the walls. Incense remains heavy in the air, familiar and comforting. I buy two candles and light them in front of my favorite one. I do not need to pay anything for them, but do all the same. One for E and one for me.

We came here yesterday as I had mistaken the day of perfect water. It was during a service. Her eyes wide, she stood completely silent and still for some time. People stood (as there are no pews in Russian Orthodox churches). They stood in their winter coats with warm hats shoved in their pockets. They stood in awkward poses as this is what you do when you stand for a long time.

Now, I am in line and see giant silver vats full of sacred water. Old women dispense them, carefully placing funnels and little white pans on the floor so not a drop is wasted. They say the water is chemically perfect on this day, and that you may drink from this bottle during the year when you are sick. They say you may put a bit of this water on the walls and floor of your apartment to make it a good home.

Sometimes I drink it in the morning - -just a splash at the bottom of a little cup. I drink it at truly difficult moments, after I look at the sky or my hands through it. It tastes wonderful, like the well water I drank as a boy on the farm.





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