Our daughter Natasha just celebrated her 33rd birthday. With each passing year, our family pauses to revisit the special events surrounding her arrival. It was on that muggy day in 1994 when this 6-year-old first set foot on American soil, leaving behind memories of her ramshackle orphanage nestled in the Caucasus mountains of Russia, wedged between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
My courageous wife made the journey alone while I stayed home to look after our son, who was in elementary school at the time. I’m pleased to report that Natasha has earned a college degree, landed a secure job in state government, and is preparing for holy matrimony and, hopefully, motherhood. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t toss this one in: she knows more than passable Greek and identifies more with her acquired culture than she does with her own Russian roots. (Okay, so I’m biased.)
What I’ve gleaned here are a few of the reflections I wrote in her birthday card. Reciting my words brought laughter and tears. Once all the tears were dabbed away, she made me promise that I would make the effort to share it with readers of the National Herald. Your wish is my command:
Our Dearest Natasha,
When we look around and hear sad tales of adult children and the struggles they are encountering, it’s hard – really hard – not to draw comparisons with you, daughter. While so many other millennials are searching mightily to find a meaningful trajectory so they can soar, you, it seems, instinctively knew what you wanted in your life and when you wanted it. For that and a galaxy of other reasons, we are so deeply blessed.
From the moment we laid eyes on you on the concourse at Dulles Airport, a frail, undernourished gift from God, I’ve never known you to shy away from any challenge. That includes stopping long enough after your long and grueling Aeroflot flight to fill out an application to work as a junior – really junior – baggage handler! Did it really matter that you were all of six? Based on your sheer willpower, there’s no question that you would have mastered that introductory job.
How can we forget about your time in the U.S. Army? I can only imagine what it was like being roused from a sound sleep at 5:30 AM by a shrill voice in the barrack commanding you to “wake up wake up wake up!” This was the prelude to a daily five-mile fun run through the sizzling South Carolina backwoods.
Natasha, you may not realize this, but you, sweetheart, are a daily inspiration to your unemployed, overfed, ready-to-strangle-each-other-in-this-pandemic parents. When describing your greatest attributes, allow me to shamelessly borrow a line from the ad campaign for Infinity: Simple. Easy. Awesome.
See you at (in-person but most likely virtual) Divine Liturgy. Like everything else, we’ll get through this as a family.
With all my love,