MORE ON WARSAW

PHOTO: View of a small museum from our apartment on Observatorow

 

EXCERPTS FROM A LETTER TO FRIENDS DATED DECEMBER 2, 1989

We get mail that comes to us through the American Embassy. If we wait until we’re home (to open it), we make a pot of tea, then sit with our feet up and relish every word.

Our life here can be described as a set of small victories. I have begun to feel as if I’m digging for Herkimer diamonds and find small (and large) perfect jewels. The hall of the opera house is lovely with great crystal chandeliers made in Poland. It has a huge stage canted uphill for a true life-like effect and the possibility of nearly any stage effect including someone jumping from a suspended bridge into the water.

At another concert hall we saw Garrick Olson, an American pianist born in White Plains, New York, who won the Chopin competition here in 1970. He played to a standing room only audience who called him back for encores several times. While I had not heard of him, the Poles certainly had and love him. He was excellent. On December 8 we have tickets to a symphony concert to hear Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, which I’m looking forward to.

I have been teaching English to a group of novitiates of Mother Theresa’s order. I will not go back now until January when I expect here will be a totally new group of girls. They impress me. They thoroughly enjoy life together. Mother Theresa believes in laughter. While these girls are very serious about learning English, they giggle and share silly things that have happened to them.

In addition, I’m singing in a choir led by an American expat. It consists mostly of Poles, so 98 percent of the instruction is in Polish, which I miss. I can understand the letters, so I usually know where we are. We sang Mozart’s Requiem. It was a thrill to be a part of it.

Shopping  produces jewels. I found a lovely plaid skirt, a blouse, and a sweater for 174,500 zlotys, translated is about $25. Clothing appears in strange places as do odds and ends one needs–Crest in local news stand, or slippers in an underground cross walk. I have also been able to get great haircuts just up the hill from our house for the equivalent of 75 cents.

Enough for now, another chapter to come later.

 

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DRINDL SKIRTS

I am nearly finished editing a historical novel for middle grade children. I deleted one large section  because I felt it slowed down the story.  Here is the first part of that section. . . a dirndl skirt is one which is gathered on a waistband. So here is the deleted section in two parts. What do you think?

After dinner when the girls sat together in the Adirondack chair reading, Aunt Belle came out and sat down on the edge of the porch. “I think it’s time you girls learn to sew. How would you each like to make a dirndl skirt to wear to school?”

“Could we do that?” the Sally and Jeanne said in unison.

Jeanne had never thought of making something to wear instead of buying it.

“Sure. I’ll teach you to use the sewing machine and help you,” Aunt Belle said.

“My mother has a sewing machine,” Jeanne said. “But she doesn’t use it much.”

“The milk check came today. Tomorrow we’ll go to town and pick out some material.” Aunt Belle stood up. “You can practice sewing a straight line on the machine today. I’ve got some old cloth you can use.”

Inside, Aunt Belle removed the dresser scarf that covered what looked like a small desk with drawers on each side of its iron frame. At the bottom was a metal grid that Jeanne knew you had to pedal to make the machine work. Her mother’s sewing machine was like this one.

Aunt Belle unfolded the wooden top to make a work surface. From underneath, she reached into the middle of the exposed center and lifted the sewing machine so it sat up over the treadle.

She pulled a chair up to the machine and reached into one of drawers for a spool of white thread. “I’m going to thread the machine so you can practice stitching.” She squinted at the needle, poked the thread through it, and pulled out several inches of thread. Next she removed the metal plate under the needle and pulled out the bobbin to check that it had enough thread on it.

Jeanne watched amazed. Her mother always had trouble getting the machine threaded. Aunt Belle had done it in just a couple of moments. “You do that so fast!”

“It comes with practice.” Aunt Belle now ripped one of Uncle John’s worn out tan work shirts in several pieces. She showed them how to steer the material under the sewing machine’s foot as her feet went up and down on the sewing machine’s treadle. “Make sure you keep your fingers away from the needle. That can hurt!”

“Can I try?” Jeanne looked at Aunt Belle.

“Yes, you may.”

Aunt Belle made it look easy, but remembering to keep her feet going at the same time she steered the fabric under the needle was difficult. If she pedaled too fast, she didn’t go straight, but when she forgot, the machine stopped.

Then it was Sally’s turn. She had to sit on the very edge of the chair to reach the treadle. Even though Sally had tried it before, her stitching was not perfect.

“I’m going to leave you girls to practice, but be careful. I’m going upstairs for a little nap.”

They spent an hour taking turns and watching one another.

“Don’t put your fingers in front of the needle!” Jeanne warned Sally when her fingers got close.

“Keep pedaling.” Sally told Jeanne. “It’s a little like playing the piano, you have to keep going at the same tempo all the time.”

“What’s tempo?”

“It’s how fast or slow you play.”

“I get it. Like when I run. I can go farther if I run slower.

As they learned to pedal smoothly, their stitching got a little straighter. When Aunt Belle returned, they showed off their efforts. “I think you’re both ready for good material.”

The girls grinned. Slap, slap, shake.

(To Be Continued)