Today is a day off—U.S. Independence Day, Observed—so it turns out that I have all this time to do whatever I want. In reality that’s not exactly true, as Plans are afoot soon enough, but it’s positively glorious to have nowhere in particular to be for hours on end.
An occasionally resurgent meme has been going around on LiveJournal: “comment on this post, and I’ll give you five words that I associate with you. Then you write about them.” I asked, and I received, and so here they are.
Home. Ooh, this is a good one. I’ve been looking for that for a while. Thought I’d found it with Ethan, but that turns out not to be the case. I miss the home we had [in|with] each other in the first year and a half or so of our relationship. This is somewhat, though not even close to entirely, balanced by not missing the relationship in the months leading to its rather abrupt (for me) end.
When I stayed in Boston after graduating from BU, and commuted to Providence for grad school, initially I lived with Colleen. And other people too, but emotionally it was mostly with her When in late 1997 I abruptly needed to move from where I was living and posted about it to the Moxy Früvous newsgroup, a fellow Fruhead told me she was moving up to Boston in the next five months, and maybe we should think about getting a place together? Five months seemed like a long time, but we did meet at a Früvous show in December with the specific intention of finding out whether this was a good idea, and then wrote each other 300Kb of emails a month or something crazy like that, and in February of 1998 we moved in together. With some geographically and head-spatially induced ebbs and flows, Cee has been one of my closest people for longer than anyone who isn’t my immediate family (brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and mom).
(I have the hardest time calling Jo Ann my sister-in-law. It sounds so… remote. Usually I refer to her and my brother collectively as my siblings.)
In many ways, and up until very recently, that was a unique occurrence in my life. We weren’t related but were quite close, without being romantically involved. It was the quintessential Boston marriage. We seemed to have similar ideas of what we wanted out of a living arrangement, or in some cases we worked it out then. Cee had romantic relationships, and I did too, and eventually, when our adorable quirky 210-year-old house got sold, we moved apart because I wanted to move in with my then-boyfriend. I’ve wondered how differently shaped my life might be had we moved somewhere else together, but ultimately it might’ve been good for our relationship at that particular time. I certainly don’t regret the experiences I did have as a result of that move, either: namely, moving in with a boyfriend who didn’t turn all evil on me in three months’ time, being proposed to and accepting, living together for a while, deciding together that getting married wasn’t a good idea, and eventually deciding together that we didn’t want to be involved, and had in fact grown apart.
All of the time I lived with Chris was hugely educational in that almost completely non-traumatic way, but it wasn’t home in the way that it had been with Cee. We gave it a good try, but ultimately it just didn’t work. I think that one of the reasons for that is my desire to live with other people in community. After some years of living with him, I moved to London to live with my siblings and help raise my nephew for a year, as I was applying for the special-studies PhD program at Brown. That was nostalgic in many ways, I missed my people in Boston, but it was in no way lonely. That was another unique experience in that we bonded, the nephew and I, ooh boy, we did. And I’d lived with Zhenya and Jo before, and we knew we all liked it, and frankly, if circumstances were right (which isn’t likely), I’d live with them again in a heartbeat.
Then I lived alone in Providence for a year and a half. That was perfect, some of my favorite time. I definitely had a home then. Found my feet in that way that’s only possible when you live alone, found my professional feet doing the now-approved PhD in humanities computing, found that having Talan living just downstairs was a good reminder of what it was that I liked about living with other people, without actually living together.
Then Ethan moved in from all the way across the country in Pullman, WA. Someday I’ll write about the arc of that as home, but today is not that day.
The day after I graduated in 2007, we moved to Somerville, a close neighbor of Boston that would be one of its boroughs, were this New York City. We were two humans and two cats in a house of seven humans and five cats (and a dog, and a bird). And/Or was and remains a great place, and was good to live in, but wasn’t that default, deep-down home unless I was actively working to keep my own rhythm aligned to the house’s. Ethan lived there for six months, and I stayed for two years; when I started thinking of how, some years from now, I’d like to be raising a child without a primary partner, And/Or didn’t feel like the right place for that.
So in May I moved to Something Completely Different. We’re experimenting, it’s too early to know, but for now it feels like it felt to live with Cee. People drop by and hang out, from the apartment upstairs and from the outside; a lot of cooking and significant communal eating goes on, insofar as our schedules permit it; there’s both a stated intent and an emotional sense of crafting a home. I’m comfortable here, and even if it doesn’t work, I’ll still have had this amazing reminder, in some ways maybe a crystallization, of knowing what I want in a home.
Heritage. I’m Russian by birth, grew up speaking Russian in a Soviet Republic capital where, like in all of the USSR, the predominant language was Russian. I also grew up in Moldova, where people speak Moldovan (pretty much Romanian) and have Moldovan culture and holidays and food and way of life—and all of that was alongside me, not part of my primary experience. So that’s weird. And it’s weird, too, that I am Jewish (ethnically if not religiously), but didn’t even know my dad spoke fluent Yiddish until I was thirteen and we went to visit his home village and his parents’ graves in the Ukraine before emigrating to the U.S. So I grew up with the Barry Sisters, but still don’t have most of the holidays straight, and don’t like gefilte fish. So that’s weird too.
I was never able to refer to myself as an American, though more than half my life (and therefore part of my heritage) has been spent here. It just didn’t feel like that’s what I was. Oddly, the entire last presidential election season changed that. Then again, I’m a fully vested citizen of the internet, so U.S. national boundaries are about as meaningful as other places in the world.
Dark. A place of introspection, and introversion. A season that’s difficult for me. A time when fun things happen. A time when, and I’m accepting this in stages, I need to take care of myself above most other things in order to remain functional. Also a time when having responsibilities to others (like small-girl-sitting once a week) gets me out of my head and supplies a kind of joy that’s unavailable elsewhere.
Curious. I am! Curious Vika is curious. This sort of gets me in trouble, though not in the way I’m making it sound. I ask people questions and listen to the answers more than I tell stories. In conversation, I tend more toward learning than toward teaching (unless I’m thinking my way through an issue by arguing, which can be great with the right conversation partner). There was just so damn much to learn from Ethan that I fell into this odd and stupid learned helplessness, looking to him for information when I should have relied on myself. When there’s stuff to be learned by talking to someone, I vastly prefer that to finding out on my own. It’s more fun. Unfortunately, it can get on a partner’s nerves.
These days I am re-discovering my curiosity, and pay more attention to balancing out asking questions and telling stories.
Joy. Something I feel quite frequently, in short intense bursts, usually unrelated to any one thing but being rather a confluence of thoughts coming together in my consciousness. Perfect moments, like sunshine and Davis Square and ice cream, or walking under the flame umbrella in pouring rain, singing along with the stuff in my headphones, feeling the air that smells of ocean. Or even snow shoveling during the quiet, voluminous snowfall, under the night streetlights. Or that rare occurrence of having hours on end to do with as I please.