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Children's Stories

© Yelena Yasen. The White, the Light, and the Weightless. 1995.

© Yelena Yasen. The White, the Light, and the Weightless, 1995. Edited by Ms. Jean Fiedler—the author of more than 20 books for children published by David McKay, Abelard-Schumann, Whitman Publishing, Western Publishing, Holiday House, and Hart Publishing Company.   Ms. Fiedler has also written an adult novel, Atone with Evil, published in 1976 by Bantam, and she co-authored The Science Fiction of Issac Asimov published by Frederick Unger.  Her children novel, The Year the World Was out of Step with Jancy Fried, was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

 

The White, the Light, and the Weightless

 

It was the eve of my third grade, winter’s break.  That evening my father came to my room when I was already in bed.  He said that he had prepared a surprise for my first vacation day.  But in order to see it, we had to go somewhere together on the next morning.

The weather was dreadful on the next day.  When we left home, a drizzled rain mixed with the wet snow dribbled from the murky, lead-looking sky.  Harsh wind burned my face.  I felt the drizzle drops on my lips, and my forehead got frozen soon since my glass frame became icily cold.  After having been outside for several minutes, I didn’t care about the mysterious surprise.  I just wanted  to run back home.

Fortunately, we got on the bus soon, and after half hour had reached our stop.  We got off near a grand high arch.  As soon as we had passed it, I suddenly found myself in the front of a huge empty square.  There were no people around, which seemed to be weird.  Just a minute ago we were a part of the angry crowd struggling with the dirty snow mess on the street’s sidewalk.  And now I was standing in the middle of this empty white square covered by the untouched pure snow.

Dad explained that no one lived in that neighborhood. There were mostly museums there.  The one in front of us was The Winter Palace.  Many years ago The Palace used to be the residence of Russian tsars.

That amazing palace did not look like an average building at all.  It was gigantically big, but despite its size it seemed to be ethereal.  The walls of the palace were painted by the gentle greenish tone.  In the shroud of snow falling from above, that tone seemed to be darker at one moment, and lighter—at the next.

The round white columns and huge gilded windows, glazed by small pieces of glass, decorated the palace’s walls.  The columns and windows together were like the white and gilded embroidery on the serene greenish background.  There was even some sort of trimming for the embroidery. It was a thin balustrade on the roof adorned with the black sculptures and dark granite vases.

I could not wait to see what was inside the palace.  We crossed the square and went in through the huge wooden doors.  After having checked in our coats we headed towards the main entrance.  It happened to be a column gallery, as long as the street of a small town.  At the very end of the gallery I rather guessed than really saw something looking like a sculpture in the middle of the oval vault.  It seemed kind of mysterious because it was impossible to see all the details from the distance.

“Dad, hurry,” I said in excitement and almost ran toward the oval vault. “Let’s see! What’s that?”

A minute later we reached the gallery end.  Never before in my entire life had I seen anything so splendid.

The white marble sculpture happened to be only a small tiny part of a grand sculptures’ chorus which all together decorated a huge marble staircase.  It was The Grand Staircase of the Winter Palace.  There is only one way to describe my first impression of the Grand Staircase.  I felt as though I was inside of a fairy tale.

The staircase consisted of the three spacious flights.  All its parts—steps, walls, balustrade—were made of different sorts of white marble. Everything around me was twinkling and glittering as during a perfect summer day when the sun is shining, and the immaculate clouds are flowing here and there in the glowing summer sky.  But, in a way, the sky was right above my head. A vast fresco with huge bright blue sky decorated the ceiling.  The gods and goddesses figures were placed at the fresco’s edges, and while I was looking up at that magic decoration, I almost felt the sun’s warmth, and the flowers’ fragrance, and even heard the birds singing…

The light was falling inside that remarkable staircase from everywhere!  It was luminous there as if there were no solid walls in that part of the palace.  It looked weightless because in all directions, on the right, on the left, in front of me, I saw windows, huge ornamented windows, which I already liked so much when I had seen them from outside.

Only after a while, did I realize that some of those windows were not actually windows.  There were mirrors instead located on the one side of this fantastic, magical space, and so they reflected the light which was penetrating through the real windows on the other side.

The light was playing with the cool figurine balusters of the staircase fence. The light was playing with the gilded decorations and sculptures placed between windows and mirrors.  It was playing with the staircase’s steps which looked like the white pure snow, but at the same time they were solid and brilliant—they were made of marble!

The radiant effect was incredible.  I was looking around as if spellbound.  Wow, after all it was worth freezing for several minutes under the wet snow in order to see this miracle.

“We’re here alone now, but soon…” Dad was smiling, “do you remember, today is the first vacation day?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Soon it’ll become really crowded here because of hundreds of school students.  Enjoy the moment.  Feel like an important Tsar’s guest.”

We laughed.  I did feel like a princess.  It was so silent and solemn around.  I do not remember, how long time passed by.  I just remember my father’s voice:

“Well… When you’re ready we’ll go to the Grand Rooms.”

 

 


 

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About Yelena Yasen

Yelena Yasen (Елена Ясногородская): M.A. in Art History and Criticism from The Academy of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia. Work history includes: The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Brooklyn Museum, New York; New School for Social Research, New York. Presently: College Professor, Writer, Art Designer; an author of "Russian Children's Book Illustration or Another Chapter in the History of Russian Avant-Garde" (Institute of Modern Russian Culture, University of Southern California, Archive) and more than 30 published articles in Russian and English.

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