Emma's New Armchair
As loyal followers of the Jonathon blog and/or Emmathon whirl-world tour, you know that, due to some rather suspect real estate negotiations, this week will be our last at our current apartment. The move has been an event cloaked in desperate optimism: the new hour-long commute an opportunity to stop in to see the city center more often, the new apartment being close to a great park and a market and a pub we like, an adventurous shake-up to provide a spark for our last three months in Moscow. However, before we make the journey over to Izmaylovo, I’d like to say some words about the place we are dearly departing.
It’s a funny thing how you settle, not in a bad way as happens with many aspect of life, but simply how apartments, parks, shops, sidewalks, a station become home, create that sigh of relief, offer that familiar chair or smell or smile. This flat, for all the trouble of getting here and all the chaos of leaving, feels like we belong. At the moment, I can see our boots toasting near the radiator. I can see Emma sitting on her side of the couch, donning a crochet hook and a resolute expression, and it’s surreal to think it will be her last Monday morning there, where she’s become a crochet master. It’s a funny thing that, no matter how many times we go, that feeling follows.
This time, though, we aren’t leaving Moscow, at least not yet, so the goodbyes seem premature. The two robust, oft-amused ladies at our local shop have just, on their own accord, learned to say “hello” in English, parrot-ing over a little greeting every time we walk in. The pickle lady at the market fills my order with minimum speech and maximum smiles, always cheerily providing a bonus head of garlic or taste of pickled slaw. We know our supermarket, the paths around our block, how to time getting to places, and the brass columns of Prazhskaya Station platform. These things have represented—even or especially in -20o temperatures—the comforts of home.
Now, we have to say goodbye, dasvidaniya, or, the more informal, paka, but that’s pretty much the useful extent we can muster in Russian. I try to imagine the mysterious emergence and the sudden disappearance of Emma and me, whether or not our friendly shop ladies, who have worried all winter over Emma’s coat, will even notice we’ve gone, and to what effect. They’ve meant a great deal to me, a source of familiar, of welcoming, of camaraderie, respects and emotions that language barriers prevent us from going beyond. Will they take comfort in Emma getting over her cold before we vanish or that beer will be sold wherever we are?
This past weekend, two of our students, Natasha and Masha, hosted us on a boat tour along the Moscow River. At the end of our tour, Natasha’s father, one of the captains of the Moscow River tour ship, had come on his day off to give us all a ride home, as well as foot the bill for the whole affair. To the point, approaching our district, he asked for our address, but neither Emma nor I could say. It was the first time we’d come back by car. This dichotomy—feeling so at home and not even knowing your location—will never cease to amaze me about our lifestyle. This is the reason it pains me to say goodbye and the same that assures me we'll be just fine come next Monday.