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July 13, 2016

Eternal Rest Grant to Her, Oh Lord

In September of 1983, I started graduate school at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY. I was clueless as to what that meant; clueless as to what I wanted to be, other than “a writer;” and I was basically playing it by ear.

My second semester there, I had a class with Dr. April Selley. To my 22-year-old self, she was an elder, very strict, kinda scary, and frankly, sometimes odd. She was the best professor I have ever had and have ever known. She went on to be one of my dearest friends. Today she died. Demon cancer.

april

My beautiful friend. I barely have any pictures of her.

While April and I became close friends–she once said I was probably one of the few people on earth she could live with–to me, she was also always “my professor”. To me, teaching is a sacred bond between two people. When we’re very lucky, that bond extends beyond the classroom, but the pupil always owes the excellent teacher respect for the knowledge given. I respect and love many of my former professors, and I try hard to be the professor who honors the sacred bond with my students. I learned that from April. She complimented me on my passion and love for my students once. She cried when I said, “but that’s what you taught me. I am only trying to be like you.”

I can’t even explain to you her brilliance. She earned a PhD in literature from Brown, so that should tell you something. Her scholarly focus was on Cooper, Poe and the Transcendentalists, but her passion was Star Trek. She’s a contributor to the Star Trek Encyclopedia and has done much work on the topic. She’s lectured on it, written on it, and frankly, fangirled about it, though I doubt she ever used that term.

She was an award winning poet. Her poetry was often deeply imbued with her Catholic faith as well as her feminism. “The Three Middle Aged Women in Speed” is about the three women who die because middle aged women are expendable. She wrote about Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe talking in Heaven about the pressure of being icons,  and the murder of a great-aunt by a rival in Portugal. A poem I’ve been thinking about today is her “Cleaning Out the Refrigerators of the Dead.” That is the last service we do for our friends, and it always tells a story.

I am not there to do that for my friend. This is the down side of living in America–it’s so big. She died in Rotterdam, NY, where she lived. She taught at Union College. But she’s going home to Bristol, RI to be waked and buried. There’s no way I can be there and back next week. I have responsibilities here. April will be the first to totally understand.

After I earned my MA, I went on to a PhD program. April would write to me and give me advice.  This was before email. She’d actually handwrite a letter in her beautiful handwriting. She helped me more than any other professor I’d had. My other professors were thrilled that I was going on, but she took the time to write and encourage. That meant so much to me–the first college graduate in my family–the first to go to graduate school–the first to earn a PhD. I was a working class kid. What did I know?

A year after I moved to Taiwan, she got a Fulbright grant to teach in Japan. One of her poems about that time can be found here. Since I was so close, she came to visit me and Taiwan. We did a few things together, but I was busy with my son–it was the Chinese New Year holiday and my mom had gone to the US. But we sat up late one night singing along to the Dogstar CD I’d bought. We both loved the band–me for the music, her more because it featured Keanu Reeve, and I think she was his biggest fan.

She actually wrote an analysis of every film he ever did, rating his performance. She loved his acting and thought the man erudite and charming. She once drove hours over a mountain into Vermont during a snowstorm to hear him do a talkback after a film during a festival. She found him modest, polite and nothing like his public image. She also thought he is the most beautiful man on earth, but honestly, it wasn’t a crush. She admired him. She got me to, as well.

After the Dogstar we started rocking out to The Monkees and The Jackson 5, dancing around the room until my 5 year old came in to check on the crazy adults.

That’s when I realized April wasn’t old. I was 35, she was 41. Not a big spread.

And she was so funny. We could laugh together for hours.

So brilliant and funny and kind, but she was good. A good, good person.

When the secretary of her department had to retire due to dementia, April was the one who took over her care. Thora had no family, so April got home health care, did her shopping, made sure things were maintained. Thora has now outlived April, and I hope someone steps in in April’s name. April got nothing from Thora’s estate nor did she expect anything. That’s April.

When I had to move back to the US in 2007, April found me at least a summer job for the AOP program at her college, Union. She let me stay in her house rent free. She took me out to dinner. She let me stay the next two summers as well, so I would have summer income as I couldn’t find a full time job. That’s April.

She lit a candle for me in church every Sunday for ten years, before I even returned, so I could get a job. She said I was the hardest case she ever had, but that was April. She refused to give up. And she had total faith in God. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t nag him.

