I spent my final weekend in Ukraine curled up on a bed in Szabina’s house, fighting off a cold and slogging through Wuthering Hights (but now I can say that I’ve read it and have the right to critique it, which was the point). Szabina’s mother made lovely food, I drank lots of honey-laden tea, Szabina gave me a tour of the marvelous garden (plus pig), and I worried about how to get my suitcases back to the States.
I tried to concentrate on not being sick rather than on all the things I knew I would miss as soon I walked across the border. I allowed my feelings of anticipation to build walls between me and my more melancholic musings; these walls were, at that moment, just what I needed. I had a long, tiring journey ahead of me: a car ride, a walk across the border, a bus ride, a train ride, a taxi ride, another taxi ride, a few plane rides … each of these legs of the journey made with 100 more pounds of luggage than a person could possibly need. (And to top it off, while in the 1/4 mile no-man’s land between the Ukrainian and Hungarian border checkpoints, the monster-est suitcase’s wheel broke.) I brought this literal burden on myself, of course, even though I did leave behind a winter coat, boots, several sweaters and other sundry clothing items, various large bottles of things, and a few books. But there were jars of jam, honey, and peppers to bring back, swaths of homemade embroidery, books in Hungarian, my own faithful books, pieces of pottery.
It was necessary, of course, to part with things like Her Royal Worshipfulness Princess Leia the petunia, my trusty very blue comforter, my nifty tea towels (most often used to keep my snack bread fresh), the sturdy wardrobes at each end of the room, a piece of cloth in Edit’s sewing room that I had been planning to work with but just couldn’t squeeze in to the bulging bags. These were familiar and comforting things, everyday objects as a part of my everyday landscape. A landscape of plaster walls, gullied sidewalks, disappearing-act mountains, sparkle-bedecked clothing, bicycle wheels, school rooms, and laden dinner tables. These were all the things I was not thinking about during my final visit to Szabina’s house and that I do not stop thinking about now.
And also these:
There is very little left for me to say. As I unloaded my suitcases from Szabina’s family car at the border, Timi (the mother of 8 children) drove by and honked and waved at me. Just as if it were any ordinary day in which our paths crossed and not the day I left. And I’m glad it was that way because I am too inclined to make things so formal and final and irretrievable. But a wave and a honk of greeting slowed down that finality and reminded me that this border crossing was not the end of a chapter because life is not a book. While it’s very handy sometimes to look at life like a story, and even more helpful to seek out the narrative arcs in our experiences, our lives are too big – and too small – to make up one, neat, self-contained narrative. So who am I to put a period at the end of a sentence that I don’t even fully understand yet?
This is not just about not knowing when I will return to Ukraine but also about not knowing all the ripples and effects of the year, not knowing what will boomerang back into my life and what will be forgotten, what threads will continue and which will end. I know nothing, and it is all beyond my control – which is exactly like every other border crossing I’ve experienced.
Now that I have crossed the border, I am no longer the transcarpathian sojourner. But I am still a sojourner, and I invite you to follow my musings and my adventures at the sojourner at home, my next blogging endeavor. I’m afraid that in this new blog I will not be able to tempt you with promises of cute children pictures and amusing cultural misunderstandings, but when a person approaches every dwelling place as a sojourner, it makes everything infinitely more interesting.