April 1960. Conneticut.
I've lived here in America a long time. My children were born here.
Sometimes, Anatevka feels so far away that it could be a dream. The day i and the rest of my family said goodbye was the last time any of us ever saw our village, and, in many cases, the last time we saw many of our neighbours and friends.
That was more than forty years ago.
But, oh, every spring i find myself growing homesick for our poverty-stricken, run-down little corner of home...
"Grandma!" Lindsey, my third eldest grandchild, runs to my side by the window and cranes her neck. "What are you looking for?"
It's just the same old garden to her- grass, a little too long, growing tussocky, the juniper bushes by the gate, the wild mint, the rusty swing in the corner, the decaying rose bush that Motel planted for me the year we moved in.
I think of that rose bush as one of the things i've picked up from America after all these years. We never grew flowers in Anatevka- they grew wild and unbidden everywhere that wasn't plowed over, so we never needed to, and in any case, flowers weren't what mattered. Crops were what mattered.
Mama would never have stood for us to waste time and effort tending something of so little value, not when there was so much other work to be done.
She's a bright child, perceptive... but how can i explain to an eight year old that i'm really looking for acres and acres of feilds, miles of empty land, in our tiny suburb? That i'm trying to see the wild, untamed vegetation, the buds bursting open, the vines climbing crazily over everything, the wide river where we washed our clothes... the spring that i remember from my own childhood.
That river was so much to us. Our drinking water we drew from the well in front of our house- clean and cold but still different to the water running from taps when i arrived here, however much i appreaciated the novelty- but it was the river we washed our clothes in, the river we brought our animals to drink. It was the river we played by as children.
I remember racing Chava and Hodel, from our house, down the hill, barefoot, to the edge of the water. We'd dip our toes in, splash water at one another (carefully, so Mama wouldn't see the wet spots on our skirts), pick wild flowers, make necklaces and crowns from the daisys and watch the women who'd wade in with baskets of laundry to scrub in the open air.
Then we got older, the three of us, and it would be Sprintze and Bielke playing on the riverbank, while one of us did the work.
I remember imagining my own children playing by the side of the same river, and then their children... but circumstances change. My grandchildren play in white-tiled, heated swimming pools, and my children have washing machines to wash the clothes.
Spring in the suburbs is neat, pretty and quiet, and i miss the vibrancy of spring in the country, something that my sons and their children will never fully understand. We were poor, in Aatevka.
We were poor, often hungry, uneducated and oppressed, but we had beautiful seasons bach home.