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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…

not yet


It is far too simple to say she is growing up too fast. Maybe it is better to say, too quickly for me to adjust to. It was only a year ago that she had long hair, and a sort of shy grace. Now her hands wave around in the air when she talks, as if she is whipping egg whites with them. Her smile hides behind nothing now, hair shorter and shorter until she gets mistaken for a boy. Well, that's just how people think here, where girls her age still wear a giant bow that perches on the top of their head for the first day of school. She wears a black plastic choker instead. 

It is not the external changes that throw me. She was going to grow into a woman eventually, and as it happens in leaps and bursts I do not feel any turns in my stomach or wishes for her to stay a little peanut, my sidekick off on another rainy day adventure. It's not that. It is the growing independence, the "I'm going to go outside with a girl from my class for a few hours" that throws me. And of course I want her to have friends, especially good ones. It is the fact that she never did this before, this skipping down the stairs alone. It is the closed door of her bedroom. It is the odd absence in the house that afternoon, as I work and write and stare out the windows before starting dinner. It is the feeling that she is gone, even for a few hours. I want her to be independent, I coax her to do things by herself, but the knife cuts both ways. 

That growing personal life, the acres of secrets and ideas and diaries - it gives me a little bit of vertigo. There was a day when I knew everything going on in her head, so I could play damage control, cleaning up the messes and weathering the storms with her hand in mine. But now, she chews on things herself. I wasn't ready for that just yet. 





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