Twenty-one years ago, I received a call from an insurance agent in Joplin. She had a client in her office who wanted to meet with me to see if I could help her with ordering homeschooling materials for her young son. I was willing to help and a few minutes later, the insurance agent arrived at my house with the mother and son in tow. That day I met Sveta and Almas. They were from Russia. They had come to the US with the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus and Almas and his father performed an acrobatic act. They were now traveling with the Tarzan Zerbini Circus, which wintered in nearby Carthage, MO.
Although Sveta did not speak English, her charming young son, Almas, about 8 years old at the time, spoke English well. His gracious mother would speak in her lilting Russian and Almas, standing beside her, would interpret for me. A short time later, homeschooling catalogs and order forms in hand, they bid me goodbye, but not before writing down my phone number and inviting me to visit them in Carthage. I accepted the invitation. I was intrigued. But more than that, my heart was already captured by the polite boy with the dark eyes and the amazing dimples. I wanted to watch him practice his routine with his father.
When I visited, I was invited inside the family’s motor home. They traveled the country in their home on wheels, fully equipped with a kitchen, dining area and sleeping lofts, and all that they needed, and indeed, possessed, was neatly organized within. Sveta introduced me to her husband, and Almas’ father, with smiles and gestures. Nourbol bowed as he took my hand in greeting. I was surprised to find that Sveta had prepared a meal. I was shown a gracious hospitality that I had never quite experienced before. Kind, joyful, polite, the little family welcomed me in as a friend. Almas interpreted for both his parents. Nourbol spoke a little English but found it easier to speak in Russian and allow Almas to share his words with me.
After a delicious lunch, Nourbol and Almas gave me a tour of the barns. To my delight I saw elephants, tigers, and ponies wintered there. There were large arenas set aside for daily practice and several groups were moving through their routines. Nourbol and Almas gave me a demonstration of their act and I held my breath, my heart in my throat, as Almas scampered up a tall pole, balanced on his father’s shoulders and did a handstand on the ball at the top. I applauded wildly, partly from relief, when Almas somersaulted down into his dad’s waiting arms.
I left that day with a deep appreciation for this nomadic group of people. What an adventurous lifestyle they led. The community was full of good hearted people and laughing children. That winter I visited often and was always greeted with smiles and hugs and happy children. As Sveta and Nourbol grew to trust me, they allowed me to take Almas on excursions. He and I attended movies and visited the mall and he was a frequent visitor at my house.
Over the next six years, Almas would call me whenever the family arrived in Carthage. I watched him grow taller and stronger. His role in the father-son act became more advanced as his abilities increased. He and his parents, who began to speak a little English, were never anything but courteous and friendly. They often invited me to their motor home for a meal and we reciprocated by having them to the house for traditional American fare. Almas was almost the same age as my daughter Adriel and she sometimes joined us when we hung out together. And then the year came when all that shifted. I no longer worked at the retail store that Almas would call when he visited town. He had my home phone number, but the call never came there either. I drove out several times to see if the family was in their familiar spot at the campground in Carthage, but they were not there. It would seem that the family had joined with another circus and they were traveling a different circuit.
I have looked for Almas since. I no longer had a land line, only a cell phone and Almas did not have that number. As technology advanced, I would google his name and search Facebook, sure that someday I would find him. I thought of him and his parents often, with fondness. Today, he suddenly came to mind again. I sent my daughter a text, asking about the family’s last name. It is Russian and I was never quite sure of the spelling. Adriel texted back what she thought the last name was, which agreed with my recollection. We both searched Facebook. I found no one matching that name, but Adriel texted a few minutes later and told me to check a certain spelling of the surname….she had found a person with the name but didn’t think it quite matched with the Almas we knew. Here is where synchronicity jumped right in. I typed the name the way Adriel spelled it….except, I inadvertently misspelled it. I added an “e” by mistake. And suddenly, there he was, on Facebook. Almas. Twenty-nine years old. Married. Expecting his first child. Handsome as ever, with those amazing dimples still!
Tears filled my eyes. I have looked for this boy, now a grown man, for so long. And today, I found him. I knew my first had just happened, all on its own. I’ve always hoped that Almas grew up well and that life had been kind to him. Indeed, it has. He is a performer in an exciting and well received show in Las Vegas. He owns an elite gym that uses innovative techniques and the client’s own body as a form of strength training. Almas has been in films as an actor and a stunt man. He has competed and won at a national level in acrobatics. Had I spelled his last name correctly, I might have found him years ago. But, today was apparently the right day to locate Almas. Everything quickly fell into place, with that “accidental” spelling of his last name.
I’ve sent Almas a friend request on Facebook and a message via the same. It looks like he is a busy man, with a show and a business, a wife and soon, a child. When he has time to check in on Facebook, I hope to connect with him, discover how his parents are, fill in the long gap in the years. Whether that ever happens or not, I am thrilled to have found him, and found him doing well. The smiling boy who used to laugh over my feeble attempts to learn Russian words is still there, peering out in the picture through the grown man’s dark eyes. And I find myself smiling back.