I sat by the window on the airplane flying to the United States of America to start my college life. It was terribly cold on the plane, and so I had to cover up with a warm blanket that was given to me while boarding. I felt miserable. All my feelings were mixed up. I didn’t want to leave my home, my town, my family and my friends; however, I also wanted to chase my dreams. I looked out of the window at the sky from 30,000 feet above the ground, and it was just gorgeous. I could not see anything but a dark blue eternity full of bright sparkles – the stars – that reminded me of that one star, my grandmother.
Her name was Seda Apetnakovna. I would usually call her by her first name. Seda was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She was not tall and always wore her beloved heels, even at the age of fifty-five.
“Seda, how are you today?” I would ask, and the answer always was, “Ready to run across the globe on my heels!”
Seda’s 54th birthday was a cold winter day, December 6th 2007. She looked charming as always. I remember her short, blond hair with curled up ends that had a vivid smell of bergamot that was just picked from the yard. Bergamot was Seda’s favorite citrus fruit. She loved drinking bergamot tea and lemonade. On that day, she wore her favorite green jacket with a black elegant dress that she loved. Her bright red lipstick smelled like a fresh pomegranate. I could smell it when she would come and kiss me on my left cheek and leave a mark.
Seda was a teacher of physics and astronomy in middle school. She worked there for thirty-five years, and from the students’ perspective, she was the most loved and favorite teacher. Every female in the school wanted to be like her – very graceful, simple, delicate. Seda had the Mona Lisa smile that made you wonder what was going through her mind. She was a mystery that can’t be discovered anymore.
On Seda’s birthday, we had a big celebration – a lot of guests, relatives, friends, music, dances. Everyone had fun but Seda. She didn’t look as happy as I would expect her to be. When everything was over and everyone left, Seda went to her bedroom and asked me to go with her.
Her bedroom was my favorite place in our small apartment. It was the place where I spent most of my nights as a child, begging Seda to tell me one more story before I went to bed. It was the place where I escaped from reality and went on adventures. Her bedroom was the biggest in our apartment. There was a huge queen sized bed in the left corner of the room, with a dark red comforter and a lot of pillows on top. The walls and the ceiling were silver white. A big lamp was standing in the upper right corner giving a mysterious yellow light to the room. Next to the bed, Seda had a dresser with three mirrors on top. It was full of her jewelry and make up supplies. There always was perfume on it, and some necklaces hanging from the right and left sides of the mirrors.
The little balcony was our favorite place to sit and drink a cup of tea at the end of the day. I used to sit there for hours, watching the cars going up and down Azatamartikneri Street and listening to the loud music coming out of them. I also loved to look at the buildings next to ours, look at the windows, and try to visualize the people who lived in there. Seda and I used to sit on the balcony at nights. When the sky was clear, she told me stories about stars – the differences between their colors, brightness, about their motion, the planets. Every night, she had something new to talk about. Every day was a new day to learn from her.
I went after her to her bedroom. Seda was sitting on the balcony. It was a gorgeous silent winter night. No clouds were in the sky – just the grand constellation of Auriga right above us with the North Star shining bright in front, and many other stars were just like little sparks covering the sky. The street was empty. There were no lights in the windows of the apartments from the buildings, no humans were outside, and no sounds were heard except the sound of silence.
It was such an enigmatic moment. I glanced at Seda for a second. She looked perfect in the light of the street lamps. Her light, cocoa-powder-colored skin was just like a marble. She had light green eyes that sometimes made me uncomfortable when she would look right at me, so I never dared to look at her for too long. I sat on a chair next to her, trying to smell her perfume. She had her own smell. It was the mysterious combination of peach juice and freesia, with little notes of orange, red rose, jasmine, vanilla. That unique combination was also the description of her personality, her life.
“Have you ever thought about why I am never happy on my birthday?” asked Seda.
“No, I never understand. You never have fun with us!”
“Every year on this day, I get older. One year less I will spend with you, one year less I will look at this sky and tell you stories.”, said Seda with a shivering voice.
I didn’t know what to answer.
“One day, I am not going to be here. I won’t be able to sit here with you, hug you, walk to school with you. I want you to listen to me very carefully. You are the first grandchild of Davidovs. You are our pride and you have to keep it that way. Don’t stay in this little town. Go away from here, travel, live in as many places as possible, move forward, live your life to the fullest. Remember, no matter what, when or where, I am always going to be with you, guide you, and be by your side. As long as you remember me, I will be there, in your heart. Just find the North Star and I will come.” Seda took me to my room and left.
I didn’t understand what she told me during that night. I never realized her advice. Only when I was looking at the sky, leaving my home and thinking about her, did I realize that it was her – Seda – who had changed my life. While I was still living in my little town, I often questioned why she wanted me to leave this place. Now I understand the reason. She wanted me to have the life she had not had and see the places she had not seen. Seda played the most important role in shaping me, creating the person I am today. I never thanked her, never told her how much I loved her. I had always been waiting for the right moment, but it never came, and never will.
It’s too late for regrets now. She is gone. Seda passed away shortly after her birthday. At that moment, I didn’t know it would be the last time we spent together on our balcony. I didn’t know I would never see her again. It took me a while to accept the fact of not having her around anymore; only after couple of years did I realize that she was still there with me. Only after losing Seda, I appreciated her and everything she had done.
Her lessons were not about astronomy or physics, but life. She taught me that there is not any right or wrong time to tell someone how important they are to me, or how much I love them. The time may never come, and I will lose the chance. It’s not about the distance, it’s not about time zones or the worlds we live in; it’s all about what we have in our hearts.
Seda has not been alive for many years. I remember her every day. I spend some time talking to her, asking her for advice. I always get the answer I need. She is with me, and she looks over me – her first grandchild who will never let her hopes down. I know now, wherever I go, Seda will be there by my side.
“Just find the North star, and I will come.”