Skip to main content


you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

three years

There have always been fortresses, steep walls that protect jewels and royal blood, important papers and swords. I used to think the world кремль or Kremlin meant "wall", red brick upon red brick and nothing more. In the same breath, the Kremlin means power and ultimate rule, decisions handed down for everyone to follow without question. There is something completely closed, absolutely epic about this. It allows for no messy surprises, no air to sweep through windows that blows papers from desks, no random accomplishments. Behind these walls everything is known and nothing changes. To those inside, nothing exists beyond those great doors, just shadows and light, earth and water, sky and cloud.

I have seen the believers and walked among them, those that want their lives decided for them. I have seen them far beyond the filthy streets of Moscow. I have watched them laugh and drink, growing fat and sunburned and proud in the summer sun. They may be some of the happiest people I know. They take naps in the afternoon and wake to the sound of children playing, the sun now low, plates set out on the table for a family meal.

I have known people that forget what they see as it happens, retelling stories to themselves that paint more forgiving pictures. The truth is fragile at best, and it surrenders to wish and ambition, to regret and fear like breadcrumbs swept under a rug. I think they sleep well, having ironed out the wrinkles, pressing them away with steam and hot steel.

But honestly, I do not know.

The bricks remain, the fortress intact. Children wiggle in the grass. The sky is full of clouds. The beer is foamy and cold. It smells of soap and wet leaves.

N took us to a jazz festival outside of the city three years ago, a day of sunshine and blankets, of music burping from speakers and the quiet ride home with E fast asleep in the back seat. It was one of the first times she and E were together for more than a few minutes, since the first night we all met. There was a moment when E asked N to take her to a playground that was there, not me and I laughed with surprise and then said of course. I can remember sitting there, feet folded under me on the blanket as people stood and danced with a cup dangling loose in one hand. I remember closing my eyes and leaning back, seeing orange balloons loose in the sky.

I remember E playing with a black plastic dragon I had bought her in New York, with wings that flapped. She was very proud of that toy and still has it close to her bed. She ran around us for hours as she made it fly.

Yesterday, we went to the same festival. This time there were children for her to play with, a soccer ball to scramble over, a boy and a girl who would all run back to us with sweat on their faces as they asked for some cherries or to buy them an ice cream. At one point we opened the umbrellas and they played under them, out of the sun for a little while. As the boxes of food we had prepared were investigated by some ants, we ate and found friends, resting on elbows talking about vacations and what band was on next. I wore my favorite hat, because it was Father's Day.

A lot can happen in three years.


This comment has been removed by the author.
That picture of E made a man smile 55oo miles away. Delightful Joy. Precious.
ABSOLUTELY brilliant piece, Marco. A joy to come home to. I mean it.

Popular Posts

best personal blogs
best personal blogs