A silver box came from Russia. What was in it made me cry.

Sometimes we create our story, and other times it creates us…

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I was just like every other kid in junior high. Twelve year old Liz with big red glasses, shoulder length sandy blonde hair and teeth that were begging for some braces. My arms and legs were too lanky for my body and everything I did was awkward. Painfully awkward.

I was just like any other junior higher, except for one thing. I lived in Irkutsk, Russia. My family moved to Siberia when I was eleven and it remained my home until I was thirteen. Those long Siberian winters and their stories are preserved deep in this soul. The food, the smells, the sights. The people. Mostly the people.

I don’t think you could separate those experiences from me. They are so woven into my perspective, thoughts and dreams that to remove them would be to unravel me altogether. Russia marked me.

But something has happened since I’ve moved back. More and more years have gone by since those days, and it seems smaller and smaller. Not to me. Never smaller to me. But when people learn that I used to live there, I get riddled with questions. And the answers go something like this:

I only lived there for two years. 

No, I don’t really speak Russian anymore. If I am around it then it will come back, but sadly I am no longer fluent at the drop of a hat.

Umm, no. No I haven’t gone back. Yea, I know it was a long time ago.

I bet you are right. A lot has probably changed since I’ve been there.

Oh, really? You lived in Spain for eight years. Yeah, I’d love to hear about it. 

At the end of the conversation I am left feeling a bit small. Like people expected more from me. Or I am surrounded by people who have lived overseas longer, currently speak Russian or have visited since I lived there years ago. I don’t remember the answers to their questions. Suddenly, I feel a bit disqualified. Probably like a guy who played junior high football would feel surrounded by college players. Still a football player – but not really compared to them.

And it hurts when something so significant to you seems insignificant to someone else. So I don’t bring it up all the time. I hate feeling that it wasn’t that big of a deal. So I hold it tucked next to my heart and only share it with the people who make it that close.

But yesterday something happened.

A friend of ours, Ryan, visited Russia this summer on a mission trip. While there he spent time in Irkutsk and he came back with a gift for me – a gift from Natasha. After trying to figure out which Natasha, cause there are like a billion of them there, I learned it was from my friend who lived near us in our first apartment. She was one of my very first friends in Irkutsk.

Now as an adult, she attends the church that my family moved there to start. And when Ryan came to work with that church, she sent back a box for me. A box that made me cry.

There was a sweet note that was written in English, but with that distinct Russian handwriting – “ To Elizabeth with love from Siberia.”.

Each item brought back a flood of memories. A beautiful box made of birch wood – carved by the hands of a people I love so much. A Christmas ornament that will go front-and-center on my tree this year, I assure you. Some yummy chocolates to have with a cup of hot tea. And then, I opened the silver box. Inside was a bag of meringue cookies.

I just stared. How could she possibly remember that? Tears came. She remembered. Natasha remembered.

Those cookies were one of my favorite things in the world. Any time I passed a stand or kiosk selling them I would always stop. There was a bakery down the road from my house that sold them and I went nearly every afternoon after school. And she remembered.

Peel back the layers of time, the change of government, the loss of language, the nineteen years since I had seen Natasha… and it was all still there. Because it happened. Because I was there.

So, what if others have more international experience than I do? Or more language skills. Or more up-to-date information on the country. So what if in a conversation among expats my experience doesn’t compare to theirs.

It is my story. And Natasha knows it.

All of us feel the same way to a degree. Our story is big to us, but compared to another’s it seems to lose a bit of its glitter. Making the rounds at parties we don’t feel we have anything interesting to say, because sometimes we fear that the things that have become part of us are only average.

We look at people and decide within our minds that our stories are not worth telling. At least not loudly.

If I had a magic wand, I would do what Natasha did for me. I would send you a silver box and inside would be that thing that helps remind you of your story. The love you lost, the book you started to write, the college degree you loved but didn’t set you apart. You would pull out your junior varsity swim jacket and rock that thing in front of Michael Phelps himself. Or that high school basketball trophy? Shoot I’d send that to you with a chain so you can wear it like a baller. ‘Cause it’s your story and it is worth telling.

And while your life may not be the thing of best-selling novels or Oscar-winning films – it matters to you and to the people you shared those stories with. And it matters to God who composed the whole thing Himself with a beautiful vision that we can’t even begin to touch in our wildest imaginations.

Natasha, who I haven’t seen in almost twenty years, sent me cookies and it tells my story. I don’t know what is in your silver box, but you know what? I hope you tweet it, Instagram it, share it with the world. ‘Cause it’s your story and it’s worth telling.

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82 Comments

Filed under Fire, Global, My Life Thus Far, something bigger, Whimsy

82 responses to “A silver box came from Russia. What was in it made me cry.

