In the Cedar Falls kitchen where most of the fun happens
I'm back in Missouri after a relaxing week in Cedar Falls with my parents, sister and our four family dogs. The Thanksgiving holiday was a perfect transition to the concluding part of my semester. All my big projects are done and tomorrow I defend my thesis proposal.
I woke up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It's Thanksgiving break and I have the whole week off! I'm not sure when that last happened. My parents welcomed me home with a back-yard bonfire gathering and this morning I went to visit my 97-year-old grandmother before she went to church. She and my mother walked there hand in hand and I captured it.
It's St. Martin's Day. Although I had aspirations to make a little lantern of cardboard, wire and colored tissue paper, the plan fell aside as I slugged through time-consuming revisions on my thesis proposal and stories. Instead, I've lit a small candle and placed it on the piano bench next to my bed where I'm working. The flame flickers and does its part to brighten this gray, rainy day.
I looked through my box of pictures for one of me and my siblings at an Austrian St. Martin's festival many years ago. Although I know such a picture exists, it wasn't in the box. For now I have to piece the memory together with words.
I built my lantern at kindergarten out of a circular Happy Cow cheese box and wax paper. I decorated the exterior with small multicolored bits tissue paper. Every year there was an afternoon parade around the block, but the main event was after dinner and sunset.
It seemed like the whole town came out toting lit lanterns on the end of sticks. We all met in the field near the grade school. We moved into a circle and sang. Ich geh' mit meine Laterne Und meine Laterne mit mir. Dort oben leuchtet die Sterne, Hier unten, da leuchtet wir. Mein Licht geht aus, Wir geh'n nach Haus, Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum. As the singing ended, a cloaked soldier on horseback circled the perimeter of a bonfire. In the shadows man clad only in shorts shivered. After several laps, the soldier withdrew his sword and dramatically cut his cloak in two. He handed the shivering stranger half. A few more songs and my family went home. I think our Austrian neighbors went home to eat goose, as a symbolic act of retribution against the animal that betrayed St. Martin. My family never did.