Can I see a frozen tear?
The weather has broken, cracked those positive temperatures across winter’s stubborn cranium, and the streets of Moscow have for days runneth forth with the mercifully melted snow. I, for one, am happy to see it go, though in its wake disappears the enchanted white-capped forests of not-so-yore and the long-delayed chance to go sledding one last time. At the risk of sounding frigid to Grandfather Frost, the novelty of snowfall has long since worn off.
In my heart of hearts, I knew the cold would never win me over, that regardless of how nice hot chocolate or brandy or snuggling might be, I will forever prefer the sun, a beer from a cooler (here, we put beer on the balcony to get colder quicker—than in the freezer), and, most of all, flip-flops. I came to Russia wanting to get my ass frozen, to walk away able to say I survived a Russian winter, even if many would suggest it wasn’t a particularly harsh one.
The worst month was February, the worst week the one in which Emma’s father arrived. (Until then, we just more or less stayed inside.) He’d tried to come before the bottom fell out of the thermometer, but the enigmatic visa process landed him here just as temperatures troughed: -27 degrees Celsius (-17 F). Sightseeing was a bitter affair as we dutifully, begrudgingly wrapped up to our icy eyeballs in layers for quick, wincing glances at the architecture, happier to just sit in a café and see what we could see, let our toes thaw. It took him a month to recover when he got home. We had to stay.
In March, it seemed to snow every day. The temperatures teetered near the zero mark in the day and bottomed-out at around minus ten during the nights. It was as if the snow had been waiting, and this strange new game of trickle and tease began. The stacks of shoveled snow, of dirty chopped ice chunks, would begin to melt a little in the afternoon, moistening the sidewalk into muddy puddles, and overnight, the sky would open up in blizzard form, dousing the place in powder again, melting away in the afternoon, keeping the sidewalks swampy.
This past week, the second of April, the pavements began to reemerge, the grassy knolls to once again be grassy, small moats of winter runoff forming at their bases. Today it feels like spring: The window open to allow a cool drift to fill the apartment, the sun punching through the curtain in defiance, a different and livelier noise coming up from the intersection. Yesterday, I looked from my classroom and thought how much more I’d rather be outside. Sure, no teacher wants to be in school, but it was the first time in ages, the exterior didn’t seem just as threatening.
So, I’ll say it now, relatively reassured that my yak-hair coat has been closeted for good this time: I came here; I survived a Russian winter.