Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Coming to America by Maija DeRoche

For the first twenty years of my life, I lived in Finland, a country of night-less nights in the summer and  Northern lights in the winter, a country that offered countless riches and comforts.

In the 1950's, a television set came into our house, and with it, Leave it to Beaver. I was fascinated with Beaver's, or Theodore's, mother, June Cleaver, who was ever-so-elegant with her hair carefully coiffed . She was wearing high heels and pearls while vacuuming her house and had a slightly raspy quality to her voice, while speaking a language that flowed smoothly and effortlessly. June Cleaver lived in a white clapboard house with a picket fence surrounded by flowers. She was home all day while her husband went to work. As a 10-year old, I decided that this was the life for me.

I set a goal for myself to become a high school English teacher in Finland. Through the years, I became efficient in translating text describing the installation of the Transatlantic underwater cable, or the spreading of the Reformation through Scandinavia. However, I could not give simple directions in English to a lost tourist looking for the nearest restroom. A trip of language immersion was necessary.

On the first Monday of September, 1967, I boarded a Pan Am flight to New York. After eight hours of sitting in heavy cigarette smoke, I went through customs and handed to the officials a sealed envelope with my confidential medical information, necessary for a year's study in the United States.  The Customs officials looked at each other quizzically and then at me. I had put the envelope next to my passport in my purse, and left another sealed envelope with my electric bill for my cousin to take care of.  Needless to say, as there was puzzlement at JFK , there was equal bewilderment at the electric company of my home town, when my cousin attempted to pay my bill with the miniature X-ray of my lungs. After a visit to the airport infirmary, a new, very large X-ray under my arm, and missed connections to Upstate New York, I was admitted into the country.

I slowly settled into dormitory life. After the death of my parents, I had held an auction, sold my house, and become an adult too quickly. The antics of the freshman students away from home for the first time were surprising entertainment for me. One day after Anthropology 101, a classmate said to me: “I need to hurry, cuz I have to watch All My Children.” I was impressed that she had children and found time and energy to be a college student. I later learned about soap operas.

American friendliness impressed me from the beginning. I was often invited to various events and get-togethers. One such invitation was to a person's house where we were to talk about squash. I prepared myself by studying the many varieties of winter and summer squash, only to find out that the topic under discussion was a sport.

At first, I struggled to answer questions such as, “How are you?' I quickly realized that this question is synonymous with hello. People did not really want to know about the boils on my butt, caused by the change in water, or the Sitz baths I had to endure for their cure.

It took a while to master the skill of small talk, a foreign phenomenon to a Finn.  Idioms were a great challenge as well. I learned that it was not appropriate to inquire about the cost when some one had “bought the farm.”

As I adjusted to the culture, the language, and the customs, I started to feel quite American and more comfortable on this side of the Atlantic and decided to stay, got married, and had a family. 

I never became an English teacher. I did want a career where I could be a help to someone. As I had decided early on that mathematics and science were too defined in their answers and chosen not to like them, my path to a medical career was blocked. Instead, I became a Speech and Language Pathologist, a pseudo medical field, where I was not at risk of killing anyone, even by mistake. My exposure to speech pathology taught me that June Cleaver's soft, yet raspy voice was, most likely, a result of vocal abuse, as pleasant as it sounded to me as a child.

Although I do not have June's picket fence, and the deer are eating all my flowers,  I will now go home, slip into my high heels, clasp on my pearls, and vacuum my house.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Marnie by Linda McIlveen

When I first met you, you looked me in the eye, when the others didn’t. I saw it as a sign of love. You meant it as a challenge. I took you home thinking how wonderful it would be. We would play with your toys, take walks outside, you'd give me sweet puppy kisses, and when we were tired there would be snuggling on the couch.

Reality soon bit me in the face. What few toys you actually bothered to play with you destroyed in minutes. The bones that were supposed to ease you through the teething stage were spit out and abandoned. Fingers, wrists, and arms were much more satisfying to chomp.

You flunked out of puppy class. You almost bit your vet technician, who recommended I give you up as you obviously had issues. An experienced trainer told me, I would probably never be able to pet you, and I should just keep you as a guard dog. That’s not what I wanted for either of us.

Exhausted, covered in black and blue marks, and feeling defeated, I almost did what I swore I would never do, give up one of my dogs to a rescue. My sister didn’t want to let you go. You had managed to work your way into her heart.

When we reached the place of the surrender, the volunteers were all playing with you, and saying they wanted to be your foster. They even offered to trade me a well trained calm adult, but then I looked at you, and all I could think is I don’t want another dog. You are my dog. The people at the rescue understood, and made arrangements for us to work with a certified master trainer.  She admitted a few times that you were the most stubborn puppy she'd ever worked with but she said, if we wouldn’t give up she wouldn’t either. It wasn’t easy but we turned the corner. I am not saying there weren’t incidents after, like the time you pulled me down and I broke my finger because you wanted to chase the deer, but they became fewer.

You quit using me as your chew toy. We invented our own form of dancing. It mainly consisted of you holding onto a bully stick while I dragged you around the room but, hey, it was to music. I will always remember how you’d stop whatever you were doing and go and get that stick whenever music started to play. We finally started to share naps and you rested your head on my knee. That was the most comforting feeling in the world to me. The same vet technician that had declared you vicious even said she couldn’t believe you were the same dog, as you were now a big sweetheart.

