by Marinka on November 24, 2011

This is how it would work in the former Soviet Union, where I spent the first part of my childhood.

You’d be walking along with your grownup, your mother or father or grandmother or grandfather, and suddenly there would be a line of people snaking up ahead.

And this was good.

Your mother or father or grandfather or grandmother would lead you to the line and the two of you would stand in it. At some point you’d ask what the line was for. They weren’t breadlines. They weren’t just breadlines. They were everythinglines.

You may get conflicting reports. Clementines. Or milk. Or shoes. Sometimes bread. It didn’t matter. You needed it. And if you didn’t need it yourself; for example, if they didn’t have your shoe size, you bought it anyway, because you were sure to know someone who could use that specific size shoe. Because everyone needed something.

Sometimes, while already on line, you’d notice a competing line. At that moment, your grownup would make a decision to leave you in the first line while going to stand in the second line. And while you are standing in that first line, you get really bored (because you are seven and also because you are standing in a freaking line) but there is no one to complain to, so you’ll stand in line and hope that your grownup comes back, having made some kind of save-my-spot kind of deal with the people in the second line, before you reach the front of the line because you have no idea what to do once you get to the front and also, by the way, have no money. In 1970s Leningrad, you didn’t get allowance.

A few years later you will emigrate from the Soviet Union.

You will come to America.

You will shop in American supermarkets and order food online for next-day delivery in refrigerated containers. You will order shoes online for convenient delivery with free shipping on returns.

You will refuse to go to the newest restaurants that the reviewers boast are so popular that there are lines of people waiting to get in.

You will not camp out for concert tickets although it is considered a rite of passage. You’d passed this particular passage years ago. Before it was in vogue.

You will avoid lines, because although you have no memory of being hungry, that is what the lines represent to you. Hunger and need and desperation and time being less valuable than food.

And on Thanksgiving, in upstate New York, so beautiful you’d think the mountains were painted as part of a set, you will feel grateful. You will feel grateful for your family, especially your parents who had the wisdom to take you out of that hell hole, for your husband, for your children, for your country, for your friends, and for all those little things that makes your life better.

And also because the food is delicious.

And not once, not once, will you consider going to a Black Friday sale. Because they have lines there.

One year ago ...

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie November 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

Great post, great writing! And on this Thanksgiving, may I say that I am thankful for your blog and all the great reading and laughs you provide here on this space. I look forward to many more posts!


anymommy November 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

Perspective and beauty. Much love to you. Happy Thanksgiving.


Jodi November 24, 2011 at 9:48 am

Yes, yes: perspective and beauty really are the best words. Happy Thanksgiving!


Alina Adams November 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Thank you for putting into words what I tried to explain to my kids this morning about why I don’t do lines… and why they aren’t grateful enough.


awesome dude November 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

This post reminds a an old Jewish joke, when the wife who died before the husband shows the husband around in The Haven.

His reply is: If not for your fucking diet I would be here years ago.


Cranky Old Man
November 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I avoid lines myself, but not with the same moitivation as you. THis is a great post, makes me really appreciate this country and Thanksgiving. I wish more people like yourself would speak out on how the socialist system, good intentioned in its inception does not work. Yes capitalism needs to be tempered, and we need to lend a helping hand to many, but though not perfect it is a system worth saving.

THe Cranky Old Man


Fairly Odd Mother
November 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Beautiful Marinka.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 24, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Best Thanksgiving post I’ve read. What an incredible perspective to give us today.


the mama bird diaries
November 24, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Happy Thanksgiving. xo


November 25, 2011 at 1:39 am

Happy Thanksgiving Marinka.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes November 25, 2011 at 6:54 am

I’ll make this quick because I’m sure that there are others lining up to wish you : Happy Thanksgiving!


Twsited Domestic Goddess November 25, 2011 at 7:44 am

Gah you made me tear up with the last section of this! One of my dearest friends is from the former Soviet Union as well and I remember very clearly her telling me very similar stories.

Happy Thanksgiving.


November 25, 2011 at 8:55 am

Lovely post.

And even though I didn’t grow up standing in lines, I still refuse to go anywhere near stores today because of the lines and crowds and the noise.


November 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

Enlightening. Reading this, I now know that Disneyland is a socialist state (thought the former USSR could probably have been improved by the implementation of the FastPass).


Elizabeth November 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Really beautiful and eloquent.


b a seagull
November 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

In a few sentences, you get to the heart of the matter. Happy Thanksgiving. (from my heart)


November 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Made it without standing up, knocking my chair back and shouting “I LOVE YOU, MARINKA!” until I got to the last paragraph.

Now the kids are all sitting around me, scared…

I blame you for making the conditions so dangerous around here just now.

Happy Thanksgiving to someone who gets it all.


November 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Happy Thanksgiving. Now, I love to shop – but NEVER EVER on Black Friday. I woule not stand in line at a store ever unless they were handing out free babies and we also got free wine while standing in said line.

Love this post so much.


November 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Loved this.


Christy November 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

So beautiful, and haunting. I love when you write like this!


Kate Coveny Hood
November 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm

This was breathtaking. I loved reading it – thank you for sharing that side of you as well as your fantastic humor writing.


dusty earth mother November 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm

That was amazing.


magpie November 27, 2011 at 8:11 pm

i’m thankful that they brought you here too.


ester November 28, 2011 at 4:39 am

sister, you just blew my mind in a very necessary way.


DawnGes November 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Amazing, powerful words. Thank you.


November 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

I adore this post. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.


BB June 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Wonderful piece! This is so beautiful, funny, and sad all at once…I have heard about these lines my whole life from my “grown-ups”… never thought about the impact they have left…


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