I’ve always been bicultural. Growing up in a fully Russian family, I had a one-sided view of the world for a long time. It’s no surprise that the culture in Russia is vastly different than in America. Ever since I was dropped off in elementary school, I had to let go of Russian cultural conventions, one by one. Perhaps what was most difficult for me was to adjust to American cultural norms. I always thought my Russian traditions were right.

One summer when I was five, I was visiting my grandfather’s apartment, in Moscow, frozen in time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would listen to my grandfather’s advice on how to handle a bad situation with a brawl or how to settle a dispute with a bet. Though my grandfather offered me methods that may have worked for him, they did not work for me in elementary school. My biculturalism has always left me guessing what is the right thing to do in any situation.  I’ve never really fit in as a child. I was always the kid with the weird food. The parents with the vampire accents. I felt different, even if I looked like ver. At times, I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt that I belonged back in Russia. All my life I have been an outcast in some sense. I would use the wrong cultural behaviors that wouldn’t abide by the norms in America. I ended up weirding out all the kids with my “distinctiveness”, as my teachers would say. Because of my differences, people had a hard time understanding me as I struggled to fit in.

It took me a while to understand and adapt to American culture. The main obstacle in adapting fully was my desire to retain my Russian traditions. I worried that if I adapted, I would lose them forever. When I finally decided to change my behavior, I didn’t know what to do. So I would closely observe how the other kids acted:  the way they walked and how they talked. I read them psychologically. I followed suit and did the same. Just like a sheep. But at least I fit in.

We didn’t always live in Eugene. Before that, we lived in Pasadena, and before that, we lived in Wisconsin. We lived in two different houses in Eugene, because I’d had gotten a brother, and there wasn’t enough space in our old house on City View street. We moved into an oversized family house suitable for a large family, but our family never grew past my brother. A really large, suburban wooden house,  it is painted in a calm, yellow tint. Currently, three of the bedrooms are empty. I open the doors to the empty rooms once in a while, only to discover a dust cloud tumbling to the floor, as it settles on my hands with a grainy texture. A lot of the time, the house seems like it isn’t being used. All members of the family are doing their own activities in separate rooms, and as such are secluded through disbursement throughout the large area. Most of the time the house is as quiet as outer space, except for the occasional hum of water bursting through the pipes. My father is always typing away on his laptop, and he’s always stressed after work. But it always wasn’t this way.  

I remember, when I was five, my dad would lift me up and spin me around. He would play countless games of chess with me. Then, as now,  my mother has taken care of most of the house. If it wasn’t for her, our house would be a garbage dump by now. My mom is like a secret angel. I know it’s hard for her because she’s always worried about us. And yet, she’s always able to cover up her stress with a smile. I always love to look back and remember the happy, nostalgic memories from my early childhood. This house hasn’t really left me any good memories. Ever since we’ve moved, our family has been more disconnected than ever. We no longer have the same family dinners we did in our old house. We lost the joy of eating breakfast together on weekends. Everyone seems to be on their own schedule. What I miss most about my old house is the closeness that we had. Perhaps the smaller size of the house forced us to live together, so with more space came disconnection. I don’t like our new house; it’s too big for us. I really loved our old house, and the memories it brought.