May 10, 2024

Emigré Diaries

We made the decision to emigrate a few hours before we flew out. We packed up in a hurry, and I, of course, didn’t realize what happens when you pack up a family in such a rush. One minute I was grabbing a portrait of my grandfather (who emigrated after the [1917] revolution as part of the first wave) and next I was sticking an extra coat for our younger daughter into a suitcase. We didn’t have any large suitcases, since our eldest daughter, who had emigrated a half-year before the war, had taken them all with her to Israel. We just had six carry-on suitcases. Everything in them was wet from my tears. At the last minute, I decided to take a ceramic fish off the wall that I had bought a long time ago at a fundraiser for the Center for Therapeutic Pedagogy, an institution personally and professionally close to my heart. I stuffed the fish deep inside the suitcase so it wouldn’t break in transit.

After we arrived in Yerevan, utterly disoriented and with no idea what the future would hold, I looked at my youngest daughter, who had just turned ten, briskly and earnestly arranging little rooms for her toy mice and started to take analogous action. Of course, while yanking things out of the suitcases, I completely forgot about the fish. It fell on the floor and its fins broke right off. I didn’t have any strength left to get upset. My daughter came running in when she heard the noise. She looked at what had happened and pronounced some very wise words: “You know, Mom, don’t get upset and don’t throw it out. Let’s hang it on the wall as it is, half broken. Now it looks a lot like our new life.”

So, for the third year now, in every new rental apartment (we’re in our fifth) and every new country (we’re up to three), the first thing I do is hang this beautiful but slightly damaged fish where we’ll see it most often: above the kitchen table. Where it was in our past life.

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