  1. Powerful and profound…and true.

  2. what’s your email? I want to chat and I don’t want to do it on twitter.

  3. Oh. WHAT a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of you.
    cate b

  4. Willow

    Thank you…. This post is special. I needed to hear this today. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing this this.

  5. Lolly

    Thanks for the reminder that each part of our story is significant, and helped shape us into the people we are today. A funny comparison, but I think of a jig saw puzzle. The picture wouldn’t be complete if a piece was missing. Love this post!

  6. Absolutely brilliant post… thanks for sharing!!!

  7. Pingback: Friday Finds – 8/22/14 |

  8. Living in a foreign land, even briefly is always special. Those who don’t realise haven’t done it. The simple connection to language and return visits is a bit like common holiday experiences, it’s a bit of a sign that they don’t understand.
    To be immersed in a place where nothing is familiar is amazing and as you’ve said here the people you meet make it even more precious. Only you will know the valuable details and jewels of your story but it doesn’t make them any less significant.

  9. Quotidien Rachael

    Amazing post!

  10. That is lovely, Liz. Are those really the cookies, in the picture? Meringue is so fragile! As is memory. But how wonderful that Natasha would send you that box, and that you would wish such boxes out into the world for everyone…

  11. lucysinspiringfashion

    Such beautiful sentiment I am sure we all can relate and would be able to fill our silver box!

  12. How incredibly heartwarming, thank you! I can totally relate to this. I get a package every Christmas from my patents filled with goodies I grew up eating back in the former Czechoslovakia. My friends are always amazed that I don’t eat them right away but I like to savor every bite thinking how awesome it is that my Mom and Dad remember what my fav goodies were decades ago🙂

  13. That”s a beautiful story Liz.It’s wonderful to know that you left some special sign in the someone else life…

  14. Thanks for this. It nearly made me cry too.

  15. I don’t normally read random blog posts but for some reason or other yours just had me hooked ! Was a pleasure to read and very nicely written🙂

  16. Very beautifully written and so insightful. Thanks for sharing .

  17. louannmcdaniel

    Monetarily setting aside your effortless ability to pull others into your story, I found myself walking in your shoes but looking at the reflection in the mirror, very one- dimensionality. I love when writers can take you on a journey you didn’t even know you wanted to take. Did you ever considered that the reason you feel inferior to others at times is that when people come home with their own experiences, they have the luxury of editing their time spent there, editing out of the parts they find “uninteresting”. You are speaking of a time in your life that existed for more than a vacation or a snap shot of time. You had the ability and fortunalety of being consumed by your time and sometimes that can desensitize the importance of moments that become routine. It is a time, obviously, that made an impact on you and the moment you shared with Natasha made an impact on her, probably in a different sort of way. A way that comes a part of her story. What a gift to be able to share experiences with anyone that didn’t walk it in your shoes. I certainly respect what you’re saying I just want to point out you may have a view of the same places as others but you’re seeing it your eyes and your existence. A person’s story and stories are always significant and should never be downsize. I apologize for this long response I just wanted you to know your experience of writing and sharing your life through these words was something significant to me. Wishing you the bestest.

  18. Reblogged this on Not My Thoughts and commented:
    If you could bottle your thought sharing process I would buy some

  19. Nice one!Congrats to be freshly pressed. All invited to my blog
    http://Www.asilentashout.wordpress.com

  20. I started to use wordpress nearly an hour ago and this was the first blog i read and i really liked it thx for sharing

  21. This is a wonderful story, isn’t it amazing that little things can make time disappear? My silver box was a few years ago I was planting tulips in my front yard and I was suddenly back in my grandmothers yard learning from her how to plant them. It was like she was next to me. She has been gone since 1973. Thank you for sharing

  22. Liz, what a beautiful story made even sweeter in the telling. I too recently received a gift from a place I lived long ago. Leila, my friend and student in Sudan sent a small, handmade leather purse. It smelled like Sudan! After all these years she had remembered how I loved little purses. Much like your reaction to the meringue cookies, the tears rolled down my cheeks. So that’s what’s in my silver box. Many congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Your story made my day.🙂 All the best, Terri

  23. This is a very sweet and touching article. I would love it if you could check out my blog too.

  24. Experiences and memories make us who we are, and they only take a moment to form. You could have been there for a day and still have a wonderfully important story to share. This is a beautifully written post that made me smile and cry.

  25. beautiful……yes, every bit of our story is important to us and people make it very special by their sensibility, by that magical touch of emotions.

