dishes in the garden final draft June 17 by M. Diedwardo
The light breaks across the afternoon to reveal a place of wonder. America on this day, a dish day, when I find dishes in the garden of the cafe that I return to, is as fresh as if she was new. Go to a cafe for breakfast any day of the week, and you will learn about your life story. if you like to write like me. I take a journal everywhere I go.
Listening to the voices is an activity. Blaring insults to the waitresses who are too busy to hand out the food on time occupies the woman in the weird blouse behind me. Then, I lose myself. I can’t do this, I think. I can’t randomly go out to lunch. But the hours change me. I am more open to friend’s feelings. I listen and learn. My mind wanders as the conversations flow.
I am not in the cafe any more. I am in my mind. Quiet, loner, artist. I am the character whom I seek to create in this short story. To define me is complex. But, I think my life is really about dishes and the historical function of dish as a memory of my mother, my father, and my life story too.
“Coffee” I say. Please.
The café seemed to confine the stories in pockets of little cubes. As I sit in the chair with my face to the window, I recall how many sadnesses I have experienced in the same cafe year after year. I remember my past most of the time.
As the coffee comes and I place cream into the cup, I begin to drink. Then, the pain starts. Stomache ache. I hold my ancestors strife in my heart. I hold their hearts. Coal dust starves the soul. Most of us are poor in spirit since we are second generation immigrant children.
But, through writing, I teach myself and my students to find interior voices. Here is my first attempt to find my real voice. It is a sad one, I am warning you. It is representative of the 20th century that is full of secrets that are family trends to hide from the persecution of the Jewish people.
I go back to the first memories that I have in pajamas and living in Allentown, Pennsylvania in a small apartment on a small street near a graveyard. On Sundays in the coal regions in the 20th century, I see and feel happy yet melancholy. I look back on good times and on bad times. I always wore pretty dresses as a young girl on the 20th century. It was really important to look nice during the mid 20th century, 1953-1963. This decade is about growing up in industrialism with tremendous growth for America and for my own family. There were sad times and emotional trauma, probably related to hiding my Jewish heritage to protect me. My father never let me know that I am Jewish. He hid his Jewish past which was reinvented in America by converting to Catholicism as way to blend in.
I know that I like dance and ballet. My friends are Jewish and I am also a child of the Allentown, Pennsylvania and New York dance community with lessons after school, summer workshops, and daily practice in my home basement. I go to the classes to have fun and to dance. I love to dance. The realm of the fashion trend for the upper middle class young child remains settled in the generation of the children of Word War II veterans. Father was upwardly mobile and mother was seeking a way to visit the relatives on Sundays in the Coal region to keep the ties to the past. We routinely travel to see our Coal region relatives on weekends. I often live with my aunts in the summer months.
Outside, near the dishes in the garden of a cafe, the wind carries the smell of coal dust.
Uncle drives me across the roads to the strip mining hills where the black air seems fine to me. I’m three years and sit in the back seat of his black sedan. The earth smiles with natural beauty to calm us, to answer us, to heal me with the land I know well. The ride is long because we have to travel to the mines which are in the outskirts of town. I’m wearing a white dress with blue flowers that softly decorate the bottom if the flowing cotton outfit. Beautiful on the outside, I am troubled on the inside. But here, with my Uncle, in the Sedan, I can rest during the drive. He tells me to look at the mountains of black. I’m shorter than the window, so I have to climb up on the car seat and kneel.
These days are pure and simple. The reality of my being as an adult seems less me and more sorrowful now compared to those Sunday drives.
Sound. I hear the clap of the horses as they make their way to our door. The telling of the story also affects me with grief and sadness The why keeps forming my focus as I wish for a sound from my inner self that can alter the past. But I can’t change anything.
Yet, the present times of the 21st century loom like a dead raven over my life crowded by grief of loss if relatives from my childhood. Recently, through genetic testing and family ancestry logs, I learn that my father’s family was Jewish. Why? My story seeks to find the answer. There must be hidden memories or hidden thoughts or hidden pain. I know this, because crying is so easy for me. Memory works to bring me forward in time and then backward, as I recall the events of my formative years, my life through a lens of truth. I am at a crossroads.
I am holding on to the good and trying to let go of the bad. The mountains give me daydreams. Daydream everyday or the memories may haunt and may hinder.
Here I stand at the home of my father on an unnamed street. A place I know better than any other place. I pray here for my living and dead relatives and friends. I also pray of peace. But in my heart and mind, I am also brought to my knees in awe of the dear family who took care of me as a child. Even though the Pennsylvania mountains are home to coal mining, which continues even into the 21st century, I call this home. My path is faith in memory. On September 22, 2014, I give a lecture at a Penn State conference which is held at the Hotel Bethlehem. Fifteen people attend my presentation in the Brandywine room for the PSU English As a Second Language Conference. My multi-ethnic interests preclude the fact that I am a mixed ethnicity. On a rainy morning, I begin to discover myself. I write about memory to learn, to be, and to teach others. Memories come and go as a child of the coal region area and the child of a mountain region that is not quite what it seems. It is not ideal at all. It is filled with troubling past that actually causes strife among those who live there, who keep secrets.
The first relative who left me was Aunt April A. I am not invited to her house anymore. She is gone. I miss the kitchen that is filled with peach pudding and bright sunny light that extends from the window to the porch door. I miss my Godfather who was there to hold my hand. I miss the candy I the living room and the swing on the porch.
Lately, I write journals that I keep as I walk near local mountains and rivers. My South Mountain journal is growing everyday. I also paint watercolors of my locations where I feel the most peace. The Lehigh river that has been near me since my birth in Allentown Pennsylvania strongly represents my own life history. The image refers to the flow of life, the hardships that stop us may not wipe away life itself or spirit. I am writing near a river and within a watershed.
A story of life here and now relates to the past. My life is a mythic representation of how I see myself wrapped in truth and tied with a bow of spirit. Myths. The earth provides enough myth for us to find story in all that we see.
Places of solitude. The raging memories of the coal region existence and the feelings that I have in grave depth of pain as I recall my dead relatives.
Who are they? I imitate nature to rest and to reflect.
Mountain laurel. The answers I seek are held in the mind of the child who goes on the Sunday drives with Uncle. Only as a child can I see the world. My adult life has been fractured by the wilted flowering of a life that is taken by the coal region folks who raise me. In time, I do not move forward but I float back to them, my own people of the coal life, for I hold their pain. I am not whole. I suffer with the memories of my Jewish relatives who had to flee in the early part of the 20th century to America.
I am still drinking my coffee.