Friday, October 18, 2013

Chapter Four: Britain—The Excruciating Wait

Aunt and uncle's house in Scotland

My girls were so pleased to see me upon my return. Claire stroked my face and looked lovingly into my eyes. It was Ursula’s fifth birthday a few days later and she loved the Russian gifts I had brought for her, especially the set of nesting matroshka dolls, beautifully painted with a gold and blue pattern intermingled with white flowers. Naturally, the girls had missed me and wanted to be with me all the time now I was back in the family fold. Jason had managed superbly while I was gone, he had kept them entertained and happy. But now they wanted their mother, and I tried my best to give them the attention they deserved. I also felt very guilty that I was so duplicitous with Jason, that my mind and heart were full of Ivan, that there was nothing I could do about it. I did not want to hurt Jason, I wished he did not love me so much, that he did not care. And he was being so accommodating, he sensed my inner turmoil, that I was struggling with something, and he was willing to give me the time and space I needed to adjust. So he kept his distance in his undemanding and unassuming way. For some reason, this infuriated me and finally when I could stand it no longer, I yelled at him about it. He assured me that he was okay, that he just wanted me to recover from my obviously emotional journey. I was in two minds about spilling the beans right then, part of me wanted to tell him straight out about Ivan, while another part told me to wait, to be cautious. I did not want to hurt Jason’s feelings unnecessarily by letting him know I was in love with another man when I did not know what the future might hold. We discussed our options for the waiting time. We did not know how long it would take for Natalie to get all the paperwork done at the Russian visa and immigration office. We had to decide where we were going to stay while we waited. We had outlived our welcome in Scotland.

Eventually we decided to return to Sheffield. My old school friend, Jane, said we could come and stay until we found somewhere to rent.

We found a place in Tinsley, the advantage was that the landlord did not want to rent long term since these houses were about to undergo major renovation. That also made the rent cheaper, another major advantage. So it worked out well all round. Finally we were in our own place again, just the four of us, although this did not comfort me, it even scared me, since I was not sure how I was going to be able to live with the lie that we were no longer a happy and harmonious family. I just could not be kind to Jason. I allowed my irritation to show in all my communication with him. I knew I was being ugly and unfair, but I just could not help herself. All my thoughts, yearning, and inner being strove in another direction, it was difficult to remain anchored in my true center and not allow myself to be buffeted by the storm of my emotions.

I busied myself with looking for work and against all odds found some translation companies willing to take me on. One of them was right in Sheffield. I was quite amazed that I had been able to swing that. Plus I was working on the translation for Natalie. The editor from Natalie’s publishing company in New York got in touch with me by phone to tell me she would be going to Moscow at the beginning of April and wanted to take the finished translation with her. I made the deadline and we had also received our applications for a private invitation from the Soviet Embassy by that time, which had to be sent to Natalia too. The editor agreed to take them along with her, much more reliable than the postal service.

Now the really worst time set in. I had done everything in my earthly power at my end, now the ball was in the other court. How long it would take to process the invitation applications and receive an answer was something I just could not know. So there was no point in trying to second guess. I would just have to wait and grin and bear it; and grinning and bearing it proved to be the hardest things I had ever done.

Life in Tinsley was like living in a war zone. We lived in a row of terrace houses with a tiny back yard. Most of the neighbors were Pakistanis and my girls would ride on the swings, roundabout and slide in the nearby playground with the local children. It was quite a change from the time I lived in the same city during my school days. At that time, we lived, if not in the posh part of town, at least on a street with fairly large semi-detached houses and upper middle-class families. I did not really think of myself as a snob, but I remembered that Tinsley and Attercliffe were parts of the city to be avoided, the sleazy end of town. But here I was thrilled to at least have a place to stay and it was roomy enough, with a small kitchen, dining room and living room downstairs, two bedrooms on the second floor, and even a third floor with an attic under the beams and a gable window that looked out onto the park. This room was my haven. We set up the computer there and took it in turns to work. One day Jason would entertain the girls while I worked on my translations, then I would do things with the girls while he worked on his book. It was a perfect arrangement. There were also joint trips up the street to the laundromat to do the laundry once a week. We would stuff everything into backpacks and head on up the hill. The girls would be treated to a bag of penny sweets at the sweetshop to keep them happy while the laundry spun.

