This post refers to the story from my father I posted last week.
Because of my father’s bilingualism, his tone and diction permeates through his recollection and makes it more authentic. English is his second language, and despite living in the US for a significant period of time, there remain certain grammatical quirks which lends to the sense of nostalgia in this story. The characteristic traits of the Russian language permeate into his narrative, from the absence of articles to his sentence construction – “because town was in the military” – which immerses the reader vocally in the story. Furthermore, the sensory detail coupled with simple language helps to bring the reader backwards in time. My father explains that he “had a happy life in this small town,” and goes on to describe, in sparse and poignant language, the “beautiful…springtime, where we had a lot of tulips in the steppes.” The simplicity of beauty in this romanticized opening of his recollection is evident. The simple sensory detail of “hot in summer” and “cold in winter” is phrased in a childlike manner, which further evokes nostalgia.
Furthermore, my father’s story is developed through contrasts. Because “[he was] a kid at that time, and didn’t know much,” his memories of childhood are inevitably idealized, as explained above. However, the historical context of the time period, as well as the purpose of his hometown, inevitably play a role in his maturation towards the end of the recollection. He grows up in a military town, where his own father is “a military engineer” whose job it is to test ballistic missiles. He pairs the imagery of “a happy life in [a] small town” with the realization that the era “was…one of the horrible times when [Russia] had the Cold War with America.” The “tulips in the steppes” he lovingly recollects are found “surrounded by barbed wire. Even the bullets my father and his friend find are romanticized, in the naïve viewpoint of a child – he describes them to be “beautiful and gold,” and the boys treat them as valuable treasures without recognizing the significance of their presence. As the action develops, my father experiences the harshness of reality. He fears wild dogs, because “[in a] steppe there’s no place to hide.” The climax of the recollection brings with it a brutal grounding in reality. My father, in this moment, realizes the “very very big mess” his childlike misadventure has caused. Moreover, the change in tone towards the end of the narrative signifies the loss of childlike innocence. He pauses, becomes more hesitant, as he explains his father using his belt to give him “some, you know. Beatings.” The recollection ends on a note of caution: “so, you have to be careful.” Gone, for my father, is the “era…[of] free range kids” and wealth in bullet casings. In its place comes a sobering realization of just how “horrible” those times really were.