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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MY MOTHER’S MEMORIES

I found this bit of writing when looking through my mother’s photograph album.

The things I miss and the memories I cherish … .

I am an old lady and this is the day before Easter.

We only had one child, a blond-headed baby girl named Phyllis, who we called Dottie as she was very small.

I miss the first bouquets of spring of a few yellow dandelion and perhaps a violet or two, clutched tight in a grubby little hand and given to me in love to put in a vase.

I also miss the May baskets the neighbor’s children hung on our door, who would come in for ice cream and cake afterwards. Now it seems the children don’t have time for the simple joys of life anymore.

I also miss the country schools and the programs put on in the old country church, and the happy little faces when Santa Claus came in.

These are just a few of the things that take me back many years. They were the good old days when we lived on the farm and you had neighbors who cared about you, and would always help each other out, if needed.

We had lots of hard work, but many pleasant memories, never forgotten.

We have lost many dear friends through out the years and made new ones also, but the memories linger on–never to be forgotten.

Now it’s my turn to be the old lady. I too remember

those days as a child on the farm and the country school.

FASHION: 1963

This picture of my husband and I standing in front of the Bloomington Reformed Church the year he was ordained shows a considerable change in clothing people wore to church.

We had lived in Bloomington (our first church) about three or four months when this was taken. Richard is still in his Genevan gown following service. I am wearing a suit I do not remember but would presume to be a neutral light brown, tan, or gray. My hat is red. In the 1960s a woman always wore a hat to church. I am not wearing gloves which were also demanded if you were to be “properly dressed.” I would guess this was taken after the congregation left, so they had been discarded. When I went to church I would also have carried a matching purse. Certainly a new minister’s wife was expected to be properly dressed.

A SALUTE TO MY DAD

I grew up on an upstate New York dairy farm in the 1940s. An only child, I have always been petite, a nice word for small. Dad certainly could have used a strapping young man to help him care for the herd of 50 to 60 large animals. He hired those men.
Still, no matter what I asked to do, Dad never said, “You can’t do that. You are a girl.” He did say on occasion, “You can try it, but I don’t think you can do that.” It was true, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength.
When I was about twelve, he taught me to drive the doodlebug, which was an old 1929 car, cut in half with no cab that he used for a tractor. Manufacturers who built tractors were turning out tanks during World War II. A standard shift and I had to learn to deal with the clutch and changing gears.
One day I asked to drive our pickup truck on the road. About a mile from home I went around a sharp right hand turn on two wheels. In a normal voice Dad said, “Next time, slow down before the corner.”
After the war, we acquired a tractor which was fun for me to drive. One day I was driving it with the hay wagon and hay loader attached, making it nearly the length of a semi. Twice the same day, I cut the corner in the hay field too short causing the hay loader to catch on the rigging of the wagon. The first time, he called, “Whoa.” The second time, Dad hollered, “Lord, girl, what in hell are you doing?” He fixed the problem and we finished loading the hay with me being more careful to swing wide on corners.
One day, the tractor was on the third story barn floor. I asked to back it out of the barn and down the stone ramp. I climbed on the tractor, started backwards. I had my foot on the clutch and it began rolling. Dad yelled, “Brake!” I slammed on the break just short of going over the side of the ramp. I think Dad took over at that point. But a short time later, we were back in the barn. Dad pointed to the tractor. “Get on.” He climbed up beside me. “Now, back up. Keep your foot off the clutch!”
I’ve driven many vehicles with a standard shift over the past years. Each time the words, “Keep your foot off the clutch!” have kept me from making dangerous moves.
When he had back surgery in 1952, the doctor told him he’d spend most of the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. His response, “To hell I will.” He was never without pain for the next 35 years of his life, and he almost never complained. He just kept moving.
Dad has always been my hero.

HOW DO YOU WAIT?

HOW DO YOU WAIT?

What do you do while you wait for a doctor to see you, for the person ahead of you at the grocery store, for the pharmacist to fill your prescription, or for the stalled traffic on your way home?

Do you sit and steam because it is now 35 minutes past your appointment for which you left early so you would be on time?

Do you shift from one foot to the other as the person or persons ahead of you in line seem to have all the time in the world?

Do you drum your fingers on the steering wheel and say unkind things to whomever is keeping you from moving?

I could have said yes to all these questions at one time, and as I waited anger would build and I would think of all the things I could be doing. Whether or not I would actually be doing those things is doubtful.