She fought leukemia a while back, but lived to tell the tale. But this time, a rarer, more virulent form of cancer attacked. She fought so hard. The last time I heard from her she told me she couldn’t die. She’d paid too much for the damn computer she’d just bought. She had to live long enough to make it worth it.

I’m not sad today. Sad isn’t my style.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that I’ll never get to read more than the first two chapters of the novel she was writing. She’d asked me to be a reader, and I loved it. Funny, poignant. Now I will never find out what happens.

I’m angry that she didn’t earn more fame for her writing. She was honestly brilliant at it.Her voice should have been heard by millions, not thousands.

I’m angry that I’ll never see that beautiful handwriting on a birthday card or the annual Christmas letter in July because she never actually had time to write them in December thanks to teaching.

I’m angry that she never got to read my paper on Louisa May Alcott that was so rudely rejected by a literary journal last winter. I was supposed to mail it to her in March, but I didn’t have time. Hers was the opinion I valued most on the topic. And she seemed interested, too.

I’m angry that she’s been so ill lately that she couldn’t talk to her friends on the phone.

I’m angry that she’ll never get to see my kid on film. She was such a booster.

I’m angriest that the last letter I sent telling her I knew I’d never see her again on this plane, but that I will love her forever, my sister of the heart, would have arrived in today’s mail. She died in the morning.

No, what I’m angriest about is that we won’t get to be crazy old women together. She was determined, stubborn, goal-oriented, brilliant. She’d have been a hoot of an old gal. She was 61. That’s not old enough, not by a long shot.

Everybody says good things about the dead, but April Rose Selley was one of the best people I’ve ever known in my life. The world has lost more than it realizes.

I know that you will be resting in peace, my darling April. If anyone deserves Heaven, it’s you. Well, for all I know, you’ll be nagging God face to face because you really are that stubborn.

 

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February 5, 2014

You Mean That’s It?

Since Monday morning, I’ve been hearing about “that Coca-Cola commercial”.  People were offended. People were offended that people were offended. People thought “America the Beautiful” was the national anthem. That one flummoxed me. People getting offended seems to be the American way now. But getting the national anthem wrong? That takes a special kind of talent (especially if you’re complaining about Coke misusing it!)

 

I tell ya, Coke got its money’s worth.  They wanted to draw attention to their brand? Mission accomplished.

 

I have seen so much back and forth that I finally watched it today. It’s a minute of pretty pictures of ethnically diverse pretty people in pretty places in the United States. The hymn, yes, hymn “America the Beautiful” is sung, often by children, in eight different languages. For a few seconds, there’s a gay couple with what is most likely their daughter, though it could be a niece.  Shots of Coca-Cola are laced throughout.  That’s it.

 

It’s a commercial. It’s selling something. It’s selling something that’s not particularly good for humans to consume: high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, caramel color and a lot of empty calories.  But this is America, so selling stuff is okay. That’s not “offensive”.  Selling an idea that America might be a mix of peoples, that people might sing in their mother tongue, even a song about America? That’s “offensive”.

 

Of course, the “factoids” have been hitting social media, as well.  The hymn was written by the now famous (thank you, Coca-Cola) English professor Katharine Lee Bates, who lived in a “romantic friendship” with Katharine Coman for 25 years. I hesitate to use the word lesbian because Bates didn’t. But it was definitely romantic as Bates’s published poems illustrate. You can find snippets here.

 

Then there are the words to the song itself.  That the song is a prayer for America to be refined into a perfect place is being mentioned.  My favorite verse is this:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

Those are my italics. I don’t think God cares what language (or style) we pray in. Mercy is important; success is nobleness and we’re hoping that we’re growing more and more godly. Hate and intolerance are not godly values. Nor are they noble.

 

I have to admit, this has always been my favorite of the national songs I learned as a child.  I like the values it espouses of self-improvement, national improvement, and striving for brotherhood: “And crown thy good with brotherhood”.  Love that line.  Some people are realizing how “Liberal” the song actually is.  Instead, I like to think of it as Transcendental, even Puritan in its lyrics.  Of course the adjective Puritan is double-edged. Yes, they pursued liberty, justice, literacy, equality, but from a very narrow, very specific Christian outlook. The irony of my word choice does not escape me.

 

But what’s really bothering me the most about this brouhaha is that this is yet another weapon of mass distraction. There are very bad things happening in America every day (I won’t give a list–every one has his or her own priorities). If someone thinks a Coke ad in multiple languages is the worst problem we have here in America, he or she clearly isn’t paying attention.