It was perfect but then the world shattered. Cancer entered your body, and, like the stubborn brave girl you always were, you tried to fight it, but it was a battle you could not win. So I made the decision it was time to say goodbye. This time there was no changing what had to be done even though every part of me wished there was. I let you go to the place where there is no more pain.

There will be other dogs, but not to take your place. No other could.  I wouldn’t trade a minute we had together despite the early struggles. I also meant my last words to you as you closed your eyes for the final time. I will love you forever, Marnie. Thank you for looking me in the eye that day to let me know you were my dog, and you always will be.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Listen to Your Seashells by Gavin Spanegal

I wonder what it’s like to be a
Fish out in the ocean…
A stingray, stingrayin’ out at sea.
You must never get thirsty for water.
At least that’s one good thing.
I guess it’s on my mind because
I know that there is a place for me.
I guess I miss grace.
Gracefulness runs rampant
Out in the lakes and rivers and whereever danger lurks. 
It comes and goes in the most beautifully
Elegant and creative movements.
Scaled walls caving in on other
Scaled walls and nut shells that probably
Taste like cinnamon once you get in.
Your menu must change…
Depending on where you are
I’m getting into it now.
Laying down wripples of green
As we swirve into the deep.
When we listen to our seashells.
We’re returning to sounds
All our ancestors heard the same way
Not to many things we hear now-a-daze
Can make that statement.
Fishing for an answer to
Oceans old question of
“How do you figure it out?”

Sunday, August 4, 2019

THE OAK TREE By Carol Creswell

When light’ning struck the oak tree and the trunk was torn to shreds
I saw that most of life was gone and soon it would be dead.
I sighed and told the children that I feared that growth was gone
But still they must now cling to hope and pray it carried on.
And summer came, and rain and sun graced every nook and cranny.
The little tree just bravely grew; it truly was uncanny.
It stood there on the leeward shore. ‘Twas bathed by sunbeams large.
The lake waves thundered o’er its flanks and Nature led the charge.
The sunrise kissed it every morn, the sunset laid its rest.
And every day it grew and grew. In winter took its rest.
I feel as if it is my fate, though buffeted by strife,
To cling to hope, as if reborn, and cheer on precious Life.
Just like that tree out by the lake, in lonely solitude,
I’ll wave my branches, drink my fill of sun and rain and food.
A metaphor: tenacity and perseverance true.
If that small tree can cling to life then maybe I can, too.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

MEMORIAL DAY By Carol Creswell

A stirring tribute fills the air.
The sky is blueness everywhere.
The marchers snap a crisp salute
And all the bandsmen resolute.
The cheering crowds, the fire truck’s din
Precedes the cruising mayor’s grin.
Floats  reach the park, with flags a-wave,
The speakers mount the podium, grave.
The shining marksmen flash the sky
Saluting heroes, trumpets cry.
A pretty student won the test
To state the Gettysburg Address.
A Speech is given, TAPS is played
This special Day brings flowers laid
On graves of soldiers, sailors, gone
Our troops are left to carry on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

First Jump by Dennis Lutz

I felt the plane banking.  It would be my turn soon.  I sat on my rump, no longer looking out the window, trying to calm down.  A blast of cold air bit into my hands and face as the passenger door opened once again.  I was shivering, and the cold only made things worse.  The engine vibration dulled and I knew it was time.

I wanted to just go back with the plane.   Pride and embarrassment overcame terror as I made my way forward, skidding on my rump.  The jump master was grinning as he checked me out.  I must have had that look that he had seen many times before.  He shouted words of encouragement, but I barely heard.

When told I sat in the door, and for a moment my fear passed.  Outside the entire state of Ohio was unfolding before my eyes.  Postage stamp fields, forests with boundaries, I had only been in a plane once before in my life.  I had never seen this sight or flown this high, nor sat in an open door with my feet dangling at 3000 feet. If it hadn’t been for the wind and the fear, I might have found it peaceful.

The jump master yelled and I bolted out onto the wing strut, almost going over it.  My massive 2 hours of instruction had briefly mentioned to me to go out strong to overcome any wind resistance.  Definitely did that.  The wind was now pushing my whole body and all thoughts of going back with the plane were gone.  From here there was only one way back.

I collected myself and looked at the jump master, who was signaling me to jump, so I just let go of the strut. No real jump, no big arch for this jumper, no pulling the fake rip cord, actually, no form at all, just falling.  No deep thoughts, just terror.  I knew I was falling, and a part of my brain was telling me to do something, but the rest of my body was not responding. 

Four seconds later with a lurch and a snap the canopy popped open.  One second pure terror, the next pure relief!!  No real wind, no engine noise, just me and the view and the parachute.  All things became right with the universe.  Like a god I descended toward the ground.

My god-like feelings did not last that long.  Things got bigger and the forests lost their definitions.  It occurred to me that I was going to have to once again put that 2 hours of intensive training to work and land.  Nervousness began creeping back, but at this stage, there were no thoughts of turning back. There were no choices.  I looked to the ground and saw that I was already traveling past the drop zone target.  Now I began to actually attempt to steer the chute.  What had been my serene, godlike descent was turning into a rush to meet up with destiny.  At the last minute I turned into the wind and executed a parachute landing fall.  Not text book, but effective.  Nothing broken, and I only missed the target by a quarter mile.  Easy walk back.  Time for a celebration.

Copyright © 2019, Dennis E. Lutz.  Material may be reprinted or distributed only with author permission.