First Move In the US

When I wrote this post, I thought I would write a couple of follow-ups right away, but then there was an Election Day and waiting and the new COVID surge. Three weeks later, I am finally back to that part of our family history.

I was always vague about why we had to move from Des Planes to Palatine and all the surrounding events. I didn’t want to bring this story to a public view and only told it to some people privately. Now that I am writing our family’s full and complete history let’s layout all the details.

If you recall, a person who introduced me, or rather a notion about me to CEO was G, the same guy who lived in the building across from mine in Saint Petersburg, the guy who was fired from Urbansoft, and because of whom I was fired a month later. He emigrated, he worked in the consulting company, and he told Pam about me. As a result, we emailed each other pretty intensely during these months before my departure. He had a seven-year-old daughter, and his wife was not working, so it was “assumed” that I will live in the same apartment building as they lived and that his wife will help me with the daycare. 

At some moment, Chris, the HR/office manager/secretary in, emailed me saying that G’s wife “agreed” to watch my kids on the school days off (I didn’t know that schools holidays in the US were different from everybody’s holidays); that she will cover if they are sick, and I do not even remember the whole list. When I forwarded this email to G, he replied that this is not true and that his wife needs time off as well. I could not figure out what was going on, but again, knowing nothing about American realities, I could not understand the magnitude of the problem.

Then, Pam sent me an email, explaining that “daycare is expensive,” and I didn’t get the message once again. 

In about a week, after obtaining school physicals, Vlad and Anna started to go to school. T, G’s wife, watched them before the bus come and then took them after school. Every day, she explained that she is ashamed when other moms are asking her how much she is paid and whether she if paid for a full day when kids are half-day at school. And each time when I was saying – let me pay you, she was: no-no, how I can ask you to pay when you have no money?!

It turned out that G. was hoping to make Pam pay his wife for babysitting, which, as Pam explained to me, she could not legally do even if she wanted to. I remember being at the client site with Val when Pam called them, asked me to the phone, and started inquiring about the possible conspiracy. I remember that I was crying right there, at the client site, and Val brought me coffee instead of water to help me stop crying 🙂

The whole situation was devastating. As much as I was afraid of speaking on the phone back then, I tried to research some possible daycare places, but nothing worked. The school day for Kindergarten was four hours long, and the bus would come later than I needed to get on the train. I didn’t drive; nothing was close enough, and I won’t be able to pick the kids up in the evening before six. 

That’s when Pam summoned me to her office and asked whether I wanted to work for her or G. and I just came up with this schema to get me a visa. I cried and said that I wanted to work for her; I could not even imagine how she could think otherwise. She said: good; then I know what to do. 

Then, she orchestrated this whole huge move, which I’ve described earlier. And before I describe the situation after the move, let me describe my financials as of the beginning of November 1996.

I had $300 minus whatever we spent on food in Copenhagen. When I came, I had to put a $300 security deposit and the eight days rent. November 1 came, and I was paid only for eight days of work in October, which was slightly over $600. On the same day, I had to pay my November rent and to survive until December 1. Pam lent me money on behalf of I already owed her security deposit plus eight days’ rent, and now it was another $1000+ I owed. On the first day, Pam bought twin beds and mattresses for Vlad and Anna; I believe about $300 per bed was billed to me. And now I had to move. 

Long story short, I ended up owing about $5000. Making $40,000 a year and supporting first two, and then three kids. 

The reason for me to move was an absence of any safety net in Des Planes. Pam wanted to bring me to the place with better schools, with closely situated daycare, and close to the office so that anybody could drive me to work, if necessary. 

She found the Countryside Apartments, located in walking distance from the YMCA. They had a move-in special for the second month rent-free, and she negotiated that I will pay my security deposit on the second month. She called Sanborn School, talked to Mr. Carmody, and made him place Vlad and Anna in the morning Kindergarten class so that I could pay a little bit less for daycare. She took me to the YMCA and helped me to fill in an application for free membership.

She did many other good things for us, but despite it, here was my grim reality. 

My monthly paycheck was $2,333 (yes, I still remember that). I paid $850 rent, about $40 for electricity, from $60 to $90 for the phone, depending on how many minutes a week I talked to mom and Boris. And then there were $218 a week for both kids in the Children’s World, with a sibling discount applied. First, Pam bravely told me that she would help me build the budget, but the numbers didn’t work. She stared at me: Henrietta, how did you live in Russia? What could I tell her? That we lived in one room, but I had liberty with all other expenses?…

It was poverty. Yes, we were not homeless, and yes, I counted my blessings, because unlike in Russia, the paycheck always arrived on the first of the month. But I had zero room for anything except necessities. And we had to live like that for many months. When on January 1, the Children’s World raised the fees, and I had to pay $232 a week, I cried. 

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

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