 

I do realize that some people feel that the commercial is a symbol of bigger things gone wrong: of the “gay agenda,” of a “Muslim agenda”. I don’t think asking for acceptance is an agenda, but then that’s me.  Isn’t America about freedom and having the right to live as one likes, as long as it’s not hurting someone else?   How is a married gay couple hurting anyone? There are some people who, for religious reasons, see homosexuality as a sin. That’s fine with me. Don’t practice homosexual acts.  Your religious freedom to believe that can not be forced upon other people, though.  Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle” or a “choice”. It’s like being left handed. Once upon a time, being left handed was considered a sign of evil, so people were forced to use their right hand. Made a lot of people a little nuts.  We don’t do things like that any more. And a “gay agenda” to “turn people gay”? That’s not a thing. Really, it’s not.  There seems to be a “straight agenda” to “turn people straight,” but the gays know how well that works. Why should they turn around and do the same?

 

As for religions, why shouldn’t we accept Muslims? Roman Catholics and Jews were once systematically marginalized and made second class citizens. Some think they still should be.  People actually thought the Catholics would rise up and kill all the Protestants some day.  (My godmother’s mother-in-law was sure of this back in 1939–when my Catholic godmother married into the family.)  Obviously, that hasn’t happened.  And won’t.  Some believe the Jews control a) the government, b) the media, c) Hollywood and/or d) banking.  Um, I don’t think so. Yet I’m sure someone will post and show me how they do.

 

The irony that I am writing about a commercial when I said there are better things to write about doesn’t escape me.  But one of the main goals of commercials is to generate buzz. As I said, mission accomplished.

 

August 30, 2013

And So We Sit and Wait

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ~George Orwell, 1984

The events in this prescient novel written in 1949 were to have happened almost 30 years ago.  While the dystopia of the novel is not yet fully blown, I read these words, and I want to weep. In my country, ignorance has become strength and war may as well be peace for so many people appear unperturbed that we’ve been in a constant state of war since 2001.

I remember exactly where I was when news of the first airstrikes against Afghanistan broke. I was in a church. It was in Switzerland, and I was with a room of mostly women from many different countries, predominantly American and British, but from all over the world.  “Viet Nam” was muttered by more than one person, and I thought, “No, not again. It couldn’t.”

Just a month earlier we’d faced 9/11. Many of my students were seriously frightened that they had just seen the start of WWIII. But when the Afghanistan War started, they were no longer afraid. They were angry.

Just two years later, I was in a different country, Sweden, when the Iraq War started. Let’s just say that reaction in Sweden was far from positive. I don’t have pleasant memories of that time. Sometimes when tempers flared, people would forget that I am not the US government, nor am I even a representative of the government. Water under the bridge.

But again, WWIII was mentioned in passing.

And now we wait and watch what will happen in Syria. More than one person has mentioned WWIII, as if another World War is inevitable. As if “the war to end all wars” never happened. Oh wait. Never mind. Not counting the Cold War, the US was embroiled in another war five short years after WWII ended.

My tone is may sound bitter today, but I’m actually not feeling bitter. I’m feeling sad. I’m an unrepentant child of the 60s and early 70s. I do believe all that peacenik stuff people called “Commie”.  It’s out of fashion now, but as John Lennon, a powerful voice in the peace movement, said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”  But we seem to have lost our way, John.

These days, I teach many vets and even active service people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.  They don’t start the wars. They just fight them. As Gen. Doulgas MacArthur said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”  I mostly agree with him, of course. My soldiers write things to me that break my heart. They tell me what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, what they’ve experienced. I can not even imagine, but I am privileged to carry their stories. If I can relieve their burden one iota, I will do it gladly.  One student wrote to me: “I like reading poetry in your class because it’s the only time the guns in my head stop.”  I would read poetry with him for hours if I could.

But of course, it’s the civilians I worry about. War is cruel. A student this morning told me of a bombing near a Syrian school.  Children.  But children have always had the worst of war.  Still, things have been insane and dangerous in Syria for too long now, and something has to change.

So this compounds my sadness. The peacenik, the mostly pacifist, can’t see a way to calm things. Do I think attacking Syria will help? No.  But this is too big for me. I can’t think.  But I can pray, which is what I seem to do best these days.

