The First Trip I Remember: September 1968

In the Soviet Union, virtually everybody had a month of vacation time a year, no matter how long you worked in a particular place. Taking vacations in parts was rarely an option. Under these circumstances, everybody wanted to take vacations during summer, but if everybody took a month of vacation in summer, it would not be easy to keep operations running. Most workplaces had a vacation schedule for a year, and there was a lot of drama around who should have a preference for summer months vacations. Priority was always given to parents because if you recall, a good parent had to do everything possible and impossible to provide an opportunity for a child to spend summer in the countryside or resort.

Granted, childless people would get summer vacation time, too, and sometimes even parents of small children had to compromise. Thus, in 1968, mom had her vacation in September. After spending summer at the dacha with my detskiy sad, I got one more month of summer – we were going to the South. That’s how people used to say these days: not to Georgia, not to Crimea, not to Krasnodarskiy region – just to the South. I recently asked mom why she chose Loo – a suburb of Sochi in the Krasnodarskiy region as our final destination. Did she know somebody there? Did somebody give her the address of our future landlords? She says she does not remember. It was not uncommon that people would come to small resort places that lived off the tourists and rent a room or just a bed on the spot.

I have more pictures from our second trip t the same place a year later and just a few from September 1968, so I will try to write down what I remember.

The train from Leningrad took three nights and two full days to reach the destination, and most of the time, we were going through Ukraine. At five, I was fascinated with a country that looked different from what I had ever seen in my life. Mom told me that the white-walled houses I saw along the railroad were called haty. Sunflowers were growing by each of these cheerful houses – I never have seen them before, and the combination of white and bright yellow instantly made me happy. I stood by the window and couldn’t have enough of the sunny sights.
We shared a sleeper compartment with another family heading South: mother, father, and daughter of approximately my age. Strangely, but I remember how this girl looked, and I remember that we were playing with dolls, and I even remember how her mom was explaining the bandaid on the girl’s chin ” That’s not us who put it in such an odd way, its a medical worker.”

We never went to the dining car, the conductor always had tea with sugar cubes, and we ate whatever rations we took from home, mostly boiled eggs and cold potatoes. The locals would come to the train at some stops and offer some homemade meals and produce, and I remember us buying hot, freshly boiled potatoes, buttery and mixed with dill, and sour cherries.

And then, on the third day, we arrived at Loo and disembarked, and the first thing I remember seeing was a giant cypress tree. I never saw anything like this before, and for the rest of my life, cypress meant warmth, resort, vacation – it meant South.

Maybe It’s Just Me, But..

On one of the last year’s trips, I had to check in my carry-on red Samsonite (yes, I had two, both gifts from Boris, both weight virtually nothing, and both cost a fortune). It came back with the broken zipper lock. It broke because I didn’t secure the ends of that zipper. And I didn’t secure the ends because I had trouble unlocking them a couple of times. Boris always insisted that I should lock them in because that’s what they are for, and I was always afraid I wouldn’t be able to unlock them. That time last year, I didn’t plan to check in this luggage, so I didn’t bother, and as a result, the entire lock was gone. I was still able to close the zipper with my fingers all the way, but I lost the flexibility of being able to do it from the middle. So, everything still worked but was inconvenient, and I started to think that I needed a new carry-on. 

The Samsonite holiday sale was on, and this exact model, which was not sold in the US before, showed up. After joining EDB, I decided I could give myself a gift and purchased it.

When the luggage arrived, I kept it in the closet and didn’t even look at it – I knew exactly how it looked inside and out. And then, before my trip to Milwaukee, I pulled it out and realized that it was locked! The lock was slightly different from the previous luggage, and I had no idea how to open it! Finally, I managed to open it by trial and error, and guess what I found?! The instructions on how to open were inside!

Romance In Our Lives

Yesterday’s visit to mom was one of these visits when she retells her life going through the usual circle. One of the stories she shared with me shortly after she came to the US was her very long romantic relationship with one of he co-workers. She was divorced at the time, and somehow I can’t recall whether he was married or not. I remember that her very last romantic relationship was with a married man, but I can’t recall what she said about that one. In any case, they would meet once a month and go to one of the suburbian parks and picnicked by one old oak stump, and they sometimes would see a play, and he also recorded a lot of audio tapes for her, basically audio letters with music.

Where I am getting is that when she retells this story, she always makes a point to mention that it was purely romantic and that there was nothing sexual in these relationships, and that’s “not how people are these days,” and that “nowadays generation does not understand.” I always listen to this politely and never ask her what is so good about “nothing sexual,” especially between people in their 30s. However, yesterday, there was a new addition to this story because she continued to something along the lines “every parent wants their children to be happy,” and then “sometimes I am sorry for you that you didn’t get what you deserve.” Then she proceeded to her usual paragraph about Boris speeding up my professional career and how she “never asks personal questions.”

It shocked me, to be honest, probably because I am so used to people commenting that they envy the never-ending romance I have in my life. So much that sometimes I have to explain that there are not only roses:). Yes, those who hear about our “long-distance relationship” for the first time often think (or even say) that that’s not right. But everybody who knows us knows how much in love we are. Not writing off all storms and all fights we had in the past, we are the biggest gift to each other.

