1. Meals consisted of three basic food groups: fruit, fish and unidentifiable goo.
And when you asked, “Mom, what’s in this?” the response was always a contradictory “Shut your mouth and eat it.”
2. You loved your Soviet toys, especially the ones that awkwardly shuffled over slanted surfaces.
Which, coincidentally, all of your floors were.
3. And you understood the deep philosophical significance of Soviet cartoons.
And learned to use the same quotes your parents incorporated into every conversation.
4. Your first American apartment resembled a jungle.
Because your parents were so excited to be able to cultivate plant life. Which meant PALM TREES AND CACTUSES EVERYWHERE.
5. For your parents, freedom tasted like citrus fruits.
In fact, one of your parents probably lured the other one to America with the promise of seeing the ocean and tasting EXOTIC FRUITS.
6. And Costco was THE PROMISED LAND.
What do you mean, “free sample”? What do you mean I can buy all of this food at once? This is the American Dream!
7. You had to help your parents when they asked to buy “clean shits” or “go to the bitch.”
8. Your mother convinced you that sitting on cold stoops would render you infertile.
9. And that if you sat in front of a draft or didn’t wear your house slippers you would swiftly get pneumonia and die.
10. Getting dressed for school in the winter was like preparing to launch into Outer Space.
“But, mom, we’re in America now. It’s 40 degrees outside.”
11. You still make a distinction between “home clothing” and “outdoor clothing.”
And you wouldn’t dare lie on your bed in your jeans, which has traces of fecal residue from your subway ride home.
12. Doctors, especially psychiatrists, were considered charlatans.
Unfortunately, your parents don’t believe in “depression” or “mental problems.” To them, what you’re suffering from is an incurable sickness of the soul.
13. So if you did get sick, DIY flu remedies included standing over a pot of boiling potatoes…
Eating raw cloves of garlic.
And giving up on the prospect of making American friends.
And, most dreaded of all, placing heated glass vessels onto your back.
A medieval practice, much like leeches, that only resulted in mysterious circular welts.
14. The holidays were a confusing time for everyone.
Between American Christmas and Russian New Year, no one knew what traditions to celebrate or when to give out the presents. Especially if you also celebrated Chanukkah.
15. You spent your summers in camps where your assignment was to inhale enough fresh air to last you all year.
But really you spent most of the time using card games as a way of flirting with other Russian teens.
16. Fur was not a luxury.
But a necessary winter accessory (apparently less so than pants).
17. But plastic bags most definitely were.
Yes, in Russia, we hoarded plastic bags because they cost extra, but they’re complimentary in the Land of Free Things!
18. Plastic jars were also reused, so that what might appear to be eye makeup remover could painfully turn out to be Listerine.
19. Your parents regarded vegetarianism as some sort of cult.
And if you decided to go vegetarian, meat would mysteriously appear in places meat did not belong.
20. As a boy, your career destiny was computer programming, and as a girl, it was nursing.
Either way, you probably went to Hunter College.