But then much of the magic of childhood is gone, and every New Year's Eve I can't help but remember all the times we hid under bedframes to hide from thunderstorms while the older kids battled them by tossing flour from the balcony into the rain. Or the evening swims in the river, when everybody from the town came to seek refuge from the daily summer heat, when everybody was only an unfamiliar shadow with a familiar voice, and a common tone of happiness. I miss the birches, and how the wind tangled their leaves with the same warm touch that it spun through our hair. Every New Year's Eve I miss the Russia that I remember.
I remember a country that wasn't political. My only political association then was thinking that Yeltsin looked like a fat pig and I didn't like him for that. My other political association was that I knew, somehow, that Clinton had oral with some chick whose name sounded complicated and foreign. I thought that meant they brushed their teeth together and I didn't understand why Americans were so upset.
I remember a country in which it was okay to stop by a neighbor's house to ask them for iodine when one of us fell from trying to jump between the garage roofs. I remember a country in which alcoholism was just a brief example of something you should never do. I remember a country of love, strength, and support. But what I remember is through the eyes of a child, and I wish I still had that sort of vision.
I remember a particular night. We left our tiny apartment, just the three of us, and played in the snow so long that I thought I could see the age melt from my parents' faces as they laughed. Then people gathered in the snowy field, as if meeting to see a miracle happen. They were people we didn't know, but the simple act of sending off a tired old year in exchange for a new one made them friends. We lit fireworks and the whole sky was aflame with color. People shouted, embraced, and celebrated another year gone by. It was as if everyone saw the moment with eyes of children- they saw friends in strangers, they saw the majesty of the night, and the sacredness of companionship. I knew in that moment that God was watching His world, and I felt His grace in a way that I could never relate, but that moment of peace was the best proof in the divine.
I wonder, if I was in Russia once more, if that moment could happen again, but I doubt it. Russia has grown up with me, loosing its integrity for worldly callousness. Or maybe it's just me. Still, as I am about to face a new year without any reverence for the night or any true feeling of renewal, I pray that those moments can be repeated even in this new world that we have created. I pray for honesty, for bravery, for companionship, for faith, and for joy. And I pray that we learn to see the world in a way that we all knew, although perhaps a very long time ago.
Happy New Year.