Now I am really curious what she thinks I missed in life :). If anything, I felt sorry for her for a long time because I thought that she never had a complete and absorbing relationship of hers. I thought that was why she was so jealous of me and hated Boris and our relationships. Later she told me about her other relationship, and I realized that she actually had a good one in the second half of her life, and I stopped being sorry for her in this particular case. What she is sorry for me about, is still a mystery ๐Ÿ™‚

The Lake. Any Time Of The Year

The other day, an Uber driver who drove me and mom home from EuroAsia restaurant told us that he used to live almost where mom lives now, and he now lives in Arlington Heights. I laughed and told him that we just moved in the opposite direction. But what was really funny was that he immediately started talking about the thrill of living a block from the lake, almost in the same words as I talk about it: I never lived so close to the water, it was unreal!

… I walk to the lake several times a week, and in winter, it is as beautiful as it is during the warmer season.

Old Photos – Summer 1995

In early December (a Christmas promotion) I sent several random old items to be professionally digitized. I already showed two home moves from that batch. The other two were one mom’s old black-and-white film and a stack of my colored slides from different times and places.

I almost forgot that at some point, Boris took these pictures of us at the Peterhoff Fountain Park.

Continue reading “Old Photos – Summer 1995”

How Crazy A Birthday Can Go

Almost like the year 2021, my birthday turned more eventful than I would like it. I only slept for 3.5 hours the night before because I needed to finish a report (I had to present it to the customer at 10 AM the following day). A coworker told me that he would help me to process the raw data (the program which should be doing it ended with unexplained errors), and then he didn’t. After I realized that I wouldn’t get any help and I would need to process the data manually, I could not get to the task right away. I had two medical appointments to which I had to take my mom, and then I had Chicago PUG. So I started at 8:30 PM, worked till 1 AM, slept until 4:30, and then continued.

On top of it, it turned out that I had a COVID contact over the weekend, and then I had an unexpected day of fatigue on Monday, which under the circumstances could be interpreted as COVID. So it was home testing, frantic talks with Boris about whether I should exchange my ticket, looking for a testing site nearby (and I had zero time for all of that – see the previous paragraph).

I had a great meeting with a client, went to COVID test, got a negative result, shared with Boris, and then instead of going to sleep, when to the EuroAsia restaurant with Igor and Mom to celebrate my birthday.

The only thing I can think of now is sleeping, and wishing that not the whole year will be like that!

About New Year Resolutions

Speaking about my New Year resolutions, I am very determined to put them into action and have already made multiple changes to my daily activities. For one week, I did what I hadn’t done for a while – recorded all my activities through the day and what I spent time on, including things I do in parallel, like exercising and listening to an audiobook.

Another thing I am trying to be consistent with is going to bed before 11 PM, preferably at 10:30 PM. I am up around 4-30 AM regardless of the day of the week, and I know that although for a while, five and a half hours was enough sleep for me, now it is six hours. I didn’t sleep enough in December, and it negatively affected everything in my life. There are still only a few days when I go to bed at 10:30, but at least it’s always before 11.

And yet another thing I am trying to be more aware of is the time I spend on social media. Funny story – most people think they should do less of it, while I know I need to do more :). There was not enough of my professional presence at the end of 2021. I am allocating enough time to do meaningful things on LinkedIn and my professional blog. Also, I started using Twitter because it is professionally required. I am still struggling to do it in a meaningful way :).

Also, I am working really hard on not abanding relationships I have with many people, in real life and virtually. It’s easy to say, “I have no time for this,” but it goes both ways: people need me, and I need them. I am trying to reach out to those from whom I didn’t hear for a while because I understand that sometimes they also feel uneasy to contact me because they think it was “too long” and “I am busy.” So far, it proved working ๐Ÿ™‚

More House Repairs

The Christmas tree ordeal was not really that bad. The real problem happening at the same time was my furnace. I knew that both the furnace and AC were old when I moved in and that, ideally, I had to replace them both. But having the list of things that didn’t work at the time of my move, I decided to try to last through the winter. Actually, after I refinanced, I theoretically could replace the furnace, but at that time, all my work things started, and I had no bandwidth to think about any house repairs. 

Well, it didn’t last through the winter. Moreover, it broke on Sunday morning. And it was a cold morning :). 

Out of four places I called for emergency service, only one was able to come the same day. They fixed the furnace, and I signed a service agreement with them, and when they asked whether I wanted to replace the furnace, I agreed. And I agreed to replace the air conditioner at the same time :). We agreed on the installation date of January 19, but the furnace stopped working the next morning again! They came and fixed it. They left the door off and showed me which button to push for restart. And a couple of hours later, their manager called and asked me whether I wanted the new furnace to be installed immediately … 

So now I have a new furnace, a new air conditioner, and a couple of takeaways.

  • The brick buildings can keep the warmth! There was no heating for seven hours, and the lowest the indoor temperature went down was 63F.
  • Only do business with companies that provide emergency service during after-hours.
  • When it’s time to replace, replace. 
  • In many cases, it’s good to work from home!