  26. Absolutely lovely! You made me cry. It is so true that we all have that special quality, that moment or that time in our lives. Wonderful

  27. Touching story… thank you for sharing!

  28. This story is really touching ♥

  29. There’s nothing like food to bring back a flood of memories. Thank you for the wonderful story.

  30. Thank you so much for this. I needed to hear it. Also, I would LOVE to hear about your time there!!! It seems like a story worth telling.

  31. Reblogged this on M Barron and commented:
    Read this. Everybody needs to hear this.

  32. What you’ve written about is so true and lose to the heart. I feel exactly the same, that my story may seem pale or average compared to everyone else’s at a gathering. I think I’m going to go and take a peek into my silver box now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  33. tenderlytina

    The moment when the past and the present come together are magical. Never stop sharing.

  34. Reblogged this on dreamgers and commented:
    I began to use wordpress today and this is the first blog i read and i liked it thx for sharing

  35. what a fantastic story. thanks for sharing it.

  36. Beautiful! What makes us is not only our accomplishments but our rich life experiences.

  37. Wow, what you deeply touched my heart–thank you!! Congrats on FP!!

  38. Tess Liu

    Reblogged this on Pastries and Shenanigans and commented:
    Amazing story about the power of food and all the emotions and memories it creates!

  39. I swear I had a huge smile when I read this!!
    Awesome!!

  40. Thank you for sharing this. I can identify with you. The precious memories I have are easier for me to write down than to tell people in a conversation.

  41. This story is absolutely beautiful…

  42. This is a beautiful blog entry, and so true for all of us. Thank you for sharing your story, it is absolutely meaningful🙂

    • I am quite touched after reading your story , and I actually loved the way that how u highlighted the fact that no matter how small have u earned in your life , even that small award that u have achieved , you should be proud of that . You have really touched me to my core , truly an amazing story. GODBLESS

  43. This is beautiful! I was actually born in Siberia, Tomsk, and lived there for 6 years but this brought back so many memories – wonderful!

  44. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself through this piece.

  45. This was amazingly written.

  46. This was an amazing post and so well-written!

  47. I’m not such an attractive to compliment such beauty since I’m just sixteen years old. But, this piece is just fabulous. Expressed so beautifully.🙂

  48. Love this! Thank you for articulately capturing what has been on my mind lately, that every story is worth telling. It seems we now live in a world where the seemingly normal is boring and people only flock to and want controversial stories. You painted a very vivid image of your childhood and I love that.

  49. Ohhhh they remind me my childhood!!🙂

  50. You write simply and beautifully. You write from the heart so you connected with me. Thank you!

  51. Me

    Love this. Thank you for sharing it.

  52. This story touched me in ways I cannot fathom. It made me remember a time in my past I would rather forget, but cannot because it made me who I am today. It made me wonder to myself… what is in my silver box? What is so special to me that would bring tears to my eyes upon seeing it? And then it hit me. The ring with the skull and cross bones and my rose. My old boyfriend gave them to me, to add a kind of punk to a romantic gesture. Even thinking about it makes me tear up slightly- Not because it reminds me of him, but because it reminds me of what he did for me. He was the only one I had in the three years I was separated from my family and abused by my father. He was the only reason I did not give up hope and go insane from depression and anxiety and trauma. He was all I had in that dark time in my life. He helped me get through it all, and even helped me leave my father, even though it meant leaving him. We still love each other, but only as the closest of friends do. We have each moved on, but we are still very close. He is my Natasha.

  53. This is beautifully written and it resonated very deeply with me. It doesn’t matter how long you live somewhere, it will always be a part of you. Those experiences, the people you met, the language you spoke, the food, the smells, the sounds…They all played a role in making you who you are – even more so when you lived there before becoming an adult, when you’re still forming your identity. It’s easy to forget how important to experiences are and how interesting they can be (to us and others). Sometimes we do feel small and uninteresting when we compare ourselves to others, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what others do, because as you so eloquently said: “it’s you’re story and it’s worth telling.”

    Congrats on being freshly pressed – I’m very happy it gave me the chance to find your blog and read this beautiful and touching post!

  54. Thank you!! You made me cry. Opened up my silver box and made me cry. You are a beautiful writer!

  55. This is so beautiful! I was really moved while reading this piece…

  56. Wonderful & inspiring. I will think on what’s in my silver box all day. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  57. Gorgeous. I think we all get caught up in having a “good enough” story to keep in our silver boxes. Sometimes, it’s just enough to remember that we are enough, and what’s in our boxes is what we love — and the people who love us will always find it beautiful.

  58. This was beautiful. Just the kind of post that makes me feel all warm and happy:).Awesome writing.

  59. I start write again because of inspiring people like you, thanks!

    -D

  60. Such an emotional post.

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