First candy and a broken stick
( to my father)
He was rough. Rough and direct, like a stick. There was fear imposing itself unto me through his thick-framed glasses. One could notice his deeply camouflaged, sentimental nature only through morning splashes of melting, sensuous saxophone improvisations.
I recall myself shortly after my fourth birthday — boyish hair, a flowery dress, that ever so guilty look, and mischievous giggly face — what a contradictory creature was I...still am.
That was the day he pulled me out, hiding under the long tablecloth, and doomed me to the piano bench. Piano became my instrument. He chose it for me. But now I know, that was not true — the instrument (the piano) chose me.
"Repeat! Memorize! Transpose!” became his mantra and soon, my daylight nightmare. "I know you hate me, but I want you to have something that will be only yours," he would say, completely indifferent to my tears.
"Please dad, don’t I deserve a treat?” my eyes begged silently, after two or three hours of the continuous torment of practicing. I believe my rebellious curiosity grew out of two desires: to escape my father's stick and, on the other hand, to find a hidden treat. I felt deprived of the sweetness of candy...
Sweets where not permitted at home — "Sugar causes cavities!" he would exclaim often times. I couldn’t agree with that. I had my plan and was determined to outsmart him.
My first candy was stolen from a miniature box, hiding under his personal letters in the secretly unlocked lowest drawer of his closet. A mixture of guilt, revenge, and satisfaction — a taste of forbidden pleasure.
Later, I would discover other treasures. This time, however, the treasures were mind provoking. Some of them had unknown and foreign-sounding names: Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Omar Khayyam on the covers of old, end of 19th century editions… names that where taboo in the Moscow of the 80s.
Being absent every evening (he had night performances — blessed free time for me), he would take me to the tennis court during the day…the one facing the building of KGB quarters.
An absurd overlap of two realms, west and east...he would play, game after game. I never got bored during long hours of waiting. I used this time for a storytelling. I had to be inventive and dramatic in order to draw attention of my pickiest listener — myself. A need to avoid boredom triggered my imagination toward the most intense works.
As the school years (led by the mutual glorification of the Red flag) where passing by, my search for a hidden treat took to a new direction. The “candy” itself changed its shape, taste, and meaning. It was a full awakening of intellectual curiosity.
The smell of the bookshelves in the library across the street. Books followed me everywhere — opened on my knees under the school desk, hidden behind the music score on the piano stand, under the pillow, and next to the plate with morning oatmeal...
Books were my newly invented escape from the world. Escape from the burdening embarrassment of being the only Jewish girl at school, escape from the imposed ideology and hypocrisy of the time. As a result of my “high fever” excuses, I missed school days gaining the freedom to walk like a street cat along the Moscow River, to see that last movie of Ingmar Bergman, still my favorite, Bergman. I knew it was the beginning of a continuous love affair with cinema. I made the record amount of missed school days, and of course a constantly increasing collection of exciting discoveries — Chaplin and Bunuel, Kubrick, Fellini and Tarkovsky, Bertolucci and Saura...
When I turned 14, he told me: ''Listen, girl, you are stubborn, very stubborn, and I know you will do what none of us would dare — I want you to get out of here" — that was the first time I agreed with my father.
Never before had I seen him as proud and firm as he was on that drizzly, early spring day of my departure.
I just turned 19.
"Finally, free! Free of him!” — I thought, not knowing yet that the departure was in fact the beginning of my return, my return back to him, to my farther.
I came to an “unknown” life. A life in which no one would wait for me, in which no one was willing to offer even a piece candy...
Again, it was I who had to search for it.
Emigration cannot be described; one must experience it.
Student years in a volcanic pot in the midst of the desert.
Israel, a place where the intensity of political and religious intolerance competes with the heat of the sun, where street cats are the monarchs of the night, where war is a part of the peace, where everyone simply belongs.
My night ("Your usual? Coffee and croissant, ma'am?") job. My early morning caffeinated practicing. One day, I am late to the bus — my daily bus to the University. A minute later — an explosion…which no one survived...
That day I learned that often times what we consider a loss turns out as a gain. I also realized that life and death are twin sisters, keeping their hands apart for an unknown while...
Now I live in a place with a humming name: Minnesota. My home, though, is somewhere else... My father's words come back to me: "I want you to have something that will be only yours." It seems that ''something" — is in fact my home, always with me, inside of me.
Home cannot be defined, described, or located — it’s a natural feeling that comes uncalled.
Not long ago, I visited my father. He asked me to give him a few piano lessons...irony of life. We embraced each other, as two souls, tied by an invisible knot…he could not hide his tears. This kind of embrace could be granted only once, silently — in the moment of Return.
As I flip the pages of my memory, I clearly see that my essence, my approach to life, my artistic credo is shaped not as much by teachers, education, degrees and awards, as it is shaped by a few seemingly little things, little experiences from the rebellious world of that short-haired, mischievous girl.
A few little things, that are spinning the ball of yarn, which is itself, my life story — that first found piece of candy and my father’s stick.