On the days I spent with the girls while Jason worked we would catch the double-decker bus at the end of the road and go to visit Jane. These bus rides were an exciting adventure for my girls. We would always have to climb the stairs to the upper deck and sit in the very front seats, which offered a superb view of everything round about and down below.

Jane had just given birth to her second daughter and Ursula and Claire would enjoy going over to play with her toddler and see the new baby. We would go to the park together and walk in the woods that were right behind Jane’s house. They were so beautiful in the spring, with daffodils and crocuses blooming. I also found a Waldorf school in Sheffield and inquired about Ursula being enrolled. I had been intrigued by Rudolf Steiner’s teaching while living in Florida and had wanted to home-school my girls using a Waldorf curriculum. There was a Waldorf school in Gainesville, where Claire was born, but it was private and the tuition was too high for me to afford. However the girls and I would participate in the celebrations at the school, as well as setting up special tables at home to celebrate Christmas, Easter and other festivals. Ursula ended up not being able to attend the school in Sheffield, but we would visit, again to participate in festivals, and its beautiful setting had a very calming and inspiring effect on my soul.

Little by little I spilled the beans to my family. I wrote my mother a letter telling her about all that had happened in Moscow. I received a surreptitious note back from her in a general parcel for the whole family. It was tucked into a book for me. How subtle my mother was and how supportive and understanding. She never once expressed her concern, she was always in favor of whatever her “wayward” daughter took into her head next. She told me years later about how she recognized my singleness of purpose in those days. How she saw that I had a goal and I was going to go for it no matter what. Even if I did not know myself what the final outcome would be, my determination to follow my dream was phenomenal. There was no stopping me or getting in my way, so my mother felt that all she could do was be supportive and go along with me.

I also revealed more to Jason. I had hinted before that we were headed into a precarious situation and Jason, none the wiser, had met my caution with enthusiasm saying he was all up for an adventure. Finally though I felt I just had to let him know about Ivan, that I had met him again and there was things I needed to settle with him. However, I couched it all in rather vague terms. I had done a past life recall before we left the States. And one of my past lives had been in Russia. I had been a gypsy girl in that incarnation, the daughter of the gypsy baron. I was a dancer and kept all the men entertained. My father had picked the man he wanted me to marry, but I had fallen in love with a youth from the nearby village. I could not obey my father and bring myself to tie the knot with the man he had chosen for me. I made preparations to run away, surreptitiously helped by my mother who was on my side. But my father discovered my scheming before I had the chance to escape and sentenced me to death by strangulation. I was filled with a knowing that the youth had been Ivan. We were denied the chance to be together during that lifetime and were now being given a second chance. I did not tell Jason that I wanted to share my life with Ivan this time, but I told him I felt there was some unfinished business with him from a past life, some karma to be resolved, which was why I wanted to go back. Jason amazingly accepted all of this and said he was willing to go along with me. He said he would always love me no matter what I did.

So the time passed in ups and downs. There were desperate down times when I felt so lost, confused, and uncertain I was doing the right thing, followed by uplifting times when I soared on wings of inner knowing, certain of Ivan’s love for me and empowered by the knowledge that it would all work out. I reconciled myself to the fact that it was going to take a lot longer than I anticipated for me to return to Moscow. I had translation work to keep me busy and was thankful for the income it generated. I allowed my doubts to overwhelm me at times, but I never gave up hope. The times I did manage to talk to Ivan on the phone assured me he was still waiting.

On 25 July, Lucy called to say she had our invitation letter, that is the approval we needed to go ahead and apply for our visas to go to Moscow. I had made arrangements with Natalie to pass this vital document on to Lucy. Lucy had lots of contacts and found someone leaving the Soviet Union for the West who would take this approval with them and mail it to our address in Tinsley. So now I had to wait for the mail to arrive. It arrived on 1 August, and we sent it straight off with our passports to the Soviet Embassy. We were planning to travel to Moscow by train so there was still the problem of getting transit visas for Poland. So once we received our passports back from the Soviet Embassy, we had to send them off again to the Polish Embassy. They finally arrived back on 21 August. And Jason went in to the travel agent’s to book the train. Another blow awaited me when Jason reported back that all the trains to Moscow were booked up until September. This was something that had just not figured in my plans. There was nothing we could swing that would get us to Moscow in the next few days. Finally we booked a flight for 23 August and ordered a minivan taxi to take us to the airport in Manchester at 4.30 that morning.

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