The teenager’s Artifact nobody is allowed to hear

“I think it’ll be fun for us to hear him and take him back to the person he was going into ninth grade, and then see how he changed each year.”

The teenager’s Artifact nobody is allowed to hear

When 15-year-old Nikita agreed to record an Artifact commemorating the start of his freshman year of high school, he had a unique request: that no one listen to it until he graduated.

“I’m not sure exactly where that was coming from,” said his dad Chris, who commissioned the Artifact. “I think it was coming from... he was probably pretty honest — I hope he was honest, because that will certainly make it more interesting to listen to eventually. And then, after having done it, he felt a little awkward about us just sitting there and listening to him having just shared his thoughts with the interviewer.”

So they worked out a deal.

“I said, ‘You know, I think it will be really fun and interesting for all of us to listen to it at some point,’ and he said ‘OK, well how about when I graduate?’

“So I said, ‘All right, then let’s do it every year, and when you graduate, you'll have this record of how your hopes and dreams and fears and expectations of each school year progressed over the course of the four years.’”

Nikita agreed to that plan and his first episode has remained locked in the digital vault.

Now 16, Nikita recently did his second interview of the series.

“Nikita strikes me as really introspective. He's very open about his life and willing to reflect seriously on things,” said his interviewer, Stephen. “He had very different years, since the first was disrupted by COVID and the second, while also not normal, saw him go back to in-person classes, sports, things like that."

Stephen said his approach to a unique Artifact like this was to make sure they covered “some of the major events of the year, but I feel like when you're trying to capture the moment, it has to be about what's going on in their heads at least as much as what's going on around them.”

The idea of using recording as a marker of time was not completely foreign to Chris and Nikita. Nikita grew up splitting his time between living with his mother in Russia most of the year and spending all summer with Chris in the U.S. Over the years, Chris got into the habit of recording Nikita at the beginning and end of their summers together, mostly to show how his English had progressed, but also to preserve a record of his growth.

A couple years ago, Nikita moved to live with his dad primarily and attend school in the U.S. When Chris heard about Artifact, Nikita was on the verge of another big change: entering high school. It occurred to Chris that it might be fun to do an Artifact of Nikita at this important moment.

Now, with this Artifact, they have a unique record of these important years.

“It’s both the measurements on the door but it’s also a bit of a time capsule,” said Chris. “I hope that he enjoys it in the way you enjoy a time capsule, because it transports you back to this time and this person. We all change so much, especially over those four years of high school. I think it’ll be fun for us to hear him and take him back to the person he was going into ninth grade, and then see how he changed each year.”

Chris expects that whenever he does get to listen to the final product it will be emotional, especially if they stick to the plan and Nikita is about to head off to college.

“Because he grew up a lot in Russia, the time with him has always been so precious,” Chris said. “So I think I’ll just look back really fondly on this period in which we did get to have him every day and have him live with us.

“And he’s changed so much. I know every kid does, but I think especially a kid who’s moving countries and cultures and families. Just so much changed for him right before the time that he did the Artifact. … I think having a record of somebody who changed so much, probably more than the average person over that time span, will be fascinating.”

As your kids settle into another year of school, you can capture this time in their lives with your own Artifact time capsule — click here to get started. While we don't want to spoil any of Nikita's Artifact, below you can hear another example of how Artifact captures your child's voice.