The only way to eliminate the waiting is to leave: not to keep your appointment, walk away and not get what you need, or get out of the car and walk. All of these solutions would have consequences.

Through the years I’ve learned that waiting can be fun and restful.

Arriving on time at the dentist today for my eleven o’clock appointment, I discovered he was at least a half hour behind. I’d planned to buy gas after my appointment, so I went to do that. I returned and in a few minutes I was seated in the examining room. After five to ten minutes, I realized I was in for a long wait. What should I do? I’d not brought a crossword puzzle or a book.

Relaxation is always good for the body. I began with head and neck stretches; I sat back in the chair so my head was on the headrest, my arms on the armrests, my legs stretched out in front of me, I closed my eyes, and began quiet deep breathing. I’ve been known to fall asleep in the dentist’s chair or lying on the doctor’s examining table. Time passes.

After fifteen or twenty minutes today, I felt rested. I began thinking about what I needed to for my writing. I’ve wanted to post a blog for several days, but no topic seemed to blossom in my brain. Now it did. I pulled a little notebook and pen from my purse. This is result.

If you are a writer, the grocery or pharmacy can become character food. One day while I was next in line, I watched a woman in a wheelchair cart with less than twelve items, which someone had already put on counter. That should be quick, right? It must have ten minutes as she told the very patient clerk into which paper bag each item should go, then to put the paper bags inside plastic bags. Then the clerk went around the counter to put them in her cart. I’m sure those  minutes hold a story. Meanwhile, I discouraged out persons from standing behind me in the short line. The next cash register line was moving quickly.

In the car, you can catch up on the news with an NPR station, or listen to the music with more intention. While the music plays on my radio when I am driving, I only half listen. Stopped I can concentrate on what I’m hearing.

Wherever you are waiting you have time to pray. Pray for ones you know. Pray for the hungry and the homeless. Pray for the sick and lonely. Pray for all those you know and those you don’t. Pray for this world torn apart in so many, many ways.

Waiting will no longer be an annoyance, but an opportunity.

 

WHAT SEASON IS THIS?

scenery

I’m confused. Why?

Shopping this afternoon in two of this nation’s popular stores selling all manner of decorations for the home and garden brought me up short.

I was dismayed to discover that I’d missed the seasons of Carnival or Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter, and Spring. I did find remains of Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day in post-holiday clearance.

I was plunged into enjoying Summer with beach towels, plastic pails and shovels, and summer garden flags.

When was the first day of Winter? Was it just 31 days ago? That can’t be right!

When is the Vernal Equinox in 2017? You say March 21? That’s 60 days away. You must be wrong. The Summer Solstice can’t be six months away on June 21. You must be joking!

I’m looking forward to the Autumnal Equinox. It’s only 243 days away. I’m sure the decorations will be out in only a few days. Right?

I’m confused.

WARSAW INTERNATIONAL CHURCH

A discussion at our monthly consistory (council) meeting at church last night prompted this memory.

My husband, Richard, served the Warsaw International Church in Poland from September 1989 to July 1993. At the time WIC was the only English speaking service offered regularly in the city. Communism had been defeated by ballot in the spring of 1989.Initially, going to church was not easy. The service was held in the secure part of the embassy. Our first Sunday we were guided through the procedure. First we entered the not-as-secure social wing where we had to identify ourselves to the Polish security guards. From there we walked out the back door of that building, down an outside stairway to a door under the guard of a US Marine. There we entered a short space to wait until the first door was secured before thimg116e second door was opened by another Marine. Church was held in the first meeting room off the hallway. Its amenities included chairs and a piano. The lectern normally there had disappeared, so Richard stacked up boxes which he covered with a cloth found in the nearby embassy kitchen.

As you might imagine, the congregation was not large and most people spoke English as their first language. When we first arrived the church primarily served members of the embassies of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, the International School of Warsaw, and other embassies.

We had only just arrived, but at this first service Richard was asked to baptize the newborn twins of Nigerian Ambassador George Ajone and his wife, Onyanta. They were a joy to know and were very kind to us during their tenure in Warsaw.

When we arrived little throughout the country had changed. But change came quickly in Warsaw and everywhere with the end of state control. Foreign businesses came in by droves. WIC changed its meeting place first to the Marine bar and then to the Lutheran Seminary in the Old Town, where it continues today.