The UK House of Commons voted to not support a military intervention in Syria, and I’m wondering whether the US Congress will have the same opportunity.  According to an article on CNN, “More than 160 members of Congress, including 63 Democrats, have now signed letters calling for either a vote or at least a ‘full debate’ before any U.S. action.”  But Congress is in recess until September 9th. Yes, I can see the White House waiting till they are all back. Yes. Sure.

This situation is changing rapidly.  So we sit and wait and see. And nothing is worse than waiting.

April 4, 2013

In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: heroes,New Broads,poetry — by maggiec @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , ,

I wrote this today. I felt I wanted to say something for a man whose ideals guide me every day.

 

“In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Early evening, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

From “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by Bono

 

Snippets of memory.

Only seven, but I know that name—

Reverend King.

With Bobby Kennedy, the Irish hope,

Peace and justice will come.

Mom and Nana’s view.

 

Dad’s very different.

No use for Kennedy. Or King.

Or Negroes.

(it was 1968, and he used a worse word)

 

Tears flowed.

For the man, the idea,

For the widow and children.

The beginning of the end,

Though they didn’t know that yet.

 

45 years later

Still fighting the fight.

There’s been change

But too slow, not enough.

 

Requiescant in pace,

Reverend Doctor.

We don’t forget.

We do the work.

February 14, 2009

It’s True–All You Need is Love

“Love, Love, Love” the Beatles sang all those years ago. An appropriate sentiment for the day, but it’s a topic I’ve had on my mind for a while now.  Today seems the most appropriate day to post it here.

Once upon a time, years ago, a writer friend of mine, Mark Goldblatt, wrote a newspaper column on the simple words “I love you.”  I’m relying on my memory here, but I’m pretty sure I’m paraphrasing him correctly.  He said he didn’t really say the words because they are overused.  People love potato chips and TV shows and Jimmy Choos, so the meaning of the word love has been cheapened. He had a point.

Whenever I find myself using the word love a lot, I think of Mark and wonder, am I overusing it?  Cheapening it? I love my family and friends.  I love my students.   I love most individuals.  Too much with the word?

No, and I think I know why.  I don’t love things.  I enjoy them.  I like them, but I don’t love them.  I love people–individuals and groups, but I love living beings.  (Okay, and I love animals, too, but again, living beings.) And frankly, I don’t think we can tell people we love them enough.

My problem is, I’m not comfortable saying the words, really.  So I have to try to let my actions speak for me.  But that’s all on one-to-one basis.  I try to use Love as my prime motivator, but how can Love be all we need?

I think what I mean by this was underscored in the Inaugural address this year.  I mentioned how I cried when President Obama quoted 1 Corinthians 13.  But this term I also taught the inaugural poem “Praise Song for the Day” in class, and what Elizabeth Alexander wrote there sums up what I feel.

Towards the end of the poem, she writes these words:

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Brilliant lines, really.  First she looks at the basic operating guidelines of some major groups–Christians, humanists and pagans and Communists and Socialists.  But really, how different are those creeds?  They all can co-exist quite easily.  And then she asks the perfect question: “What if the mightiest word is love?”

She follows up with the specifics on what she means:

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

Love beyond what we usually have here on earth.  Love that casts a widening pool of light–what an image!  Can’t you just see the light of love widening from each person, enveloping one another in that healing, caring light–the light that drives out darkness?  As Dr. Martin Luther King tells us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.

Love is the defining word of my life.  It’s been used by all the people I consider heroes and it’s the one guiding principle of my life. And as silly as it sounds, the Beatles played a large part in making me think of living a life of love.  I have said over and over that growing up listening to hippie songs warped my view of life, and there’s some seriousness under the joking.  One of the most powerful musical lines in the soundtrack that is my life comes courtesy of George Harrison: “With our love – We could save the world”.  I definitely believe that, and I think that’s what Alexander was talking about.

She ends the poem with these words:

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

How beautiful!  If we, as a people, as a country, walk forward into the light of love instead of into the destructive dark of hatred, what a world we could have!  And while my brand of love tends to be Christianized, who can’t find some reason to love?

On many levels, I’m not saying anything too different from what my country has believed from its start.  As a nation, we were founded on precepts of Christian or Humanist brotherly love. And we don’t have to be Christians to agree that the definition of Love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is a pretty useful one:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If we could pull this off as individuals, as a country, that would be amazing.  And using this definition, all we really do need is love.  With this love, we could change the world.

I wish you love.  I wish my country love and my whole world love.  In the spirit of my pop music gurus, especially George Harrison, John Lennon, and Donovan, and with Elizabeth Alexander, I wish we all walk forward to the light of love and change our world.

