Places Becoming Homes

pretty lights

Have you ever felt so familiar with a place that it feels intimate?
I grew up in a relatively small city in Russia (half a million people or so). My school was on the other side of town from our apartment and my brother and I would take public transportation there and back. My best friend lived across the street from our school and I would hang out with her whenever I could.


I was 10 or 11 (please do correct me, dad, if I'm wrong). I seem to remember it was a short day at school and we had many exciting activities planned for the remainder of it. We lost track of time (no doubt doing something awesome like choreographing a dance routine or memorizing lyrics to a Britney song). I started to head home when it was already late. I waited and waited for my bus, one by one my fellow bus-riders boarded theirs. Finally, I decided that my bus must not be running anymore today and I better start walking.


I have no idea how long it took me to get home. I was scared and crying, but I knew I could get home if I followed the bus route. I didn't take any shortcuts; my mama didn't raise no fool! When I finally made it to the point where I could see our apartment building I felt like I knew my city in a way that I didn't before. The next morning when I stepped outside, I felt comfortable (maybe too much so), like it was my backyard, an extension of my home.


I haven't felt that toward a place since then. When I came back to Penza after living in the US for 4 years I didn't feel the same way about it. I didn't expect to. I didn't recognize any of the bus numbers, routes changed, prices changed. I felt like a tourist in my own hometown.

Don't mind the face
Disregard the face -- I'm only annoyed because I forgot to take my retainer out of my mouth

This early morning I ventured out on a walk around my neighborhood. It was eerily quiet, the traffic lights weren't changing in a familiar to me pattern, there were no garage sales on the streets, no runners, the fire station stood quiet. For a short little while, it was just me and my little part of Thousand Oaks. I wanted to take a photo of my favorite tree on the street (this is it, above. what is it?!). Unfortunately, as is the case with most of the photos I take, I failed to capture how lovely it is.


Shortly after I got home I decided I needed to get laundry out of the way. My weekly search for laundry quarters began. A dollar bill and loose change janglin' in my sweatshirt pouch pocket, I walked to my trusty gas station attendant man -- Mr. Valero, I call him. Suddenly, that feeling of intimacy with a place hit me. This neighborhood became my backyard as I walked across the street in my Crocs and sweatpants, as I greeted Mr. Valero with a smile and he reciprocated asking "How many this time?"


  1. Я точно не помню. Мама считает, что это был класс 2-ой - 3-ий. То есть тебе было 8 или 9 лет.

  2. Да, мы тогда очень перепугались! Мы позвонили Трубецким и они сказали, что ты ушла ещё в 8 часов, а время уже было почти 10. У нас были Мануйкины, а мы пошли тебе навстречу к 8-ое Марта. Вернулись без всякого результата... Около 10 появилась ты...

  3. aww. your favorite tree I believe is an albezia.

    1. I found the name of this tree:


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