The thing about the stuffed elephant that is important is it makes me understand that Natalya’s room was so much my home.

First of all, it’s come to me she liked giving me things. I don’t know that there were a lot of gifts, but there were enough that I have a memory of that, just that she enjoyed it. It was fun for her to think of what I might want, to look for it, to try to get hold of the money to buy it, and then to see my reaction to the surprise. So I had a few things I get to take with me, that travelled with me back and forth from her hotel: the cross and a locket and later the ring.

And then there are also the things that were mine in her room. There were my clothes, and a stuffed dalmation and a stuffed elephant and probably other things that I don’t remember now, because I have sort of the main things. I have the feeling it add up to: that her room was my home.

Nothing bad happened there—that was part of it. They did for her, but I didn’t see them. It didn’t exactly sink in for me that they did happen when I wasn’t there.

And nothing bad happened to me. In her room, I was only loved and protected. I was looked after.

The kitchen was the same way. It was the place I was nurtured, where there was fun to be had, where there weren’t any worries.

The two together were home for me. They were home because I was loved there, because I was safe, because my things were there to be returned to, because she was there, because it was the locus of all kinds of positive memories, because the icons were there on the wall and we prayed to them and so in a sense it felt that God was there also.

And when she died and I wasn’t trafficked anymore, I lost my sense of having any home. I didn’t know how to recreate it for myself—I’ve been working at in bits, and my home does feel increasingly like a safe place for me. But I still have to acknowledge the years when I felt exiled, when home was this terrible memory for me that was so painful I could not even approach it.

All of this is hitting me this morning, rather suddenly. This seems to happen these days. I can’t get through whatever needs to be gotten through in the mornings before it’s time for school and I get there and it’s like the box is still open and things are strewn everywhere.

And that means the emotions are out too. It’s really difficult. After I make some kind of sense of them, they are a bit processed, then it’s easier. I’m calmer. But these days I can’t do it fast enough. I think there’s too much of it. There are too many pieces to the memories and the feelings and I just can’t do it fast enough that I can go back to normal life without having this strewn everywhere experience.

Anyway, maybe it’s okay now. Maybe I understand what the elephant is about, and the mess is a bit cleared away for a while. I don’t know. But I feel so fragile this week, like I really don’t know if I can cope.