My “little sister” Tanya turned 26 in January. As I was skyping with her, she told me all the latest news: budgeting for the family vacation, kid getting immunized, husband got a new job, she is applying to go to the art school… Tanya is no longer a  girl I met 11 years ago, but an intelligent young woman, an artist, a loving partner and a devoted mother to her daughter.

I met Tanya in an orphanage on a whim of fate. I wasn’t supposed to volunteer that day, but I was called to interpret for a small group of Americans who were visiting through some charity. I saw a girl who wasn’t that interested in the whole spectacle of foreigners bearing gifts. You are cool, I thought…  No-nonsense attitude. Smart ass comebacks. Sharp mind. So I came over and said hello.

We went to have a dessert one day. Another day we went to a movie.  Baby steps, building trust. After a month, I met Tanya’s sister. Later that year, I introduced Tanya to my family, my friends; she came to see where I worked.  Next summer, when Tanya went to camp, I went to visit and battled with the camp administration to be allowed to stay on campus and chat with her for an hour. I remember the director of the camp looming over me and asking: “Who are you to this child? What authority do you have to be here?” What authority… I am her friend. But how can you be her friend when you obviously come from a different socioeconomic background. Ugh… Building trust with Russian authorities is just as hard…

Over the years Tanya and I grew closer. We talked about colleges. We celebrated birthdays, Christmas, graduations. My graduation from university. Tanya’s high school graduation. I bought Tanya’s prom dress. I cried with pride when she was awarded the honor medal for academic success. Tanya asked for my opinion about her boyfriend, who later became her husband. We went shopping for her wedding dress. I became god mother to her daughter… I cried when I was leaving Russia, because I was leaving my family behind that now after all these years included Tanya and her family.

Life goes on, we move on and it is easy to second guess yourself.  When Tanya and I were skyping, I closed my eyes and allowed the sound of her voice take me back in time, back to 2004 when we met and to 2014 when we said good-bye. Then I opened my eyes, and I saw today. All is good, we are not stuck in the past, we are looking forward. I am confident that the choices we made were right, I am hopeful that we will see each other soon.

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