My first days in America took place in a suburb of Boston. It was January, snow was on the ground and it was cold, but although I was no stranger to the chill, this seemed different from the previous 6 winters of my life - it was somehow a more American winter. In Massachusetts, we were set up in an apartment in a cul-de-sac by another family that moved from Russia about a year before us, but they seemed to be already so far advanced that I feared we would never catch up.
The excitement that I felt in those early days was that same feeling as when you get a raise at work, or your boyfriend says "I love you" for the first time, it was a child's version of that. The feeling that something just happened that changed your life for the better, and you can put all the moments that passed before this one behind you, the past is no longer relevant. Everything now is golden. As a matter of fact, it was golden - Golden Crisp.
One of the most memorable events of my life is when I opened the cupboard in our new apartment and found a color-soaked cardboard box sitting there, the front of which was graced by a smiling bear in a t-shirt. Whatever this was, it was incredible, just seeing the packaging was enough to send a thrill through me. But what was inside was even better. Sweet morsels nestled in a plastic bag, inviting me into their world. But they were so small, I had never seen anything quite this size and shape and I didn't know what was to be done with the treasure I had unearthed.
It was then explained to me that this was cereal, it was to be poured in a bowl, covered with milk and eaten with a spoon.
I have to say that I wasn't completely unprepared for this experience. Had I stepped out of Odessa and directly into New England, the shock to my system may have been more dangerous. But Jews in the late 80's had to travel a long road through Western Europe on their way to the East Coast of the United States. In Austria I witnessed my first automatic doors, which opened and closed on their own as we approached them in the airport, and when I saw it happen I looked at my mother as if silently asking if she had just seen the same thing. I became the owner of a Barbie Doll, naked other than an orange sweatshirt embellished with the Coca-Cola logo. I ate a banana. In Italy there was ketchup, rigatoni and depictions of Asian art, things I had never even imagined.
But this was something else. This was AMERICA - colorful, sugary and instantly gratifying. Prior to this the only food I had eaten with a spoon was Borsht. Not when I received my green card or Certificate of Naturalization, not when I memorized the Pledge of Allegiance or when I held my first passport - when the crunchy, delicious, candied pieces gently coated in cold milk hit my tongue, that was my initiation. That was when I became an American.