I wish I could bottle Nosivka for you.

14 Oct

Swaddled in bubble wrap, postmarked from the Chernihiv Oblast, Nosivka rayon, town of Nosivka, late but miraculously in tact it would arrive at your doorstep.

It would smell of burning leaves, the sour sweet smell of beets cooking in my host family’s kitchen, slightly sweaty socks nervously rubbed against the carpet of the room in which we drill Ukrainian grammar hour after painstaking hour, and sticky sweet pechivo (cookies).

You would see my mama’s embracing and worried smile, a multitude of zip-up camouflage sweatshirts, and the wilting fields of spent sunflowers still full of promise for a beautiful spring I won’t see, having been shipped off to my final site months before they bloom, tall and powerful.

That sound you hear? It’s tato (dad) cracking walnuts with his teeth, water frothing as it boils for another round of chai, a chorus of melancholy orphan street dogs, my host sister counting out hrivny and kopecks before running to the store to pick up another dessert I don’t have room for. Perhaps it’s the local baboosyas (grandmothers) pulling fresh vegetables from the ground with sudden and surprising strength, each and every head covered in a colorful scarf. A rainbow of baboosyas.

Nosivka is already an amorphous and elusive part of me.

My tato is an intimidating man full of health with a hearty, room-shaking laugh to match. Impassioned even in discussions over chai, his voice resounds off the kitchen walls and fills the house with Ukrainian that sprints, trills, and twirls around the entire house. See him carefully measure oil to add to the meal he is cooking for his newly acquired piglets. There he is again, discreetly watching me from across the kitchen, measuring by spoonful the amount I ate against the amount he believes I need. It astounds me how often tenderness makes its way to peak through his muscular voice when he urges, “їж, їж!” (“eat, eat!”) When he firmly told baboosya that I would eat however much I wanted, so she should stop scolding me about eating too little, I knew I was no longer a guest. This is my second family. Open that bottle, and you’ll see this weathered man’s beautiful heart.

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2 Responses to “I wish I could bottle Nosivka for you.”

  1. paige 19 October, 2009 at 08:28 #

    One day you are going to be a famous travel journalist. seriously. i wish i could write half as well as you.

  2. Dan 2 August, 2010 at 17:17 #

    you just got yourself a reader with this post. great stuff

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