Our trees are aspens, but people mistake them for birches; they think of us as characters in a Russian novel, Kitty and Levin living contentedly in the country. Our friends from the city watch the birds and rabbits feeding together on top of the deep, white snow. (We have Russian winters in Illinois, but no sleighbells, possums instead of wolves, no trusted servants to do our work.) As in a Russian play, an old man lives in our house, he is my father; he lets go of life in such slow motion, year after year, that the grief is stuck inside me, a poisoned apple that won't go up or down. But like the three sisters, we rarely speak of what keeps us awake at night; like them, we complain about things that don't really matter and talk of our pleasures and of the future: we tell each other the willows are early this year, hazy with green.