End Note: Since I hear “All You Need is Love” while reading this, let me paste some of the lyrics here:

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy.

Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.

May 1, 2007

Margarette’s Going A-Maying

Filed under: Old Broads,poetry — by maggiec @ 2:42 pm

Originally published May 2003

Unless you’ve sat through an “Intro to British Lit” course, you probably don’t get the reference in the title. It’s to Robert Herrick’s 17th century poem, “Corinna’s Going A-Maying.” In the poem, the narrator beseeches Corinna to get up early on May Day (May first) in order to enjoy both the fun of the day and the beautiful flowers. Herrick, an Anglican priest, bids Corinna to hurry through her morning prayers so that she can run out to the fields and bring in the May.

In pagan England, May Day was a special day to celebrate fertility, and even in Herrick’s day, many of the rites associated with the day hark back to that original meaning. Dancing around the maypole, which symbolized, well, you can figure it out, is still done in parts of England and America. In his poem, Herrick’s narrator tells Corinna that while she has been lazy sleeping in, many a couple has become engaged, and many a “green gown” has been given, from rolling in the grass, we can infer. Many a kissing game has been played, and many jokes have already been told of locks being picked this evening!

Bringing in the May meant that the young unmarried men and women went out to the fields and brought back armfuls of blooming whitethorn branches, budding tree branches and masses of flowers. These were then used to decorate all the houses in the village or town so that the fertility of the fields is spread about. Of course, while out in the fields picking those flowers, the young men and women had a brief moment of unchaperoned freedom where kisses could be shared. Not quite the wild sex rites of the pagan days, but better than nothing, which is mostly what 17th century young people managed in the kissing line.

I have dim memories from my now-distant childhood of making construction paper baskets to fill with flowers and then hang on the doorknob on May Day. The practice was dying even then, but perhaps in some remote places, they still bring in the May.

But I’ve been thinking of this poem a lot in the past few days. Being an English teacher, things like that happen to me, but also, I was going to experience my first Swedish May Day. Well, actually, what I was experiencing happened the night before May Day. The last night of April is called Valborgmässoafton, or Walpurgis night.

Walpurgis night was traditionally the night German witches gathered on the Blocksberg, a mountain in Northeastern Germany. Like so much of German culture, this holiday made its way to Sweden (though as some Swedes have told me, it’s the Swedish culture and language that have made their way to Germany, though I can’t find any real authorities who say this!).

But now it’s the night when Swedes greet the coming spring. Now, this being Sweden, there’s no opportunity to bring in masses of flowers and leafy boughs. And it’s certainly far too cold to be playing kissing games in the fields. There are just now some tulips, daffodils and straggling forsythia blooming out there, and almost all of the trees are still bare. But this is the night when we can finally say that there won’t be any more snow! Probably. If we’re lucky.

Swedes celebrate with large bonfires, often with a speech by a local authority and then followed by songs welcoming spring sung by a local men’s choir. The night is topped off with fireworks.

Our local village was having a bonfire at the football field down the road from our house, and the football club would be selling snacks as a fund-raiser. I was game, and to make it even more fun, our neighbors invited us for a traditional “grill party” or barbecue before the fire.

Of course, it rained all week, so people were worried. Then on the 30th it stopped! But it was cold, just above freezing, and there was a fierce wind. Because of this, the grill was moved to the oven, but we had a lovely dinner. Then it was off to the bonfire! The wind had died down, and the temperatures nudged up a bit, but I was still wearing a winter coat. The crowd was amazing. It seemed as if every one of the town’s 1200 or so residents came out for the fire. Some of the kids were having impromptu football games while others goofed off around the bonfire. One of the people who stopped to chat said that this was the only time during the year that they actually saw people from the village, and it was like a huge cocktail party – just circulate and chat.

Cocktail party might be an apt description for the teens. I’m told that this is a day of copious alcohol consumption for people in their older teens and early twenties. There was none of that in our town, mainly because the drinking set would find a bigger, more interesting bonfire to visit.

We were also spared the speech, and we skipped the choir. I was looking forward to one, but our town is too small. At 9:30, when it was finally dark, the fireworks started. I’m not the biggest firework fan, and all I could think while watching is that I’ve seen far too many fireworks displays on CNN over the past few weeks. It made me think of bombing and shelling, and I didn’t like it. No one mentions the war at all anymore, at least not non-media types. I think we’re all burned out, but I seem to have been the only one saddened by the fireworks. After the display ended, we returned to the neighbors’ for a night cap, and then for us old fuddy duddies, Walpurgis night was over.

