Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Russia


I feel like I live in Russia, while everyone around me lives in America.

It's been blisteringly cold here, and, because I don't know how to drive, I've been taking my son to his twice-weekly nursery school on a sled (everyone else rumbles past me in four-wheel drive). One of the main reasons I chose this school was that it's in walking distance, about a half-mile away. We got the sled after I tried getting there in the stroller one day after a snowstorm. We were unprepared for the fact that after snowstorms in our new town, there is snow banked up at every curbside, and not everyone shovels the walk in front of their homes. I ended up making my son walk while I dragged the stroller behind me through the snow. A kind woman rolled down her windshield to ask if we needed help, and a crew of sanitation workers commandeered their garbage truck in our direction, thinking my car had broken down. It was too complicated to explain to them that we were recently arrived from a place where one doesn't need to drive. From the looks of us, we might as well have been from Russia.

My sister said that I reminded her of the Lapland Woman from Hans Christian Anderson's wonderful tale "The Snow Queen," who, because she never wastes anything, writes a message to the Finland woman on a dried cod. Let's hope that even these experiences won't go to waste.

10 comments:

Janet said...

I've felt something like that all my life. It's not so bad.

I've been meaning to write you a longish email about humility, which makes me think I must not have any, but I'm in my busiest time of year. And while I sometimes have a bit of time, it never coincides with moments when I can think clearly.

AMDG,
Janet

Pentimento said...

I look forward to your email when you have time, Janet. I just found a wonderful poem about humility that I'm going to post here.

Mrs. T said...

Wow, here are all my real-life friends! First Sheila, now Janet . . . hail and well met.

The Snow Queen is hands-down my favorite fairy tale ever. It just seems breathtaking to me every time I read it. And I love that detail about the note written on the cod.

Pentimento said...

Oh, I agree, Mrs. T. The Snow Queen is special. Breathtaking, yes, and engrossing and deepening somehow. You really feel like you've returned from a different world when you put it down.

Mrs. T said...

And I also meant to say, I love the idea of pulling a child someplace on a sled. We've got the sled, just not the snow . . .

Pentimento said...

It is kind of funny, isn't it, to use a sled as a means of transport rather than recreation! It was 8 degrees here yesterday when I took my son to school on the sled, but we were all bundled up, and we had a blast. I'm sure anyone looking out their window thinks I'm out of my mind, or from Russia.

I suppose this blog is a way of writing a message on a dried codfish . . .

Mrs. T said...

Brr, 8 degrees. It's been in the twenties here, I think, and that's cold enough. We've just been hunkered down with cups of tea for the past several days. My kids are wishing and wishing that it would snow, and I'm hoping we'll get a little before the winter's out.

I do drive, but I don't if I can help it, so we frequently get looks, too, as we hike around town. We got more looks in Memphis than here, but here we still get them. If anyone asks, I'll just say we're from Russia, where we use words like "acendoc." My verification-code word, naturally.

Pentimento said...

I guess that walking is just not commonly done in the U.S. outside of some major urban areas. That is a little depressing. There's nothing better than taking walks in my book, but hard to do if you're in a place where there's no sidewalk or that's not well-lit (we do have sidewalks here, but they are under-utilized).

Janet said...

I love the Snow Queen, also. That mirror is such a great analogy for evil. In the Shelley Duvall version, the Snow Queen turns out to be really good. Yuk! I think Ms. Duvall has a splinter in her eye.

I think you've seen me here before, Mrs. T., because when you did, you asked me if I really did know everybody.

AMDG,
Janet

Mrs. T said...

That's right, I did. I'd forgotten.

I remember feeling completely disoriented on returning to the Southern U.S. after 4 years in England, where we hadn't had a car, so I'd done everything I had to do on a bike or on foot and liked life that way. The part of our hometown where we found ourselves did have sidewalks, for which we were grateful, but it was the burbs, and things were spread out, and when I walked places, I was always the ONLY person striding along the sidewalk while the cars whizzed past. It really wasn't interesting or pleasant at all.

I do like living in my small town, where we're right off the square and can walk to a number of things. The one thing that's missing is any kind of market where I could go to get eggs, say, without having to drive. There is a gas station/convenience mart not that far away, now that I think of it, though I balk at paying convenience-mart prices for a carton of eggs or a gallon of milk. But generally I can manage shopping in two-week increments, so that I don't get caught out that much.

One thing we thought seriously about when we were moving -- since we knew from the get-go that we couldn't afford the house we wanted in the town where my husband's teaching job is -- was to find someplace "on a human scale," as my husband put it. That translated into finding a place where we could go places on foot and, presumably, run into other people on the street or in the shops who would come to recognize us. That part has happened, and I appreciate it.

Ah, and now the washing machine seems to be overflowing. *sigh*