By Charlene Schiff
On my fourth birthday, it was cold, and snow covered the ground, beautiful, pristine snow. I had a small birthday party because the Hanukkah holiday would be celebrated soon. A birthday party was called imieniny, which actually means “name day.” I received many gifts—puzzles, books, and from my parents, a wool outfit.
I could not wait to put on my new outfit and go outside. Papa agreed to take me for a walk. The outfit was pink and gorgeous—a hat with a pom-pom on top and earflaps that tied under my chin; mittens that Mama immediately attached to the sleeves of my winter coat so I would not lose them; a cardigan sweater with shiny, pink buttons; tights that fitted snugly over my legs up to my waist; and a luscious scarf with long fringes. Mama helped me put on the outfit. It was warm and toasty, and I felt oh so beautiful. I was admiring my reflection in the long mirror and Mama said with a smile, “You look so lovely in pink, my sweet child.” I wondered where I could show off my beautiful outfit.
Many of the family’s conversations had been about our immigration to America. Papa’s entire family already lived there. Mama, Papa, Tia, and I made numerous trips to the consulate where we were all asked questions and I had to be on my best behavior. We all looked forward to this journey that supposedly was going to take place in the near future. “Well,” I thought, “I will wear my lovely outfit the next time we go to visit the consulate.” I asked Mama if that would be OK, and she nodded her approval. Papa brought out my winter coat and helped me with the buttons. Mama hugged me and finally we left the house for a walk.
It had stopped snowing; it was quiet and peaceful. My father and I ended up on the path along the river, which was not yet completely frozen. I looked across and saw a gold, onion-shaped dome of a church, bathed and glistening in the weak rays of an early winter sunset—it was an exquisite sight. “Papa, is that America on the other side of the river?” I asked. He looked surprised by my question. His answer was a short “No,” and with a smile he added, “I wish it were America.”
When we arrived home after the wonderful walk in my new pink outfit, Papa took me into his study and showed me on the huge globe, which rested on a small table next to his desk, how far away America really was.
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