It was strange when I walked the dog this morning. Things looked different. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or some kind of Walpurgis night magic, but I swear, when we went out this morning, hedges that had been bare twigs yesterday were obviously green this morning. The barren farm fields that surround our village were covered in a green haze; and the trees were suddenly in bud. Coincidence or magic, I don’t care. It finally looks like spring, and I’m thrilled!

The Swiss had a similar rite to bid goodbye to winter, but as they are so much further south, it happened much earlier. Around the equinox in late March, it was time to burn the effigy of old man winter. We got involved through my son’s school. He and his school mates would build a larger than life effigy of old man winter, and then on the appointed day, parents got to join the march to the burning place. Four local schools met with their men, and this being an urban group, they prepared the bonfire in a cement roller-blading pit at a nearby park.

There was singing and a bit of circle dancing around old man winter, then whoosh! Up went the paper-stuffed men. This was followed by bread with jam and butter with a glass of juice for the children and wine for the adults. We thought about it a lot this year, and missed it, but last night’s bonfire was almost as much fun.

Of course, this morning is May Day, a national holiday here in Sweden. As in almost all of Europe, this is Labor Day. This was something new to me when I moved to Switzerland, but seeing as my husband has spent almost his entire adult life in the labor movement, on the local, national and international level, it was something we celebrated.

In Switzerland, we went on huge workers’ marches. Through the streets of Geneva we’d go, ending up at a large park where there was entertainment and food and beer stands. The day ended with sausages and beer, and with that kind of ending, I’m game. It was fun, though, as there would be time to visit with his work friends and always some kind of diversion when a political group decided to make an outrageous statement.

This year, here in Sweden, we are missing that. But in our municipality’s seat, the annual labor movement march run by the Social Democratic Party was being turned into a peace march followed by a speech by the county governor. After the speeches there was a family day planned with a petting zoo, flea market, horse rides, a puppet show and fun stuff like that. We decided to go on the peace march and then have fun.

But the rain that had stayed away yesterday was back. We decided that it wasn’t too bad, so after tying a bright red scarf around the dog’s neck to spiff him up for his first march, we were ready to go. On the way there, the skies opened up. It poured. By the time we reached the gathering spot, it seemed to let up. But as we sat in the car, looking at the brave group of marchers, we realized that no, it was still pretty much pouring. We decided to skip the march and drive to the end spot. It wasn’t a long march planned; the municipality’s seat is really just a small town. Within ten minutes, there were the marchers.

Then came the speech. This is what it sounded like, the condensed version:

Yadda yadda yadda yadda Saddam Hussein. Yadda yadda yadda yadda Saddam Hussein. Yadda yadda yadda yadda. Yadda yadda yadda yadda Dag Hammarskjöld. Yadda yadda yadda yadda certainly, Yadda yadda yadda yadda, Thank you!

Later my husband told me that it basically said that now with the end of the Soviet Union, the balance of power was no longer balanced. The US had too much power. We (the people at the speech, but on a larger scale the Swedes and the rest of the world) could not allow the US to be the world’s police anymore, as that results in perpetual war. Instead, we must allow the UN to be the world’s police, as it should be. The governor also mentioned that it was a member of the Social Democrat party from Sweden who worked alongside America’s President Wilson to encourage the formation of the League of Nations, so Swedes must remember their stake in the project of the UN.

Sometimes I think it’s good that I don’t understand the speeches. I might agree with the governor of some level, but then again, I might just have a few words to say to him!

After the speech, there was coffee and buns in old-fashioned house turned coffee shop and singing by a men’s choir! I was thrilled to hear them. I love a good choir, and there’s something so restful about men’s voices. Maybe it has something to do with the lower pitch, but I enjoyed that part very much. Didn’t understand a word, of course, but with music, it doesn’t matter as much.

After this it was still pouring rain, so we decided to take our sodden dog and go home. It managed to rain all day, as it has for two of the past five May Days that we’ve celebrated in Europe.

Perhaps I didn’t manage a “green gown” or an armful of flowers, but Margarette went a-Maying this year. While the English teacher in me thought of fertility rites, the spectator in me saw a big bonfire that reminded me of burning our high school rivals in effigy before the traditional Brewster-Carmel football games. Not quite the same thing at all!

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