When I left my former “Motherland,” I was allowed to take anything I wanted – as long as I could pack it into two suitcases per person (actually, diamonds were not allowed, but I never had them; as for gold, the limit was one item per person, so my wedding ring qualified). For a family of three, this translated into six suitcases of bare necessities, and I cried packing 39 years of my life into them. I kept putting things in and taking them out, rearranging, pushing and pressing, but, in the end, all the treasures (or keepsakes) that made it into my suitcases were pictures: my parents’ and grandparents’, my sister’s and me, and my daughter’s as a baby and a toddler – one small album in all. The rest I gave out to friends and family who stayed behind. (Many of them left later, too, leaving their treasures to somebody else or throwing them away.)
This experience influenced me in two ways: one – I no longer have attachments to things, no matter how excited I might be at the time of their acquisition; two — memories became my treasures, and I have accumulated numerous photo albums to help me keep them alive.
Will anybody in my family be interested in my treasures after I’m gone? Probably not. Still, I spend countless hours with my camera (and later with my computer), taking, editing, and arranging my pictures.
This is not to say that 23 years in America did not influence me at all. Sure they did – from a city girl whose idea of adventure was going to the Black Sea and spending two weeks or so on the beach (those who’re watching the Sochi Olympics can see the kind of places I’m talking about :), I turned into a nature lover.
It’s hard to pinpoint how and when that happened. I remember laughing at my husband because of his love of bird watching. I recall complaining about sleeping in a tent beside a loudly babbling creek (well, at the age of 62, I don’t feel like sleeping in a tent now either:)) and hiking through places that, in my view, had nothing going for them – no art museums, no concert halls, not even movie theaters (!) – except for woods, rivers, wide open spaces, or canyons, while tiredly staring at my husband’s back.
But at some point, a miracle happened.
One day, I suddenly caught myself enjoying a dramatic Midwestern sunset.
Then I noticed the cobalt blue of Colorado sky and the monumental and imperturbable silhouettes of its mountains. Later yet, intricate shapes of ice floes floating down the Missouri River attracted my attention. And then, one day, I realized that seeing these everyday wonders had become a necessity for me and also, part of my memories – my keepsakes.
Of course, it could be that spending eight hours a day under the artificial lights of the library where I work has something to do with that, too:). Yet no matter, I crave walking along a trail, watching birds, and trying to find anything that would qualify for a photo.
Well, I still crave culture, too – music and paintings, singing and architecture.
But, if you think about it, it’s just another side of nature, man-made, so to speak, and at its best, it is amazing and beautiful in its own right – something that we should treasure, too.
So, here they are, my treasures. What are yours?
P.S. Those who’d like to see more of my treasured memories, click here.